We Asked, You Answered: Family-Friendly Workplaces
We asked our followers on social media:
For those of you who have started families while also pursuing careers, what was the experience like with your employers? What formal policies did they have addressing parental leave, work-life balance, etc.? What was the informal work environment like as you transitioned into parenthood? Did you find your coworkers/supervisors/etc supportive, hostile, something in between?
In no particular order, here’s what you had to say. Some responses have been edited for length.
Beth H.: My husband worked for the state of Colorado (just retired). On paper they had family leave and such but made it very clear that such rules did not apply to adoptive families. When I had a hysterectomy in 2002, he was refused time off to care for me so I got to take care of me and two toddlers, 3 days after getting my belly sliced open.
Sarah F.: I worked for a Utility Coop, and my HR Manager, GM, and direct supervisor were all very supportive. There was no paid leave outside of using sick/vac hours, but they supported using all 12 weeks of FMLA (instead of 6 or less). They connected me to company resources designed to provide supportive info for pregnant/recently postpartum women. I think I found out about the ACA requiring insurance to cover a breast pump through it. They were enthusiastic and reinforced a positive culture towards childbirth. Other women became pregnant around the same time as me, and my HR manager was giddy about setting up a lactation room. She purchased a comfortable chair, mini fridge, and supported women taking breaks to pump. (We also had a laugh about the room—it was an old supply room once, and had some artwork stored in it. The coop existed in dairy country, and one of the posters was of a dairy farm—which was entirely unintentional on her part but kind of hilarious!) There seemed to be a lot of flexibility for other parents needing to leave early, arrive late, take off time to go attend to the needs of their children. So long as you typically kept stable 7:30-4:30 hours, you could flex your time here or there to make it work if you needed to leave. We had a good team culture in my department and generally never minded covering for each other.
Leah B.: Definitely didn’t feel supported; the system of traditional business seems to completely ignore that men and women even have families or children. Basically in most workplaces it seems like they want everyone to pretend that they are a single man.
Kaitlin E.: Awful. I was 25 and have infertility. We were beginning to think it wouldn’t happen for us naturally, and we couldn’t afford treatments as new homeowners. I had switched companies and 4 months later found out I was pregnant. Company had made lots of big promises with significant higher pay, “allowance” monthly for therapy supplies versus having to pay out of pocket, and full power over my own schedule. It seemed too good to be true, and it was. Since some cases wouldn’t be safe for me to accept in pregnancy, I told my bosses (husband and wife owned business). I received a nasty email accusing me of hiding the pregnancy at-hire. They backpedaled immediately when they learned I was probably 5 weeks at the time. We had been trying for almost a year at that time. . . . Later, they started to miss payroll . . . I parted ways with them, became a SAHM and had 2 more kids, and the people who couldn’t make payroll bought a mansion.
Maria K.: The military is actually great. I have 3 months of maternity leave and when I go back to work I will have dedicated time and space for pumping. I am also exempt from PT or deployment for one year. Before I went into labor I was on light duty with flexible hours for several weeks.
Jennifer W.: Bad. I had a lot of health problems while pregnant and was told to just go on short term disability with my first child because I was causing too many issues. My second child, I was demoted three weeks after I came back from maternity leave. My fourth pregnancy took the cake. My area manager offered to pay for my husband to have a vasectomy, he made jokes about intentionally tripping children when my husband and kids came to pick me up, and when on maternity leave, he tried to get me to come back from maternity leave early by denying my leave of absence. HR got involved in that one as he was very explicitly out of line and I could have sued for pregnancy discrimination. By that time my husband started a business so I left that company.
AC G.: Extremely positive all the way around. We were adopting and pregnant; my employer approved 12 weeks FMLA for both children even though they joined our family only 6 months apart, so my employer legally could have capped it at 12 weeks total to be split between both. My coworkers threw a baby shower. My employer gave me a large bonus to help with adoption expenses. They allow me to set my work hours however I want to accommodate my family.
Derek B.: Not me personally but a friend of mine (who I won’t name here) was considered a star employee… up until he told his boss his wife was pregnant. Her first reaction was dismay about the consequences to his potential promotion, and after he took paternity leave his boss became overtly hostile and made his job hell.
Katy S.: Much more positive than I anticipated. I’m an aerospace engineer at an engine company (so a male dominated environment) and I had three children close together. The first was after accepting the offer at the company, and they allowed me to delay my start as a result. The second two followed shortly after. The company had just updated their parental leave to 12 weeks paid, which was extremely helpful, and in general my coworkers and bosses were very supportive and flexible around my schedule. It was helpful that fathers were also given 6 weeks paid leave so that my time off was not so gender specific and the policy on pumping and the availability of clean, private “mother’s rooms” was also huge. In general, I do not think my career was negatively impacted and I actually received my highest performance review one of the years that I had taken the 12 weeks of paid leave. I hope for this opportunity for all women who choose to work and start a family.
Theresa W.: It was terrible. I had just started working for the federal government the first time I got pregnant. I was fairly young and was horrified to find out that there was no maternity leave. I arranged all of my medical appointments for after work, took no leave (even when I was sick) and return to work two weeks after my son was born. A few years later, shortly after I delivered my twins (premature) and again had to return to work early because of insufficient leave, my mother became very ill and I had no leave left after caring for my newborns to spend the time I would have liked to have with her before she died. While I was pregnant with #6 in 2020, I was so excited when I found out that the government finally enacted legislation allowing 12 weeks of Paternity leave. I literally cried tears of joy, only to come crashing down when I realized that it would not be authorized until October 1, 2020, while I was due in March. So I gave birth to six children as a federal employee with no maternity leave, and it was really, really hard. In each experience, I was entirely at the mercy of whoever was my manager at the time I gave birth.
Laura G.: I’m an attorney. It wasn’t easy. I definitely was seen as less committed.
Amber H.: I used to work at Boston’s Pizza. When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter I was having morning sickness all day in the beginning. My manager, who was extremely pro-choice, told me that if I was going to be “sick” I couldn’t work there anymore. I told him “I wasn’t sick, I’m pregnant.” He said again “If you’re going to be sick you can’t work here.” I left there went and worked somewhere else, and had another baby while I worked there. I now have 3 kids and stay home homeschooling and running my own small business.
Trisha C.: I was in medical school and was shunned by my dean. He made it a point to tell me that I couldn’t be a doctor and a mother. I had to choose one. He made my life hell . . . He essentially was telling me that I had to get rid of the baby. My classmates made it doable, though. They were more than happy to help my preggo ass while rolling my backpack or getting an aisle seat so I could run to the bathroom easily.
Julie E.: As a teacher the leave policy was meh but I had a whole summer right after. They were great about accommodating pumping and baby came to hang with me after school to wrap up most days’ unless meetings.
KayJayBee: #1 was great. Supportive office, boss, let me bring her into the office as long as I needed. #2 was awful. Same organization, but now boss neither supports me nor is permissive about bringing kids in when needed. Ironically, #1 boss was male, #2 was female.
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