Photo Cred: Lisa Rigoni Photography
End of year thought, or reflection I guess. First let me tell you in this fight, life wins.
Once upon a time I was nursing my bebe at the grocery store. This was not something I normally did in public ( So shy back then!) but my baby was tired and hungry so I got over my shyness and just went for it. I was exhausted, and knew I looked like a hot mess. As I slowly waltzed down the bread aisle I saw a man that I recognized but wasn’t really able to put a name to the face. I recognized his eyes, his horn-rimmed glasses and the logo on his light blue work shirt. We had just moved to this area two weeks before. I left the security of my job of 8 years and we sold everything we owned to move to a town where we could live a much simpler life. We knew a total of two people in the town of 70,000 and he for sure wasn’t one of them. I kept thinking, where in the heck do I know this guy from and why does he look so uncomfortable? Then it hit me…. He was the same person who had both hired and fired me the week before.
I immediately flashed back to the interview. I remember him telling me there was no such thing as breaks in my job as an IT Communications Coordinator and that we were lucky to get 5 minutes to use the restroom each day (I should have walked away then) even though we worked 10+ hour days. The lady I was replacing attended the interview, but she was on speakerphone. I asked if she was at home or another office and they all laughed. No, she was in the other room but tethered to her desk. OH wow I thought, she couldn’t even leave her desk for a quick meet and greet? I quickly dismissed my gut feeling. I could make this work right? That’s ok I thought, I’d use those 5 minutes to pump. I’ll pump in my car, in the restroom, heck standing on my head if needed. I had boobs of steel and could knock out an entire bottle for her in 5 minutes so I’ll figure out a way to make it work. Who cares about UTI’s, I can hold my bladder for days! (wut) I had left my corporate IT job for something more meaningful, or at least less stressful and it was super important for me to be able to provide my 8 month old with milk to take to daycare. Looking back I just shake my head at all of this and my lack of ability to see when a job wasn’t a good fit for me let alone ANY human being.
I performed pretty well in the interview, dazzling them with my answers and got the job. They even offered me MORE than what I was asking for money wise and immediately sent over a contract for me to sign. Excited and relieved, I signed it and sent it right back not skipping a single beat. I thought, “I am so happy this is locked in” but I still continued to go on interviews even after they offered me the job, just in case. So after a few days of going back and forth via email about how excited everyone was to have me on board because of my extensive IT experience, they asked me if I had any questions for the managers or HR. I mentioned that they could send me info on the benefits package (it started day 1 and I was curious, and I also asked about domestic partner benefits as we weren’t married at the time) and casually mentioned I’d need one 5 minute break per day. I also said that the break could be anytime, I didn’t need it to be a set time that I was flexible, and I’d consider them my bathroom break. I said that I wanted them to know now so that if I found a window of opportunity to take one they’d understand it was planned and necessary.
I felt very comfy emailing this to them as they were so casual in the email, joking and telling me all the office gossip, who to baby, who to be tough on, who to ignore….. laughing about my ability to handle a room full of engineers who did things like throw nerf footballs at each others heads, who also got into arguments because of stress, and who apparently had farting contests on a daily basis. They made sure I was aware of what I was getting into before I accepted the job. They were honest and they wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to cringe or sue them. Was I tough enough to deal with this group? You betcha. I was going to be their new engineer wrangler.
Looking back, I didn’t mention anything that could have made them uncomfortable. I worded it very carefully, and for all they knew I had to take the 5 minutes to give myself an insulin shot. This was a very small office of 10 people so I thought they’d def notice me taking a 5 minute break with a giant bag of nursing supplies so I needed to bring it up. Within a few minutes I received an email saying I was fired, and saying they were going to pass on hiring me despite the signed agreement by both parties because I had asked too many questions in my last email. I had already passed all of the background checks, the 2 interviews, and signed a one year contract. I felt so betrayed that these people didn’t see me as a human being and just fired me over email before I even started! I immediately started to question myself, did I say too much or was I rude? Nope, I thought it was my ‘in’ to discuss my needs and I was wrong.
I was in shock. I was so happy I had found a job in our new town and offered more money. I had a signed offer letter from the CEO of the company. I thought how exactly do I respond to this email? Do I apologize about mentioning the break I needed, do I make excuses, crawl back and ask them to reconsider? Do I demand a more in depth answer as to why? Do I tell them sorry that I mentioned partner benefits or do I compromise and just stop worrying about taking a break to do something good for my daughter? No, that wasn’t right either. So what did I do?
I never responded, I let my silence speak for itself. Days passed and they emailed me a few more times to make sure I wasn’t going to just awkwardly show up (would have be fun!), so I continued to ignore their messages thinking I’d never have to see their ugly mugs again. BUT I was wrong. I had never lived in a town this small, and if this was Miami or Dallas, I probably would have never seen any of them again.
So imagine being at the grocery store, with my hair not brushed and sticking up, probably wearing some form of pajamas and no makeup. Stressed out about our dwindling funds, making sure I was keeping to our small food budget while feeling like I did the right thing for my family. My baby was snugly tucked away in her Moby Wrap nursing and while you couldn’t see my body parts, it was pretty obvious what I was doing. As I got closer to him, I popped the baby off because she was done, exposing that I was nursing. With perfect timing she sat up and poked her gorgeous little dark head of hair out, all milk drunk and stared at him with all her cuteness. It was then that I saluted him and kept on walking. No not the one finger salute, although looking back I wish I had.. It was then that I knew he recognized me and I turned around to see his face as he watched me sashay past the tortillas. He looked embarrassed and like he wanted to crawl under a rock.
I still live in this town and still see him now and again, and I have also seen the same job posted on Indeed more than a dozen times in 4 years. Sounds like they have high turnover, I wonder why?