I worked for a man who talked a lot about how hard he had to work to make enough to keep his wife home with their daughters and how important that was to him. I took the job because it offered early morning hours (from 4 am – 12 pm) that allowed with me to be with my kids the majority of the day. After working for the man for more than six months, I put in a written request to leave early three days a year, so I could continue to be a room mother in my kids’ classrooms and volunteer at the Halloween, Holiday and Spring party each year. I was dismissed the next day without explanation.
THREE HALF-DAYS A YEAR.
TWELVE TOTAL HOURS A YEAR.
TO MAINTAIN A SPECIAL PART OF MY KIDS’ SCHOOL EXPERIENCE.
It was too much to ask of this self-described Father of the Year. He told me to call him, and he would explain the next day why I was given a pink slip. I called. I asked why I was let go when he appeared so happy with my work. He said, You wouldn’t understand. And he hung up. That was it.
He wanted his kids to be raised by a stay-at-home mom, but he wanted to employ a woman who would never ask for favors (as small as they seemed to me) because of her children. Perhaps he decided that day he would never hire a mother again. Maybe that’s best for the rest of the mothers out there…
Maybe my mistake was that I was honest. Should I have called in sick instead on those three days? I don’t believe in doing that. In the long run, that doesn’t change hearts and minds. I wanted this man to realize this small favor allowed in his workplace was a step in the right direction towards improving family values in America. And believe me, he was a big proponent of “family values” as his ilk has corrupted it to mean.
Maybe my mistake was that I asked for a favor. Why should mothers be granted special favors over other employees? Don’t men and single women have issues too? Perhaps they want to attend their elderly parents birthday party at a nursing home, and have to leave early to do that. Knowing the man I worked for, he may have turned down that request. But I doubt he would have fired the employee because of it.
I am convinced he fired me because he realized my kids were more important than the job, and he wanted total devotion. It’s why many women in the media cut back to part-time or freelance or quit altogether or switch to a public relations position that doesn’t require long hours and shifts at night, on weekends and on holidays. The media is one of those industries that generally demand full-time devotion if you are in a full-time position. Job first. Family second.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Devoted employees will always find a way to give 110% the rest of the time, if they are allowed to cut back to 80% once in a while to handle family priorities. I’m not talking about emergencies — leaving for a sick child, taking off a day for an uncle’s funeral. I’m talking about leaving early to see the playoff game, refusing to come in on a day off to chaperone the band trip, missing a meeting to bring your kindergartner to her first day of school.
Asking for these things shouldn’t call into question a person’s devotion. The decision should be evaluated based on whether the work can be made up or whether others in the department are willing to pick up the slack or whether the employee’s presence is absolutely necessary. Mothers help each other all the time — with carpools, with doctor recommendations, with an extra band-aid at the bottom of our purse for a child on the playground they don’t even know. I’m sure many mothers would do double-duty one day a month, in exchange for getting that opportunity to attend a child’s dance recital the next month when the other mom returns the favor.
The problem is that the men in charge won’t even consider such proposals. These men often profess to be such great fathers but don’t give a thought to the rest of the children in the world.
It’s an example of NIMBY.
That’s an expression used in the world of television reporting (and probably other industries) between colleagues when we are covering a story where people want something important to happen but “Not In My Back Yard” — and show up to vociferously protest the location of some proposal.
Build a nuclear waste site? Of course! Near my home? Never!
Approve a new shopping plaza? Sure. Near my street? No way!
House sex predators all together in one home after release, so they don’t end up scattered on every block in town? Definitely. Within a mile of my kids’ school? Over my dead body!
You get the idea.
The same thing happens with men’s attitudes towards working moms and stay-at-home moms.
Executives work long hours to be sure to make enough so their wives can be home with their kids, be the mothers who take them where ever they need to go, be the wives who have dinner on the table at a decent hour. They don’t ever think that the mothers who work for them want the same for their own children. They assume if a mother is working at all, then she’s written off her chance to do those things with her kids.
But many working moms don’t accept that. They are trying desperately to do both; they are OverAchieving Moms trying to work and still provide as much or nearly as much attention and supervision as a stay-at-home mom. It would be a lot more achievable if the men in the workplace — especially the supervisors — understood that the kids of working moms who are NIMBY are just important as their own kids.
But that’s often not the case.
Men aren’t generally part of the mom exchange. It’s not that they never want to offer help. I think they just don’t ever think about helping. They don’t carry around extra band-aids. They don’t coordinate the carpools. But many times they’ll drive when the women set it up.
I’d like to see more of us moms trying to set up these cooperative relationships in the workplace, so men can see it doesn’t affect a mother’s commitment to her job and career and does not affect the functioning and bottom line of the company.
It’s not just in an office setting where things must change. Mothers are out working everywhere, but it doesn’t even occur to most men that such work is taking them away from their kids. Or they believe the mothers are fine with being away from their kids to work, even if it means missing something that matters. So men sometimes step on that time needlessly.
I manage rental property and chatted with a tenant who is moving out recently, after showing his house to a prospective new tenant. The only reason I was at his home on a Sunday and not with my family is because this man refused to “assist with showings the final 60 days of occupancy” as his lease states. “That’s not my job,” he kept saying. “If you want people to see the house while I live here, you must come with them.”
So I leave my kids to go to his house and point out the bedrooms and bathrooms and yard, all while he walks around with me — both of us fully aware he could be doing this and spare me the two hours away from my kids. After the showing ends, my tenant proceeds to happily chat with me about why he is moving and how is life is going and how hard he worked to make sure his wife could stay home to raise their kids.
He knows I have kids, but his actions show that he doesn’t care.
I try to manage my work obligations so it doesn’t take me away from my kids too much. But that’s not always possible, and I am away from them more than I’d like. And sometimes it’s because of men like him, men who could simply follow guidelines already established to save me from having to leave my children. But he refuses, because I am not leaving his kids. I am leaving my kids. And being a mom who has to leave her kids is okay when it’s Not In My Back Yard.
After all, he must figure, I’ve already established myself as a career woman. He knows I run my own business. So I’ve already decided that I am not a stay-at-home mom. So to this man, what does it matter if I have to leave my kids for three hours on a Sunday to show a house? And what does it matter to the prospective tenant — who didn’t even bother to bring his wife as promised — if I have to come back the next day to show the house to the rest of his family? He had his son with him to see if he liked the house. Should I have brought my kids to the showing? That would not have been professional or something my kids would have liked.
If I had to hire a babysitter, I might have brought them. But they’re old enough to stay home. They don’t need me home, but I want to be there. I’d rather be home to help them get everything ready for school next week during the afternoon, instead of scrambling to do it late in the evening.
But the men I interact with don’t care about my kids.
Someone else’s kids are NIMBY.
But some day they might be. And wouldn’t it be nice if we all contributed to the raising of children who grew up to become successful, polite, happy adults — not just our own but the ones we interact with every day in life?