Catherine Gracey

Living Life, One Misadventure At A Time.

Don’t Mess With Mum

on August 25, 2015

One month ago I started a new job. This is the first time in almost five years that I have been employed by someone else, and it represented a massive step for me. Returning to full time paid employment meant leaving Shroomi for most of the day. It meant putting her into crèche for a few hours each week. It meant restricting the amount of time we could spend breastfeeding together. It meant completely redefining the roles in my family. And it meant seeing if my body could handle the demands of a normal office.

The past month has been intense. Not only did I learn that there are tiny muscles between the vertebrae, I learned that they can become swollen. Yes, it is as painful as it sounds. I learned that Shroomi wasn’t delighted to have her day time feeds restricted to my half hour lunch break. My partner learned that being at home all day with a toddler is fairly exhausting. I could have told him that, but it was funnier to watch him learn it for himself.

Despite the problems we all faced, I also learned that we are resilient and able to cope with a lot of obstacles. Towards the end of the fourth week I thought that we might have found our groove when things started working for everyone. Shroomi began to understand that she would see Mummy soon, my partner’s stamina improved, and I found a myotherapy schedule that was keeping the pain under control.

Friday is when things got…interesting.

I was alone on my lunch break when my female supervisor came into the break room. She had just spoken with our male manager, who wanted me to stop breastfeeding during my lunch break. He was giving me three weeks, at which point I had to wean Shroomi, who would no longer be allowed on the premises.

I heard myself resign before my fork hit my plate.

The conversation became fairly awkward at that point. She didn’t want to lose me, but she was at a loss to think of a solution that would work for me, my child and our manager. We discussed a few possibilities and agreed that none of them would work. She begged me to think about it over the weekend, which I agreed to do.

Boy, did I think about it over the weekend. Then I read some legislation. I read a lot of legislation.

I have to give it to Boss Man; he was smart. He didn’t say anything to me directly, which meant that he could claim that it was all Supervisor’s doing. Any formal protest that I might make has to include the conversation with Supervisor, and any allegations I want to make against Boss Man would be hearsay at best. He could defend himself by saying it was all a big misunderstanding, that he hadn’t expected her to say whatever I was upset about in particular, and that it was nothing to do with him.

His method for preventing me from breastfeeding Shroomi was also technically within the bounds of the law. As the person responsible for the safety of the site, he can prevent anyone from coming on site that he wants to.

Yesterday I gave him my resignation letter. He was surprised to receive it. He was so surprised that I found myself wondering if he’s never had an employee quit on principle before. Suddenly he was so keen to be friendly and accommodating. And I had guessed correctly: it was all a big misunderstanding. Fancy that. He hadn’t meant to upset me because he loves working through “problems” with his employees. He was sure we could come to some sort of arrangement that would work for everyone.

I sat there silent for long stretches of the conversation while he refused to respect me. The garbage he came out with left me so amazed that I lost my anger. At a few points I cut him off and said that we would have to agree to disagree, because he was hanging himself so badly that it was embarrassing to watch. There were, however, a few points that we were able to agree on:

  1. I am an excellent employee who has been punctual, diligent, and I have responded positively and respectfully to every criticism given to me during training.
  2. Breastfeeding Shroomi during my lunch breaks has not interfered in any way with my ability to do my job, and I have taken no extra time away from my work to feed her.
  3. Shroomi has not been disruptive while she was on site with me. After all, she and I have been do discreet that he didn’t even realise I was still feeding her until Friday when it was mentioned to him in passing by Supervisor. That passing comment was what triggered the whole fiasco.
  4. Resigning from a job is a big step that has implications on me, my family, my finances and the company that I work for.
  5. It’s difficult to hire people like me for positions like this one.

Since Boss Man said Work Safe would have an issue with my baby being on site if the company was ever audited, I decided to take a break from our discussion to go and chat with them. The guy at Work Safe said that yes, my boss is legally entitled to ban Shroomi from the site, but when I told him only a fraction of what had gone on he suggested that I ring the Human Rights Commission to get their opinion on sexual discrimination law. I don’t need to call them for their opinion, because I copied the relevant part of their website into my resignation letter.

There was no way I was going to let Boss Man talk me out of resigning so flippantly. He might have said the company is like his family, and how he wants all of his employees to be happy, but the truth of his actions is that he doesn’t want to have anyone disagree with him. I certainly don’t treat my family the way he treated me. He didn’t offer any apologies for his behaviour, and indirectly tried to explain why I should be the one to do the apologising. He actually thought it was reasonable to tell me that I’d have to come into his office every three weeks and tell him how the weaning process was going.

One does not leave for oneself, one leaves for the next person. Now he has to find someone to replace me, hire them, train them on a system that typically takes two months to learn (although I learned it in two weeks, so I’ve got no idea what he’s talking about there either), and pay for all the expenses involved in that. I could complain to the Human Rights Commission and see if they can force him to apologise to me, but for what? I don’t want to work with him, and I wouldn’t believe him even if he did say he was sorry.

As I walked out the door he told me that I am a strong woman. I had to smile at that. At least, in the end, we found another point that we could agree on.

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One response to “Don’t Mess With Mum

  1. I loved this post. I would have done the same thing! Very well written and good storytelling.

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