I work for an upscale design firm in a mid-level American city. It’s a pretty coveted job because it’s a trendy company and the pay is good, but it’s still difficult work. For the past three years I’ve been working 60 hours a week at the very minimum.
Last year I got pregnant (planned) with my husband. I’m 28 so this should be no surprise to my employer. This is what women do. I gave notice and they seemed supportive yada yada yada everything goes as expected. I have the kid and we have a pretty generous maternity policy (we also have a week of paternity leave for men) so I was happy. I worked my ass off before my leave and for the years preceding that and then did what humans are supposed to do and cared for my infant child for six months at home.
I returned to work last september. Everyone was nice but I could tell they were judging me for having a child now. I guess that’s what happens when you work in a competitive office. I was very conscious when I came back to keep myself to a manageable work load so that I could knock everything I worked on out of the park and keep my work quality consistent with pre-baby. I did great work for 40 hours a week and then I went home and was a kick ass parent for the rest of my time. It was a little less time overall than I was working before but it wasn’t so I could go out and get wasted with my girlfriends. This is in everyone’s best interest, for kids to have a great mother.
I stupidly didn’t think about the impact my becoming a mother would have on my career. Why should being a mother make me any less valuable as an employee? I spent years working long hours and traveling at the drop of a hat for them. But low and behold once I had a kid I was passed over to be on the most important projects. It went to men or to single women. It was something I’d never noticed before, but I guess I thought I would be exempt. And then a few months later at year end it was bonus time. Just so you know my bonus the first year at the company was $15k. Last year it was $20k. It’s expected to large, that’s how design firms work. You have an okay salary and the company hopes to make as much money as possible for the year and then it divvies up whatever it makes over budget between the partners and staff depending on “performance.” (But really, it’s just a popularity contest, which I’d always done well at).
So, my bonus this year? $5,000. The bonuses aren’t public so I can’t say this for a fact, but it has to be the lowest of anyone in the company. We got two major new clients this year so we blew the budget out of the water. And yet, here I am with a bonus far below normal, all because I’m no longer “one of the guys” because I had a kid. I lost at LEAST $10,000 in compensation because people don’t see moms as humans, apparently. I’m just sick over this.
I’ve tried to keep the details vague as I’m looking into what kind of legal action I can take, but I’m writing this to open the eyes of as many people as possible. There’s a stigma that says we can’t be great parents and great employees, this hurts families and perpetuates discrimination. Employers should not be able to discriminate between single people and parents in hiring or compensation or we will wind up with a culture in which no one raises the leaders of tomorrow. The fact is that we need parents and we need families. We simply wouldn’t exist if someone hadn’t given birth to us, which is why we need to make sure employers are supporting working families.