Whenever anyone says “No offence, but”, they are almost certainly about to offend you.
Most of you already know my story in painstaking detail. In case some of you don’t, here is the shorthand version:
- I decided to adopt.
- I got a new stable job in HQ with very little travel.
- I started my adoption process and got approved.
- My manager and I worked out how to adapt my role to reduce the need for travel further to basically zero
- Massive restructure took us all by surprise – and my job got cut
- Got offered an alternative job, which involves more travel but better pay
- Had to either take this new job, or be made redundant
- Spoke to the Union about the potential issues with more travel and impending single motherhood, was told to sign contract, worry about that later as it is technically not an issue until after I come back from maternity leave.
- Took the job
That just about brings us up to date.
My new manager, in our first encounter during a team meeting a couple of weeks ago, snapped at me in front of the whole team and made me cry. It was humiliating and awful, but I discussed it calmly with her afterwards and also realised how knackered and emotional I have been (my B12 deficiency also did not help matters). She also partially apologised for snapping at me, so we drew a line under it and decided to start fresh.
Then we had our first one-to-one meeting, which was going ok (she approved my annual leave, we chatted about my development plan, she asked about my maternity leave, and how much notice I’ll be able to give etc).
Then, after discussing my adoption leave (which essentially went something like “I literally have no idea, should be able to give you at least 1 month’s notice, maybe 6 weeks or could be longer, and no, I don’t know when it is likely to happen”), she said:
“Have you given any thought to how you will manage travel after you come back from adoption leave?”
I was fairly honest, and said it was certainly going to be difficult, it was unlikely I’d be able to do very much travel and almost certainly none in the first year or so, depending on the needs of the child I get matched with. She pointed out that other members of my team will be expected to travel between 8-12 weeks of the year, and while the organisation would certainly be willing to make some concessions to my personal circumstances, and would do their best to accommodate me, there was an expectation with this job that it would involve more than one or two weeks of travel. She also said that they were willing to make some concessions for some of the existing staff, but would be much stricter with newer staff coming in on the need to travel.
Then she said:
“Please don’t take offence to this, (why were there no warning sirens??), but have you considered whether this is really the right role for you, given your personal circumstances?”
I pointed out that I hadn’t had a choice in the role, given the restructure, and that my manager and I had previously worked everything out so it would be manageable in my old role, but I hadn’t been able to keep that role in the restructure.
She then went on to say that we don’t need to discuss it now, as things may well change, and by the time I come back from maternity the new team will have settled down, and there may well be other opportunities or positions that come up in the department by then that require less travel that I might prefer or want to apply for.
Now, I know she said “please don’t be offended”, and I am POSITIVE it was not meant to make me feel bad.
I also know that I am tired, and cranky and overly emotional at the moment, and woefully lacking in certain vitamins which is not helping, and I am therefore determined not to overreact or take offense or whatever.
I came out of that meeting feeling a bit down, and feeling worried that the implication is that I will somehow be letting the team down, or not being a team player if I can’t travel and everyone else is expected to. I’m not even a mum yet, and already I feel singled out for not being able to do everything that is expected of me.
I’m sure that was not the intention, but that’s how it made me feel.
And the fact is, she’s also right. Once I am a single mum, I can’t do all elements of the job – I will in effect be under-performing, and they would be in their rights to make me redundant on the grounds that I can no longer perform the job I was hired to do. In fact, they wouldn’t even be making me redundant, as I wouldn’t qualify for any redundancy pay – they would simply be ending my contract on the basis of not being able to perform the job adequately.
Thankfully, at the moment, I have a job, and rights to my adoption leave, which is the main concern, so this isn’t an issue until I come back from my adoption leave. Once I come back from leave, they will have to make a decision – either decide that I can continue in the role and adapt it for me so I am not expected to travel, or make me redundant.
It doesn’t feel great having just gone through a painful and exhausting restructure process to immediately have another potential redundancy hanging over my head. Having had some time to mull it over, and after speaking to another member of the senior management team, (who had very little sympathy and basically informed me that all parents have to make sacrifices in their careers if they want kids), I have also chatted to a few friends and colleagues, and they are all agreed: These type of HQ positions need to travel, they need to stay connected to the field, and what’s happening on the ground. It is an important aspect of the role, and even some of my close friends agree that while it may be shitty, it’s needed.
I’ve had well-meaning friends offer to help babysit so I can travel, but it’s not really about that – I don’t want to be away from my kid for 3 months of the year, and I don’t want to have to worry about who’s looking after them, are they ok, am I leaning too heavily on certain people etc. I also don’t think it will be fair to a kid that has likely been through an awful lot of upheaval and uncertainty for me to not be there in a consistent way.
So with a heavy heart I have realised that sooner or later I will have to move on from this job. What’s somewhat stressful is not knowing when this needs to happen. I don’t want to go on my maternity leave knowing there is a ticking time-bomb over my head, and wondering how soon they will make me redundant. My dad helpfully pointed out that if they wanted to end my contract on the basis of not doing 12 week’s travel per year, then I would need to find out how many other staff have failed to do that much travel in the last 12 months, and they would need to give me at least a year to prove I couldn’t achieve it.
However, I don’t really want to wait around worrying about it – I’ve had too much stress and pressure this year to just sit around waiting and wondering. Also I don’t want to go into a process of developing into a new role if ultimately I can’t keep the job. So I have started to look around for other jobs to apply for. I will only be able to move if another suitable role comes up with my same employer, as otherwise I will lose my maternity rights too, but I’ve come to the realisation I will have to leave eventually.
It’s sad and frustrating and stressful and difficult, and I am feeling frankly pretty resentful right now about it all, but these are the choices you have to make when you decide to have a family. Sacrifices have to be made, and with any luck, I will find something suitable sooner rather than later, but who knows?
Rather than drawing a line under all the stress of 2018 and starting the new year fresh, I feel instead that I am entering 2019 with a heavy heart and a sense of trepidation that the worst is not yet over, and there will be more hurdles to get through in the new year.
I saw this sign literally on New Year’s Eve as I walked to my brother’s house, and thought – yes, this is how I feel about 2019….