B*tching

I started this blog admitting that my gender had never been an issue for me. I always identified as a feminist, but only because it’s kind of monstrous not to these days, not because I spent a great deal of time thinking about women’s rights.

And then, bam, this last year I was hit with a righteous feminist fury. Why now? I think it’s because I’m at a stage where everything is suddenly unfairly harder because of my gender. [I’m also angry about all the stupid crap I had to put up with when I was younger because I was a girl, but didn’t recognize at the time, but that’s a whole other post.]

Like, I got engaged and suddenly everybody had all these questions that I couldn’t answer and suddenly I was a crazy bridezilla every time I had an opinion and, by the way, why didn’t Husband have to deal with any of that?

Like, I got a great job and suddenly everybody cares about what Husband does. It was all fine and good for him to be underemployed when I was a student, but now that we’re married and I’m an attorney, I must be letting him take advantage of me.

Like, I have to plan my every career move years in advance if I want to have a family, while my male coworkers don’t have to waste a bit of effort worrying about whether they will qualify for paternity leave and be able take several months off at some undetermined point in the future.

That last part is what’s been on my mind lately. Because here’s the thing. I think it would be hard to work where I work now and have young kids. Like, really hard. I commute and work long, sometimes unpredictable hours, and travel. So it makes sense to move into a job, or start to process of making myself qualified to move into a job, that is more family friendly. BUT. My current job has amazing maternity benefits and pays well. So it makes sense to stay and save. ALSO. I want to clerk for a judge for a year at some point, and it seems like it would be in bad faith to take a position like that planning to have a kid and take several months off.  The additional wrinkle is that a lot of places don’t let you take advantage of maternity benefits until you’ve worked there for a year. So if I clerk for a year, and then go back to my current employer or to any other position, I also won’t be able to take maternity leave for yet another year.

Maybe I shouldn’t be complaining about this. It’s called family planning for a reason. And I know men have to make plans, too. It’s just really hard to predict what the next four years will look like job-wise when I’m not even sure what I want to be doing next year. And it sort of sucks that you can’t comprehend how difficult grappling with these decisions is until suddenly it’s your career and your life and your body.

Another thought: is it unethical to take maternity leave knowing you’re not going to return to your job? My position is no way. It’s like vacation benefits. If you earned them, they’re yours. And employers have to allow for the fact that women might plan on coming back to work and then change their minds once the baby is born. Somebody suggested to me that it seems a little shady, because the purpose of a generous maternity leave policy is to keep the employee happy.

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9 Responses to B*tching

  1. ruth says:

    hmm. i wouldn’t call this post bitching, because there are quite a few legitimate arguments, but it is terribly provocative and I could see people (cough looking at utah mormons) who would have a hayday wth this subject. i had a friend who did the whole maternity leave and just quit at the end of it. I stuck it out through my contract, but only because I was worried about what the people at my job would think of me, i’m superficial and egotistical like that. Even when I did leave, I told them it was because we are “moving back east” even though that has yet to happen.

    I never thought I would want to stay home, but I know for a lot of people, they WANT to get out of the house after having a kid. And who knows how you will be till it happens?? In my opinion, It is really hard to go from having all this “me” time to suddenly I only get about 3 hours a day to myself. quite an adjustment. but worth it to me. also, not really having money anymore.

    It will work out if/when you decide to have kids. you’re a smart girl and you’ll figure out something that works for YOU, not necessarily for anyone else. and thats all that matters anyway 🙂

    • Sandy says:

      thanks for the thoughts, ruth. i’ve been away from utah and now arizona for so long that i didn’t even think anything i was even saying anything controversial, ha! i assume you mean that some people read about my woes and think i’m missing the point and should just quit my job when i have kids. i intentionally didn’t talk about this post because, well, it’s not really an option right now. and, even if it was, i don’t want to open that decision up for judgment by the rest of the world. i am also sure that everything will work out if/when we have kids, the frustrating thing is deciding what to do in the meantime. i want to make sure that i do the best thing for my current and future family, and right now i think that means making smart financial decisions.

      also, good for you for finishing out your contract. it looked like things were really stressful for you for awhile, but i bet it makes you feel that much more sure of your current decision to stay home with baby d:)

  2. I’ve always wondering about that too – with maternity leave. I don’t really have an opinion though, so I can’t help. But I have definitely wondered what I would do in that situation.

    I liked this post. Being a woman is hard! I love feminist rants!

    • Sandy says:

      uh oh, now that i know at least one person enjoys them, i’m probably going to unleash a torrent of feminist rants onto the blog. in fact, i was going to post one today, but then my discretion got the better of me: can’t imply bad things about the job that pays the bills:/

  3. Ru says:

    I think it’s fine to take the maternity leave. You’re right, it’s a benefit you earned before you took it. And honestly, I’m a big believer in avoiding burned bridges – I think it’s much easier to stay on good terms with a former employer by leaving the door open as if you intend to return to work. If you “change your mind” (whether that means extending your stay-at-home time indefinitely or returning to the job) it’s going to be a lot easier to do if your employer thinks you intended to return all along. (IE, everyone understands when someone decides, you know what, I do want to stay at home with my kid … whereas I think people give someone a weird look if she says, “Nope staying at home with my kid,” and then six months later is like, “Actually, I think I’d like my job back.” I guess it’s more socially acceptable to cave to the pressures of motherhood than the lure of career. Fair? No. But there you are.)

    • Sandy says:

      oh shoot, that last point is really good, and something i never even thought about. and surely it happens, and not just with the gay couple in that episode of modern family.

  4. Melanie Carbine says:

    My friend working in Germany as an engineer just got pregnant… Both parents get a total of 18 months paid paternal leave (they can even take it at the same time) and the mother gets a likewise generous about of unpaid leave with her job guaranteed back. My mentor teaching in Michigan got 3 months maternity leave and then an option for sick leave/disability. Her maternity leave was probably unpaid. Sick leave certainly is unpaid. Disability is hard to swing (and really who wants to say that pregnancy is a disability). But, really, when you’re up all night with a baby, what you want to do most is manage a classroom of 20+ ten year olds. 😛 Of course, I’ve also worked as a mother’s assistant for this same exact reason (but I worked for doctors and not teachers because the one can afford it and the other can’t).

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