Thursday, January 19, 2012

From Working Mom to Sick Mom

It didn't take long for me to realize that working while incredibly sick is impossible.  Not only could I not focus on work, but I was constantly vomiting in the bathroom and worrying the kids and their families.  It's difficult to visit and interview families when I am dizzy and rush through things so I can run to the bathroom.  In my field, I strongly believe that if you cannot  or do not wish to help those you are working for then you should switch jobs.  In this case, I really loved my job but sickness hindered my ability to help the families.

Last Friday, I gave my two week's notice; unfortunately, after a weekend when I couldn't move or get out of bed without puking, my husband called my supervisor and explained the situation.  She agreed that terminating employment immediately would be the best for me and my health.

Thus, now I am unemployed and sick in bed.  I can take medications but these medications don't cure everything.  I might stop throwing up as much; however, I still can't get out of bed or off the couch.  As soon as I stand up, move around, or get in the car, I start the vicious vomiting cycle.

Part of me is sad to bid adieu to working and the other part of me knows this is the best for me and my family.  I will miss actively earning a paycheck but I also know that my time as a working mom isn't over, it's just put on hold.

This experience has taught me that continuing to fight for women's rights is more important than ever.  If my job had allowed flexibility--like working part-time from home until I stop vomiting--I would have continued.  Unfortunately, like other women, I have found that many workplaces are not friendly to pregnant women, or women who have young children.  In bureaucracies, this deficiency is even more apparent as autonomy for supervisors is limited; they must follow the chain-of-command which restrains their administering abilities and breeds ineffective management.  A topic for another day.

The guilty feelings I expected haven't surfaced, probably because I am much too sick for negativity.  Or maybe it's because I am happy that I can spend my time enjoying this pregnancy--the first viable one after so very many losses and most likely our last.

Lucky for me, the kids are in daycare for the rest of the month allowing me to rest and vomit in peace.  And for that I am thankful.


  1. I've recently fell in love with audio books. I got a subscription to but you might be able to find some fun books at your library if you don't want to commit. I LOVE LOVE LOVE them. Especially when I get migraines because I can't do ANYTHING except lay in bed, not moving, with the covers over my head. Audio books let me at least have some entertainment. Although, if sound isn't pleasant... it might not work for you. But thought I'd pass on something that MIGHT help cheer you up and give you some entertainment/productivity options. They have books on ALL subjects. I even got my first feminism book from them. :) I SINCERELY hope you feel better soon, though! And hope it doesn't last 30 weeks...

  2. On a different tangent, my sister-in-law and I had a really interesting conversation the other day. She graduated from London School of Economics last year and was talking about her views on feminism in relation to work environments. I LOVED her point of view. I'll try to articulate it. She says that in her mind, feminism hasn't won. It is still forcing women to choose between work and being a mom. Such as your case - pregnant and too sick to go to work. With the rise of office jobs and 24/7 demand for products and work, we have now limited our society into a ONE track career path. One obtains an education and then gets an entry level job and then proceeds to climb up the ladder. Any extended time off is penalized and most of the time the employee is terminated. Vacation time is SCARCE! It's hard even with just one parent working to get longer than a week or two off at a time to vacation or visit family. BUT, there is no SECOND career path for the mothers. Both of us believe that there SHOULD be. It would be beneficial and profitable in the long term. (Unfortunately, businesses today only look at short-term, fast profits).

    On my own soap box: There are so many options that companies can do to include women in the workplace. And the first thing they need to realize is that women are also mothers. It's who they are. They should never be penalized for following biology and having a family. A mother should be allowed to leave the company, raise her family, and then come back and pick up where she left. Why not??? Or, there should be more options for mothers who want to keep working but not as intensely. Why not open more part-time work? Or, offer a position to mothers to be on call to substitute or fill in for permanent staff who are taking vacation, having surgery, or call in sick. I think it could work.

  3. Aww, hun - that's got to be soo hard especially for someone like you who is so active and busy. At least it's all temporary... in 7ish months you'll have a beautiful baby in your arms and the prospect of returning to work will not be far off.

  4. Audio books are something I absolutely adore once the first trimester ends--at that point I can enjoy the text without associations with sickness.

    I agree with your sister that feminism hasn't won, but I disagree with her assessment--feminism hasn't won because we live in a society that is terrified of women gaining power. I didn't believe this until I realized that this was a fear of mine and started to see the seeds of fear in many people's ideas. The feminist movement came out of women's frustrations in being subjected and abused for centuries. Even the civil rights movement does not hold water over the thousands of years that women have been trodden on; in the country of origin for many slaves, it was as customary for women to be considered chattel as it was in the white man's world. As women, we have to fight centuries of bias and sexism, ideas that women are good for bearing children and making a home but not much else. Unfortunately, the biggest barrier to the fight is women. So the feminist movement is still a work in progress, but doesn't that make sense? It takes years for change and this, women being recognized for their talents, is an enormous change.

