Just a few days ago, I found myself dividing my attention between feeding my toddler and responding to colleagues that continuously pinged me onSkype for business. On a normal day it would be fine, but at nearly seven in the evening, all I felt was frustration. It saddens me to say that even after excusing myself to continue with our evening routine, I still received messages urging me to provide answers to things that could’ve been concluded the next morning. While I recognise that being a working parent is not meant to be easy – especially during this pandemic – this isolated event brought back several memories of less than acceptable situations that had previously left me shaking with anger.
Someone one said that I need to stop using my baby as an excuse to avoid social events. It is not an excuse when I say I need to feed, bathe or care for my little one. I’ve turned down team drinks and weekend parties because my daughter needed to be tucked in by seven, thirty. After leaving my child at daycare for about ten hours a day so that I can be both physically and emotionally present in the office, the very least I can do as a mother is spend an hour or two bonding with my her. I will not apologise for choosing to spend quality time with my family.
Someone once said that I need to stop “crying ‘baby'” whenever I am having a bad day. To that comment, all I can say is; you were not awake with me for hours on end changing my little one’s clothes every half hour because she would not stop hurling, You were not there when I sat by her bedside patting her down with wet towels as I tried to break her fever. You were also not there when I had to deal with the sleep regressions and night terrors when the rest of our team was asleep. Several times I’d gotten less than two hours of sleep and still took a shower, popped a Provigil, put on my poker face and showed up to work for another ten hour day. I will not apologise for being tired.
Someone once said that I am justifying every anti-feminist’s reasons for not promoting women in the workplace. It was not acceptable to ask me if I was in a relationship during a job interview nor was it acceptable to ask when I planned on having children. It was also not cool to comment on my postpartum body even if you thought you were complimenting me by saying I was an ‘assassin’. I care for my health and prioritise fitness because that is the way I choose to live my life – not to hear carnal comments from thirsty married men. It is not complimentary to know that while speaking about serious work related matters, you were observing my physical appearance in a sexual way. I will not apologise for my gender or the way I look.
Someone once told me to stop being dramatic. Pregnancy is not a joke, and though some women are able to go full term without even knowing they are pregnant, the majority of us won’t, Falling pregnant is a beautiful but life changing event for more reasons than one and just because it does not suit you to have a hormonal, achey and fatigued woman working with you, legislations have changed to allow women into the corporate world despite our wombs. During my pregnancy, I suffered from severe anaemia and extremely low vitamins D levels but still put my hand up for short term assignments and business trips. I remember almost fainting in the office then being put on bed rest, but I still came back to work. My husband was my rock at that time, but not every pregnant woman is fortunate enough to have such a supportive person by their side. .Although I tested my limits on several occasions, I was not able to perform at my best. I will not apologise for my neurological changes.
Someone once said that I am always sick. When a baby is born, their immune system is still underdeveloped and needs to be exposed to several pathogens in order to gain resistance. If you put your child in daycare, the likelihood of illness increases significantly. This one is a no brainer; leave a child with other kids and suddenly they are exposed to more germs and viruses than are present at home. Gabby went to daycare so that I could continue working and, just like clockwork, the illnesses just kept coming. You can run away from someone who sneezes so you don’t catch COVID-19, but do you expect me to turn my snotty toddler away so that my attendance register remains flawless? I’ve seen people sympathise with healthcare professionals who fall ill, but why is the standard different for working mothers? I will not apologise for being my child’s caregiver.
The list could definitely go on, but the message will still be the same – I will not apologise for being me!