This week, I’m attending a virtual course every morning on Crucial Conversations. There’s about 28 participants in the course, and while a lot of it is large group lecture and discussion based, we also do a good amount of small group breakouts, in groups of 2-3. When one of the first breakout sessions happened, another woman who was based in Colorado apologized to me in advance in case I heard some crying or cooing because she had her 8-week old baby sleeping in her arms, below the view of the camera. I laughed in response, as I told her I could totally relate: In fact, full disclosure, I said to her, but I was actually pumping milk and had my camera angled above my chest so that it wasn’t in view. Good thing my pump was so quiet that on Zoom calls, no one would notice! I half joked.
I noticed her baby was on oxygen and said she looked really cute and tiny, but it’s all relative since my own baby is seven months old now. She told me that while her baby is on paper 8 weeks old, she is quite small for her age because she was born about a month premature and was in the NICU. She had only two weeks of maternity leave, and though her company has an “unlimited PTO” policy, the company did not allow her to tack on any PTO to her maternity leave, which was already dismal. She was frustrated about this, since it was a big reason she took this job in the first place. So she wanted to use the skills she hoped she would learn in this course to confront her management about this.
It really hurt my heart to hear this. And while my heart hurt for her, I also just got really angry and could feel my pulse racing because of how infuriating and senseless all of this was in one of the richest nations on earth. It’s a case in point about how here in the U.S., people and employers truly do not give a shit about moms and their born babies. It’s everyone for themselves, and business is business, which means we’re all about profit and don’t care about the well being of our employers. I had 20 weeks off, and I didn’t feel like it was enough. I cannot imagine only having a tenth of that like this woman did, plus having the stress of having my baby in the NICU and needing to leave the hospital with oxygen support at home. The entire situation sounds completely terrifying, but insanely enough, that’s what’s “normal” for so many moms across this wretched country.
How did we become such an awful, cold, heartless place to live?