New job and newly pregnant
Friday, April 21, 2017
In the beginning of November I was doing what most people in Chicago were doing: watching the cubs win the world series while cheering and drinking a beer, and then the following week watching Donald Trump with the election while drinking an entire jug of moonshine.
Two weeks later, at Thanksgiving with my family, I peered at the hopeful pack of tampons in my suitcase and (after splitting a bottle of wine with my mother over cards) decided I should sneak out and get a pregnancy test. Just in case.
Two days after getting back to Chicago from a Fertile & Festive Thanksgiving (with no more drinking!) I had a job interview that seemed very promising. I sat in front of the four people who were interviewing me and smiled, screaming in my head "I'm Pregnant! I AM PREGNANT!" but never saying it aloud.
They called me back the next day for a follow-up and then I didn't hear anything for two weeks. I told my husband, "This is a sign. If I don't get the job, I don't want to go looking anymore. It's too hard being pregnant in the workplace." Then they called me up and offered me the job.
I was going to be a working mother.
I had some good things on my side: my boss (a man) had two young children at home and loved to talk about parenting and empowering his wife to be a working mother. A co-worker was exactly 2 weeks ahead of me with her pregnancy and the workplace seemed very welcoming and cheerful with her. I worked part-time, which (although 5 days a week) meant I had some flexibility with my family life.
The bad things: new hires are not eligible for FMLA. Part-time is almost never eligible for FMLA. I didn't even have sick days. While it is still illegal to fire (or refuse to rehire) someone due to pregnancy, mothers still don't have much protection in the workplace. At the very least I could face resentment and hostility for starting a job only to leave them again for months at a time.
A week into the new job I told my boss about my pregnancy and he was thrilled. A week later, he was boasting to a staff meeting about all the great work I'd done in only a few days on the job. Later he told me, "You need to make yourself indispensable, so that they have no choice but to keep you." Two months into the job he called me with a crazy idea. A hire for our director position had fallen through. "We think you would be good for the position, and we want you to apply."
I had seen the position when applying for my cute little PT admin job, and I had been turned off by the necessary experience in grant writing. But my boss and two other superiors agreed that I did really good work and could be a great fit in the position. By then, they all knew I was pregnant. So I applied.
"We knew as soon as you finished interviewing," one of them said to me later, "You were perfect."
They offered me the job: full-time (!) with benefits (finally, sick leave!) and a pretty crazy increase in pay. I had paid close attention to the other directors and supervisors in the office, and from what I could tell there was no glorification of long hours and weekend work. My responsibilities would increase, but if I chose to only work 9 to 5, I wouldn't get any flak for it.
Because I work for a community college, the offer must be reviewed by the board before I can begin final negotiations. I'm on tenterhooks, unable to believe that I went from unemployed to THIS.
We still have a lot of problems with working moms in America. The time off that I'm demanding is unpaid -- I could try and get some of it paid, but I'm nervous and unsure. I'll have to see how flexible they are with me working from home part of the week for the first few months (or year). Childcare is still a question that we don't have an answer to (too bad the school doesn't have an option!) But I am very, very lucky. And grateful.