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Heather's Pregnancy Journal

Week 22 ~ May 29, 2002
~ FMLA Woes

Maternity leave is such a frustrating thing. I do not understand why it has to be so difficult. I don't ask for much; I am a good employee and certainly productive; yet when talking about leave with my boss, he stammers, stumbles and wants exact, finite details.

My job is a controversial subject in my household--as it would be even if I weren't pregnant. I was hired as a contract writer, with promise of hire within six months. Nine months later, I am still contract. We are a start-up company, so I understand the pitfalls and uncertainties, but the lack of job security while pregnant is really taking a toll on me. All the writers are promised a status change shortly, but the dates keep changing, so we all just scoff when new promises are made. Since I've been pregnant, I've consistently worried about having a job post-maternity leave. I would love to be covered under FMLA, but I am not, so I must rely on my employers to be truthful, which is not very possible for me to do. If it isn't in writing, with multiple signatures, I cannot believe what I am told.

Last week my boss singled me out for a conference. The conversation went something like this:

S: Are you planning on returning to this company after maternity leave?

Me: I don't know, our contract has expired, so technically I'm not an employee, so are you planning on having me back?

S: I've been treating you like a full-time employee, so you shouldn't be concerned about whether you'll have a job after delivering.

Me: You've made many promises, and none of them have been kept, so I am hesitant about believing you now.

S: So do you want to be employed here?

Me: I've made it clear that I do, but I am rather concerned about my job security, which I don't have right now, and I don't want to have to worry about that on top of everything else.

S: So what are your terms for leave?

Me: I've already given you those terms in writing. Four weeks of absolutely no work, then two weeks of part-time work from home, with no more than four hours daily spent performing my duties.

S: I'm not sure if we can give you that, so I'll have to talk to the president next week to get those terms finalized.

Me: I'm not really negotiating. I will be taking maternity leave. I do expect to receive the 10 days of paid time that we were promised, and I will expect part-time pay for the last two weeks, with two weeks unpaid altogether.

S: I'll talk to the president about it.

Me: I need to have it in writing with both of your signatures.

S: I'll see what I can do.

Now, how ridiculous is that conversation? The president approved my maternity leave, but when my boss came to tell me about the approval, he wanted to be sure that Sam would be born on September 29th so that I would be back before another writer had her wedding and honeymoon. I wondered if he wanted me to write a formal guarantee that my baby would be born on or before that date? He also wanted to know if I was going to definitely have a c-section, and if so, could I go ahead and schedule it so that they could plan on me being back in the office by November 11th? He also said that if Sam is born later than September 29th, they might need me in the office before November 11th. How crazy is that?

Me: Yes sir, I will go ahead and schedule that c-section so that I can convenience you as much as possible. I will ignore the empty promises of job security and make your life as easy as possible. After all, your company is nailing me to the wall by having me listed as a contract employee, and I enjoy paying a third of my salary to the IRS so that your company does not have to spend its precious money on me. So because of my job fulfillment, I will be sure to force this baby out on the exact date deemed as "due" because I would hate to have to bother you in any way.

Okay, so I didn't really say the above, but I certainly thought it! And by the way, I was crying the entire time my boss and I had that conversation about my leave! So there I was, trying so hard to be a tough-as-nails negotiator, and I couldn't stop wiping the tears quickly falling down my face. Perhaps I was crying because I'm a professional writer and jobs are scarce so I've not many job opportunities, or perhaps I was crying because I felt sorry for myself, or perhaps I was crying because I cannot have any serious conversation without my hormones getting in the way! Whatever the reason, it was humiliating to cry at work. I've never done that before-I generally choose to cry after work where no one can view my emotional breakdown!

I really cringe when I read about maternity and paternity leave in other countries. This is America--family values have been such a pertinent issue for so long, yet we continue to punish couples for choosing to have a baby. I don't understand how anyone can stress family values at the same time as disapproving of maternity leave. I'm also unclear about why people feel the need to make a pregnant woman feel as if she is "rocking the boat" by becoming pregnant. And companies want loyalty? It is doubtful that my loyalty will remain with a company that so obviously doesn't appreciate the hard work and time I've put in to help it become successful.

Ahhh, the many frustrations one must deal with in a less-than-adequate job. All I can say is, come on school districts, go ahead and hire me with my provisional teaching certificate while pregnant--I promise I'll do a good job as a teacher! My maternity leave will just be a small amount of time in many years of employment!

Calgon, take me away!

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