    Something that holds women back is the man-generated idea that we are sweet, kind, and loving--all wonderful words that mask the real definition: women are weak. I find it horribly frustrating that women must compete with gender stereotypical characteristics when it comes to the workforce and in politics. If a man were to contract cancer, his company would be forced--due to cultural pressure--to ensure that his job is secure and that they support him during his fight and recovery. When a woman decides to have a baby, it's considered a choice and she is looked down on for her womanly (and human) desires to have children--further affirming in corporation's minds that women should not be in the workplace. Cancer is awful, yes, but for many women pregnancy is just as debilitating but we receive no support. Instead, we must often choose between our babies and our jobs.

    I learned quite a bit in my brief foray into the working world. The most important being that I want to be at the forefront in fighting for change. There must be flexibility in the workplace to allow for women and men to have successful families, a component that is currently missing. But I'm optimistic about change. :)

  5. That's how I see it. I am actually happy to have this time to really enjoy pregnancy because I know it will be our last and I want to bask in all the pleasant (and unpleasant) aspects of it. :)

  6. Then definitely enjoy it! Will you be finding out the sex? Did you find out with Emily & Andrew?

  7. When I talked to the president of my company about letting my department's employees work from home occasionally (right now you need a doctor's note and special permission), he flat out said that the company won't do that because it's not profitable. Sigh. First thing I'm going to do when I go back to work (on Monday, *sob*) is start working on a report providing him with statistics and evidence that telecommuting employees are happier and more productive.

  8. Also, I'm sorry you had to give up your job, and I hope the HE passes sooner rather than later!

  9. It's frustrating that life is so full of either or choices. There are a few companies (smaller often) that are willing to look for solutions that allow more flexibility in schedules and where you work.

    May your nausea pass quickly and you're right, in time, you'll find your way back to work you adore. One thing at a time.

  10. Well, I'm sorry (and glad) that the sickness continues, as it means your pregnancy continues.

    I'm sorry you couldn't keep your job (did not qualify for FMLA, I'm assuming, as you hadn't worked there long enough?).

    Now, imagine you're 15 or 20 years older and in your situation. Imagine you're 25 years older in your situation with elementary school-aged kids, on your own, and "too old" to get a job (thought that's not the reason they use), and you can't feed your family, even with degrees and skills.

    That's the situation many find themselves in. That hope for another job in a few months or a year two? It ain't there.

    Yeah. In other countries, that's not the case. Or if it is, you know the choice isn't between leaving your kids alone and keeping the roof over their heads, or the mortgage and the doctor, or food and the doctor.

  11. Wow, Amber. This is just horrible and you are exactly right: we need to do more for women in the workplace. The only way to start this, though, is by changing the face of our government to include more women. It would be great if we had more legislators who understood the plight of middle class families and trying-to-work mothers who are still in the throes of childbearing.

    I have my own story about being pregnant in the workplace, but in the end, I decided that beyond politics, my getting laid off was best for me.

    I hope you feel better soon!

  12. Amber, I hope you're feeling a little bit better since you posted. I'm happy that you're pregnant after what you've been through. It's really too bad that our employment system does not allow for sick leave for pregnant women; we are so far away from that dream especially in our current economic reality. But this is a reason to stay motivated in the mission of improving how we regard women by law and in practice. We have a long way to go and every little bit of effort helps.
    In a few hours, I leave for the Congo, one of the worst places in the world to be a woman. I'm not sure what it will do for my perspective...
    Be well.

  13. I'm so sorry you had to quit! You were enjoying it so much. :( Here's hoping you feel better very soon!!!

  14. I am hoping you feel better. I know you've enjoyed your work and sorry you had to quit. Here's to embracing now and enjoying your pregnancy (as best as you can). xoxo

  15. "This experience has taught me that continuing to fight for women’s rights is more important than ever. If my job had allowed flexibility–like working part-time from home until I stop vomiting–I would have continued. Unfortunately, like other women, I have found that many workplaces are not friendly to pregnant women, or women who have young children. In bureaucracies, this deficiency is even more apparent as autonomy for supervisors is limited; they must follow the chain-of-command which restrains their administering abilities and breeds ineffective management. A topic for another day."

    I've got some thoughts and resources on this...know a few women working hard on this topic. It was something addressed at a recent women in business conference I helped organize.

  16. Look up research by E. Jeffrey Hill and IBM. He's got some great stats that help illustrate this.


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