Dear Boss, is it okay for me to have children?

by Latina Fatale on 04/12/2011 · 8 comments

in Leadership, Motherhood, Work

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Sometimes it sucks being a female leader. As a female manager who doesn’t have any children, I have often felt that there are different expectations for me than there are for other female managers who have children.

I’m expected to stay late, to take work home, and to come in on the weekends if need be. There is always an implicit rule that it’s not okay when I stay home sick, while my male boss chalks it up to “Well, she has kids” when my other female colleagues call in sick if their kids are sick. I have to jump through hoops to take a vacation while it’s a given that my female colleagues take certain days off during the days that their children are on vacation.

I’ve never really been sure of whether or not I want children, but lately since I turned 35 it’s crossed my mind a couple of times. My best friend and partner in childlessness just recently rocked my world when she admitted that she will be getting pregnant in the next six months. Over the past year or so I’ve also begun to meet a lot of political mamas online who I am really fascinated with. So it’s safe to say that lately I have been taking my biological clock a lot more seriously.

Last Friday I had lunch with my male boss and at one point in the conversation he mentioned that “most people aren’t so dedicated to their jobs like us, because they don’t have children”. I wanted to tell him that I am tired of being so damn dedicated to my job, and that after years of working my ass off that I finally am coming to the conclusion that that there is lot more to life than slaving away to serve an institution. But instead I decided to tell him that I’ve been thinking of having children.

“Lately I’ve been considering having children in the next couple of years or so,” I stated, as he stared at me in shock. “I’ve been meaning to bring this up because I want to be able to dedicate one hundred percent to my job and I’m not sure that I would be able to do so after only taking six weeks off. What is the possibility that I would be able to take nine or twelve weeks off, so that I can come back and be able to jump back in right away running at full speed?” I asked.

I wanted to ask because I know that I am not the type of person who can be my best at work when I am suffering from severe sleep deprivation. Well, at least that is how I imagine that my life would be like after going back to work with a six week old infant. Frankly I’m getting too damn old to be pulling all nighters and then operating at full throttle during the day. Besides, it’s common for men to take three or four months off to finish their doctorate, so it made logical sense that a woman should be able to take a couple months off to have a baby.

My boss just stared at me in disbelief. “Nine to twelve weeks is okay, because there is family medical leave that you can take. Just make sure that you don’t have the baby at an inconvenient time”, he said.

An inconvenient time?? “When is not an inconvenient time?” I asked.

“Well, really, never,” he said. “I don’t know, maybe you can have the kid during December vacation or something”.

I was so mad, but more importantly I felt betrayed. After years of feeling as if I was expected to work longer hours because I did not have children, now suddenly I was being asked to work my biological clock around an arbitrary schedule.

“Frankly, I’m getting too damn old to have the privilege of setting my biological clock around your schedule”, I said and then I stormed off and went home for the day.

It has already been four days and I can’t shake the feelings of irritation and disappointment that I feel. I can’t quite explain it, but I walked away from the incident feeling as if I had been sterilized, as if my reproductive organs were ripped out of me.

I’m almost inclined to procreate just to spite these men.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenn April 12, 2011 at 7:02 am

It strikes me as odd that you feel as though parents are treated better in the workplace than non-parents. Parents, usually just the mothers, are normally held back in the workplace because we have children and can’t commit our entire lives to a job.
Corporations expect senior employees to give 100%…I’m not surprised that your boss was such a jerk when you told him you were thinking about having children. He had no respect for your personal life while you were childless and now sees your possible children as a threat!

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Latina Fatale April 12, 2011 at 7:32 am

I get that women are discriminated against, period. But I feel that by not having children and being in upper management that people have had different expectations for me than my equals in a similar position. In fact, my vacation has been cancelled or not approved while someone without kids’ vacation isn’t changed because they have a family. I’ve been told by men that I am doing this or that because so and so can’t do this or that because their priority is their family.and while of course it’s representation that these men are apparently anti-women who have families, meanwhile I’m getting a little tired of the double standard. My own personal vacations should have just much priority

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Mike P. April 13, 2011 at 3:56 am

“I’m almost inclined to procreate just to spite these men. ” – OMG. You just wiped out a not so good day with a good ending. Thank you!

