I’m no stranger to being judged unfairly based on something superficial, I’m too white to be malay, too malay to be taken seriously, too green, too young to be important, too old to be fresh, too pretty to be smart and as if that wasn’t bad enough, i’m also a mother of 2.
What does that (being a mother) mean? Means it’s harder to get placed out station, harder to be sent on work trips, harder to go frankly anywhere under short notice. But like most working mom’s will tell you, that isn’t really a deal breaker. You actually can, consider us for these roles, as mothers we are versatile, and flexible. How else do we adapt to growing a tiny creature, full day meetings and all night feeds?
It’s no secret that mothers in the office are treated like fragile creatures. Like somehow having a baby made us sensitive, soft and less hungry to succeed. Sure we like to go home early if we can… but I don’t see how this is different from a single person wanting to leave early to go meet up at a bar or catch a movie with friends.
Where am I going with this?
A while back, I had the (unfortunate) opportunity to meet up with the head of an exciting new Start-Up. We were talking, and it seemed to be going well, until he found out I had kids. Then with a frown on his face, he explained the company culture was such, that they were in the office most days from 9am – 9pm. Now, I’m no stranger to working late, I used to work in Advertising, and I’ve done my fair share of overtimes. Not too long ago, I was 8 and 2/3 months pregnant and at my clients office at 1am to oversee the launch of the iPhone 6s. But the way he phrased it, made me a little annoyed.
So, I explained, that I do not mind staying back when there are things to be done, but (this is 2016 afterall) most of our work revolves around the internet (which I have at home), so if for some reason I needed to leave before 9PM, I could carry on work from home.
Then, he said something, that I could not believe….
“You are interesting, but not for now, maybe in 4-5 years, when you feel like ‘hey, maybe 2 kids is enough’ we can talk again.”
Then as if to make me feel better.
“Don’t worry, different people have different goals“
Honestly, if I followed my motherly instincts or my natural PMS-ridden aggression, I would have smacked his smug face. But I am, after all, a professional, so I said Thank You for their time, and left.
Sure, I was angry, but I was also disappointed. When I’m upset, I Google.
I found that A survey of 2,000 mothers has revealed 51% feel their employers’ and colleagues’ attitudes changed when they became pregnant, with one in four believing they have been subject to discrimination before or after the birth of their child, and one third stating things had been “difficult” since returning to work and they had been overlooked for promotions because of their new responsibilities.
Unfortunately, I do find this somewhat true. Although my current employers were extremely supportive, back in 2011, when I found out I was having my first child, I was simply told, that if I could not be with the team, during our long working days and nights, that I should resign, because it was ‘UNFAIR’ to the team. And I actually resigned. I was young, naive, frankly rather stupid for letting them make me feel bad for wanting to bring another human being into this world.
So I share this story with you, colleagues, mothers, and all future mothers, to know your rights. Stand up for yourself, being a mother doesn’t make your career any less valuable. Because now you aren’t just working for yourself. You are working for something greater.