Here is a story about how a career-minded ambitious 20-something fell prey to the maternity leave conundrum.
I was never one of those people that wanted to have kids. The whole thing seemed like a racket. Like breeding tax payers something. But alas, somewhere on my travels I met the GUY. You know that guy. The one that turns your world upside down and makes you turn an about face on everything you thought to be true about yourself. Within six months he was emigrating to Canada. In another six we were married.
Five months later I found myself sitting in my OB/GYN’s office and I was being told “Congratulations! You’re pregnant. And you’re half way done!” What in the actual fuck. Not only was I pregnant, but I was FIVE MONTHS pregnant. Is this even a real story?
Now this was a tricky chinchuation. At the time I was the Marketing Director at a small industrial supplies shop in west Edmonton. While I had heard that many women alert their bosses at the 12 week mark as a sign of goodwill, this was not really an option for me.
To say I was the first employee to ever proclaim over the boardroom table that I was about to hurl would be a real understatement. And for their part they were great. They tried to look excited. They asked how I was feeling.
Then the questions turned more to my plans. I informed them that while I hadn’t really had much time to digest my predicament, I was confident that I would be taking at least six months of leave. I felt weird having to come up with a plan that would satisfy both them and also my need to not feel like one of “those” women that was secretly thrilled to be going on a one year paid “vacation”.
For whatever reason, my pregnancy was super easy to hide (apparently even from myself). As such, many of my co-workers were informed of my “condition” on my last day of work, 5 days before my due date. I removed my fleece jacket with a flourish to reveal my bump to confirm for any of those still in doubt that this was in fact my maternity send off. With a belly full of cake and a Baby’s R Us gift card I headed out the door for what would be my last time.
Let's fast forward the time:
Nesting… birthing… feeding… diapers… burping… crying… sleep-deprivation… baby is now 6 months old.
I pick up the phone to “check in”. But I really have nothing to say. How am I? See above. How is work? I don’t care. Am I coming back? DEFINITELY NOT. I am so tired I can’t feel my teeth. We agree to touch base in a few more months.
Babbling… crawling… solids… tantrums… sleeping through the night… baby is now 9 months old. I vaguely remember that I used to have some job doing something or other at some company in the west end. But I really should check in, right?
This time I’m better on the phone. I’m starting to get that feeling back. Of thinking about something other than that cooing, adorable parasite I have spawned. It kinda feels good. So I start asking about how things are going. But I mean it this time! What’s new? What are their plans for me? What projects are on the horizon? I can kind of see it.
My questions are met with a lot of deflections. “Oh don’t worry about all that now. You’ve plenty of time left. Why don’t you check in two weeks before your start date?”
Walking… talking… Raffi on repeat… baby is almost a year old. A YEAR OLD? HOW DID THAT HAPPEN??? Shit, I gotta get back to work! I need to try on my work clothes! I need to find child care! I need a plan!!!!
I call my bosses and they ask to meet me for coffee. This is two weeks before my official start date. Why won’t they meet me at the office? Seems weird. But I’m on mat leave. What are they going to do, fire me?
When I stroll in they look uncomfortable. Like that look that people have on their faces when they are about to be dicks but they don’t want anyone thinking that they’re dicks. It’s like a cross between constipation and pity. The worst. They softly explain to me that they have survived the last year without me and feel like there isn’t really a position for me anymore. They hadn’t replaced me, they had just "decided not to do marketing anymore." One of them made an awkward attempt to quote labour laws in defending their position.
And that was it. I was out. With 4 weeks pay after 4 years.