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Latina Fatale April 13, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Thanks Mike, lol!!

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angelica perez April 15, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Interesting post. I, personally, would never share my personal plans with my boss or supervisor. The reality is that most employers/supervisors have “their” best interest in mind, not the employee. So, I’m not surprised at his response. Is he a jerk? Sure, but perhaps this is not new news.

Angelica

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Criss April 15, 2011 at 6:00 pm

When I was childless, I felt I was expected to pick up the slack at times because I WAS single and childless. Now that I have a child, I feel guilty when I have to take time off, or have to leave at a certain hour in order to beat traffic to get home to the babysitter on time. (While I was pregnant, I was accused by my female boss of demanding “special treatment.”) So, pretty much, being a woman in the workplace sucks.

I love how your boss thinks babies just pop out when you schedule them. You just call your OB or midwife and discuss when would be the most convenient time for the baby to be born, you enter that date in your Google Calendar, and Poof! Baby is born, conveniently, in December.

That whole conception and 40-42 weeks of pregnancy thing is just a myth we silly women make up, isn’t it?

And how sad is it that in the US, we have to ask permission to take a meager six weeks off, and taking nine to twelve weeks off is a luxury (and a “special favor.”) And that this pittance of time is UNpaid. Every other developed nation in the world has PAID maternity leave, and it’s a longer than six weeks, thankyouverymuch.

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Chantilly Patiño April 15, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Wow! The nerve of some people! I’ve got a few words I’d like to tell him! I’m glad you stood up for yourself and I think it’s awesome that you laid it all out there and let him know your plans straight up so you don’t have to deal with any of the beat around the bush garbage. I’m disgusted at what he believed he could get away with saying! I’m throwing a virtual cocktail at his head amiga! Hope that makes you feel better…lol! ;) Anyway, you have every right to fulfill your life plans…and feel free to brush their scheduling “needs” to the side, just as they have done to you. They deserve nothing less. ? {ABRAZOS}

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Nina Diaz February 14, 2014 at 7:36 pm

While I get where you’re coming from…you also need to figure that parents, and a lot of times mothers especially, are working two full time jobs – the one they get paid for, and the one they don’t. Yeah, I get why people think there shouldn’t be any special privileges for mothers in the work place. But guess what – I’m raising our next generation. The ones who will be taking care of you when you’re old. I’m doing my best to balance all of the expectations of a job and take care of my kids. I feel guilty when I call in sick for myself…but I’ll call in if my kid needs me. And you know what? When I’m sick in the workplace but didn’t call in because I would feel guilty about it? Well, I don’t get to go home and go to bed after a long work day, because I go home to my second full time job. And my vacation? It’s not usually sitting on a beach, or even sitting down on the sofa with a good book. I actually spent my last vacation day scrubbing floors and cleaning toilets so we could have my daughter’s birthday party at our house on a Saturday, because those are the things I just can’t get to during the week. And the vacation day before that? My daycare provider had that day off, so I was home with my kids. I loved it…but it sure wasn’t a relaxing day off.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being a parent, I love it as much as you love your high power position that demands a lot of your time. It also demands a lot of my time – I can’t remember the last time I got to sleep past 7:00 on a weekend! But let me tell you – the salary, quite frankly, sucks, and all in all, it’s a pretty thankless job in our society, if recognition from other people is what you’re looking for. What’s that? You say that it was my choice to have children? Yes, it was my choice. And I stand behind that choice. If we all chose a high power career over family, there would be no next generation. I’m not complaining about it. And I know your last sentence was tongue-in-cheek. But maybe if we had a society that put a little bit more value on the role of parenthood and family and gave mothers (and fathers!) who also have careers the ability and time to be more invested in their children’s lives from birth to adulthood, we wouldn’t be facing some of the problems in society that we have today. So go ahead and have children – or don’t – but if you do, don’t do it because of those “special benefits” you’ll get as a mother in the workplace!

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