Five words that you don’t expect to hear during a job interview – “your baby is a problem”...
Being made redundant last year while six months pregnant mid-pandemic was less than ideal. Now with my maternity leave due to end soon and a child still under six-months-old, jobhunting is a bit daunting to say the least.
My ideal scenario would be to work part-time three days a week with at least two of those days working from home.
With so many parents forced to juggle careers with home schooling over the past year and working from home becoming the new normal, you would think that the spotlight on flexible working would be at least one positive to come from it all.
Applying for a position I had more than a decade’s experience in, I was filled with confidence during the first interview when a woman, who said she had children herself, told me both part-time and some home working would be fine.
The second interview however I spoke with a man who wasted no time in telling me that my “baby is a problem”. Elaborating, they explained that they wanted someone to be occasionally physically in the office (fine) and that they were concerned as to what my plans for childcare would be.
They admitted that what they were saying probably went against all HR policies but made light of the matter saying they thought that it was better that they were upfront.
Relaying what happened to a horrified friend they said they hoped that I had “given them what for”. I am ashamed to say that I didn’t because I hadn’t known what to say as I had never been in that position before.
“They wouldn’t have said that to you if you were a man,” remarked another friend.
The more I thought about what had happened, the more emotions surfaced. That included anger at myself for not only failing to stand up for myself, but in effect my son too. I also feared being told similar by other potential employers.
After being pointed in the direction of charities such as Pregnant Then Screwed and being made aware of the Equality Act 2010 however, I now know that not only was what that person said to me wrong, it was discriminatory and above all, illegal.
Was it really a one-off incident though? Speaking with friends who are also mothers they too said that they had come up against discrimination in the workplace because of their caregiver responsibilities.
One advised to remove having been on maternity leave from my CV and just accredit a career gap to redundancy and the global pandemic. They also suggested not mentioning having a child at all during the interview process.
My partner, who is supportive, agreed.
But isn’t it important to be transparent? Not if I want a job apparently.
A simple internet search of my name would show that I have previously written for this very website about raising a baby during lockdown. Various images of him are also proudly plastered across my social media accounts – should I delete them just in case?
Not gonna happen.
This pandemic has robbed me and so many other first-time mums of “normal” experiences that previously might have been taken for granted; every memory counts including posts celebrating milestones and I won’t pretend that he doesn’t exist.
Just because I now have a child it does not diminish my skills and past career achievements nor what I can bring to the table as a future employee.
Bottom line, my son is NOT a problem and any employer that thinks that is not one I would want to work for anyway.