Working and balancing home life is a struggle that is certainly not reserved for just the STEMs, but I worked with men who for the most part didn’t have responsibility for during-the-day care of their kids. Sometimes they took it to heart with their expectation that I really was one of the guys.
The day care centers usually open at six o’clock in the morning and too many times we were the first ones to arrive. On occasion I needed to get into work early for some kind of testing or shutdown or meeting.
There were only a few times that I picked them up at the day care’s deadline of six o’clock in the evening. Most of the time it was in the late afternoon. I didn’t have the luxury of working from home as we didn’t have laptops or a means, like the Internet to communicate with work. Bosses expected you to be at work. Now it seems like companies are so careful, almost apologetic, not to impinge on your family life.
We placed my first child into home daycare when he was three months old. Within weeks he became afflicted with numerous infections and viruses. My husband and I did our best to swap out sitting time. I had my full time career, just getting back into work after being off three months after the birth. He was starting a new business and while he took down time, it was time that could have been spent building the business.
I actually had a manager sit me down at one point and tell me the other engineers (yes, all males) had complained about me being absent a lot. It wasn’t like I was loafing and making up excuses for my son’s illnesses. It wasn’t like I hadn’t already been working at this particular location for almost five years and had an impeccable record and minimal off time.
What changed was the plant management had decided to move me to a different department while I was on maternity leave. Yes, ladies, the rule is that they have to keep your job, but there is nothing that states it has to be the same job.
So now I worked for a jerk. He was a younger manager, who had younger male engineers in his group. And there is nothing wrong with that, except the married ones were from South Carolina and their wives didn’t work outside of the home. It’s so easy for them to head off to work while the house is infected with the plague.
I stared at this manager in disbelief that he had called me on this one. What was I supposed to do? We lived in an area with no immediate family. I didn’t even think to ask any of my friends, who were either working or had kids of their own to watch a sick child. Wasn’t it obvious that my husband and I were doing the best we could with what we had? Welcome to women in the workplace, buddy. I just told him I was doing the best I could but it left me feeling inadequate and pressured.
Six months later I resigned from that plant. The business had taken off and so could I.
A number of years after that, the whole plant closed down. Karma? I’d like to think so, although a number of my friends were impacted by that shutdown in addition to the jerk and I’d never wish any ill will towards them.