How Pregnancy Can Impact You in the Workforce
Working full time, taking care of a household, and raising a family is a hard task for us women even when we are operating on full cylinders, when pregnancy occurs these tasks can seem impossible most days! We as women have been given the gift of life, but like most things in life this gift can come with some pretty hard times; morning sickness, fatigue, swelling, and so much more! Unfortunately, in today’s society most households must have a dual income family just to survive, forcing us women who have the desire to have children and raise a family to split our time between the workplace and our children. What happens if you become ill during your pregnancy, you develop complications and/or other issues that force you to have to cut back your time at the office or in some cases not be able to go in at all to ensure that you and your unborn baby are healthy?
This issue has recently reared its ugly head in my life, my daughter who is pregnant with my second grandchild and is an RN in an emergency room recently had her OB appointment where they found some issues and made the decision that due to her past medical history with my grandson she had to cut her hours at the ER. The doctor wrote her a note, stating that due to the danger of pre-term labor, she must not work more than 2 shifts in one week. Not a big deal right? That is exactly what I thought, I mean she works in an ER, her supervisors and her peers are all medical professionals, there is no way they would have an issue with this. Boy oh boy was I wrong and their reaction, demeanor, and handling of the situation really made me sit back and look at the current culture within the traditional workforce and how pregnant women are being treated, specifically those pregnant women who are in similar situations as my daughter.
As I began to research topics relating to pregnant women and the workforce, I was also watching the events at my daughter’s workplace unfold and my disappointment grew and grew. My daughter just recently moved to the area and began working at the hospital, so she has been there less then one year which makes her ineligible for protection under FMLA, her supervisors were insinuating that her job was in jeopardy, she was going to lose her benefits due to her moving to part time, and making comments that made my blood boil. My daughter was calling me crying, stressed out, and scared about her job security, medical coverage, bills, etc. There was a reason the doctor required her to cut her shifts down to two a week, to reduce stress which hopefully helped with lowering her blood pressure. Well that was definitely not happening, I am sure her blood pressure was higher than ever and I can guarantee you her stress level increased by ten-fold.
I began researching her rights under ADA, local and state laws and regulations that could potentially protect her, and looking at just how common this issue may be and what I found literally made me sick to my stomach. It is estimated that approximately 450,000 women who are pregnant and also working develop a medical condition while pregnant that forces them to reduce their hours or completely stop working to ensure their pregnancy is not only healthy but also full term. Over 37% of these women have reported that they experienced some sort of backlash from their employer, had all or some of their benefits cut, or in some cases completely lost their job due their condition. I was completely floored when I read this information, I mean how could anyone even fathom treating someone this way, especially someone who is pregnant? What is happening to our society, to the workplace and to our humanity? There was a time when women were revered for their ability to become pregnant and give birth, where they were treated with the utmost respect, and given compassion for what they were facing, now our society is treating these women as if they have done something horrible when faced with a medical condition resulting from their pregnancy, like they purposely set out to hurt their employer with malicious intent.
It’s time we stand up together as women, as one body, and as one voice to be heard. The challenges us women face both within the workplace and at home are unique, we are given both the gift and the burden of not only giving life but to raise our children with morals, integrity, strong work ethic, etc. we are raising our future and in many cases are also having to financially support our family. There is a way to do it all, to effectively balance your career and your family, to ensure you are present for all those events in your children’s lives while still earning a good income, but first we must stand up and be heard! We must revolutionize the “traditional” workforce and begin to shift our ideas, vision, and expectations so that we are not faced with the issue of being harassed or losing our job because we have chosen to become pregnant to have a family and faced an unforeseen medical condition. You’re right, we do have rights, my daughter has rights and I have given her the information regarding those rights but what if a woman in her shoes didn’t have someone in her life like me to help her and to guide her? What if she had no idea there were rights available to protect her and she just walked away defeated, stressed, and scared? This is why I say we must begin to shift today’s society, the workforce, and what has become the norm and make the norm what is best for our children and us, and begin to create a future that our daughters will not have to face what we are facing and are able to experience both the joys of motherhood and a career if they so choose!
Emily Miller, Director of Veteran Affairs