Like many of us, I started working from home in mid-March due to COVID-19. My job was to support my boss in service of our existing clients and to obtain new clients. I have two kids, ages four and one.
The first week of working from home started off very stressful with multiple calls, emails and unrealistic expectations. The pressure from my boss was creating so much stress. The kids were always interrupting, and the baby wanted to nurse all the time. They constantly had to wait for me to finish getting something done so I could tend to their needs.
My heart broke. I felt bad that they didn’t understand that Mommy needed to work. I spent money on arts/crafts and supplies in hopes that I could keep them entertained as much possible, rather than sitting them in front of the television all day.
Throughout the last few months, I had worked tirelessly to meet the deadlines that I had been given. My boss started to get frustrated with hearing my kids on our calls. He instructed me that on business calls with clients he did not want to hear the kids in the background. He stated over and over that it was not professional to hear the kids in the background on client calls and that I had to figure out how to keep them quiet.
His comments about hearing the kids on client calls continued to come up. My only solution to what seemed impossible was to push my son’s nap-time time later into the early afternoon, and pray he didn’t wake up in fear of repercussion from my boss. I set the expectation with my boss that I would put him down for a nap and that I could be on client calls from 1pm-4pm with minimal background noise, hoping my baby wouldn’t wake up in the middle of our calls. That was my only solution. The stress and anxiety that my boss created for me was through the roof.
He ignored my schedule, continuing to arrange calls during my lunchtime when both of my kids were hungry and impatient. The constant harassment of him “reminding” me that he was not okay with kids in the background on client calls continued until May. Even so, I continued to perform well with no complaints from my clients. I was meeting the deadlines and getting the work done. I worked the hardest I ever have in my entire career.
At one point in late May, things started escalating. He told me, “We can’t keep accommodating your work schedule. We can’t have client calls with kids or noise in the background. No other account executive on the team has this issue. Your role as an account executive is to be present to our client, so you need to take care of your kid situation.”
“I don’t know what you mean by take care of my ‘kid situation,'” I told him. “Do you want me to lock them in a room or something? I can’t do that.”
His response: “Figure it out.”
At this point, I was crying on the phone. I felt shocked that he would respond in this way to my concerns. I felt demeaned and degraded. The fact that he responded “figure it out” to my statement about locking my children in a room or something … what kind of heartless human would respond in that way? Is that what his ideal situation would be for me? Would I win employee of the month in his book if I left my one-year-old in a room alone, crying, so that he could get his way? It’s disgusting.
At one point, he was so fed up with me caring for my kids that he assigned me to do time management training. During the training, another manager gave me “tips” on time management. I explained that I was in a difficult position without childcare. He told me that they are tired of accommodating me. Both he and my supervisor have teenage children and stay-at-home wives.
In late May, I felt like I had done everything in my power to address this situation with my managers, and I contacted the human resources department asking for help. I told HR everything about the comments made to me about my kids. She responded with “there are two sides to every story.” She told me she had another call, and I felt rushed and dismissed. I sent an email reiterating what had happened that day with my manager.
On June 2nd, I had a call set up with HR, which I thought would be a call to find a solution. Instead, HR told me abruptly that I was clearly not happy and that we should part ways.
I couldn’t believe it. How was this happening right now? What did I do wrong?
I asked her these questions, to which she responded that they were experiencing a reduced revenue due to COVID-19. Which one is it? It was a clear, inconsistent excuse to cover up their illegal motivations. It’s also just not true because they continued to hire new positions after my termination, and the company leadership had committed to no layoffs during the pandemic.
I was in complete shock. This company’s executive leadership had emailed us that they understand it’s hard to work from home with kids, that we are providing exceptional work, and that we are all in this together. How does a company who preaches that they care about their parent employees fire one who performs well consistently? I reached out to human resources on May 26 for help with the obvious discrimination to me as a mother and the harassment that I have dealing with directly the previous three months — and seven days later I’m fired for speaking up? That’s not okay.
HR was supposed to have my back. I feel betrayed. I worked so hard to be committed to this company and to keep our organization afloat while attending to my little kids at the same time. I hope my story raises awareness of gender discrimination and bias against mothers. I want other companies to look at my story and train its staff on discrimination and retaliation. Hopefully one day, mothers will be respected at work.
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