I seem to have fallen into a strange in between life. I’m supposed to be back at work, and for all intents and purposes I am, but my work has decided that they can’t really accommodate a breastfeeding mother, so I’ve been told to work from home when I don’t have meetings.
It means I sort of feel like I’m back at work, but I sort of still feel like I’m on maternity leave because I’m at home like before. My friend sent me flowers to commiserate my first week at work and I felt like a bit of a fraud! But lovely flowers!
It means I’ve pulled back a bit from the SAHM / maternity leave group of people as I was going back to work, and yet I’m not really back at work yet because I’m still at home a lot of the time, so it’s a sort of limbo.
My slightly grey mood is probably also a result of staying up late to watch the General Election last night – I feel like my brain is in a bit of a fog! (For those not in the UK, we had an election and there’s now a hung parliament which means nobody won with enough majority to govern on their own – so there’s change ahead.)
So I’m spending the majority of my time since being back at work, working from home. Of course I’m thrilled to spend more time with baby B, and Dog, and T. T thought he was going to be a single dad for a while but that hasn’t really happened. I did go into work to meet my boss and so T took B for the day to see his parents.
I met with my boss and he confirmed he wanted me to work on some internal stuff for a while, but because of the whole pumping thing I ended up leaving early and so T wasn’t home from his parents’ place so I felt kind of emotional to be wandering around by myself knowing my baby wasn’t at home. On the plus side I got to spend a bit of time with Dog, who probably feels a bit neglected by me lately (although I think he enjoys not being grabbed and cuddled all the time as I think he found it annoying!).
So after the meeting with HR, they arranged a pumping room for me at work, which I duly used when I went to meet my boss. They actually banned me from using the disabled bathroom so that’s one thing. Which I can cope with, as it wasn’t particularly pleasant. However the pumping room is not exactly ideal either. I felt during the HR meeting (with three people) it was kind of trying to force me to accept the solution, which was that they make a meeting room slightly private for me but I have to give them 24hrs notice and I also have to tell them the exact times I want to pump on any given day. Anyone who’s pumped knows that’s not an ideal situation but I accepted it and I tried it when I went to meet my boss. For reference, the legal obligations are here: http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/b/s/Acas-guide-on-accommodating-breastfeeding-in-the-workplace.pdf
The room they’ve given me is a small teleconference room. It’s actually fine size wise. It has a desk which means at least I didn’t have to put anything on the floor. And a power socket as the pump I have (Medela Swing Maxi) is a battery eater otherwise – it takes 6 AAA batteries for 1.5hrs pumping which is like three sessions! The problem with the room is that they don’t have a lock and it also has a big window (partly frosted opaque) which needs covering up. So their solution is to use 2 pieces of flipchart paper and to put a sign on the door saying not to come in, and then give me a doorstop to wedge in so people can’t open the door easily should they choose to ignore the sign! All this stuff needs taking down and reinstating in between sessions!
Anyway, I decided I would ask for a morning session just after I arrived at the office and then a lunchtime session. I’d leave early so didn’t do a late afternoon session. The whole thing worked okay, but I just get so much less milk during pumping at work than I do when I’m at home.
I managed 2oz each session when I tend to get around 4oz or more from each side when I pump at home in the early evening. It took longer too. It just felt like a lot of work and hassle to do but then I guess I hadn’t done a full day’s work and also I haven’t done it at that time each day, so my body isn’t used to it then (and when I’m home with B, he doesn’t drink so much during the day).
What I’m finding difficult about it is that if I’m partly working from home then I don’t really get into a routine with it. If I’m home with B then I’m not pumping as he just gets it from source, although I often try and do a pumping session in the evening to stock up so T can give him one bottle a day.
Obviously when he’s at nursery he’ll need more than that, so I’m just trying to figure out when I’m going to pump to supply that. I’m feeling a bit confused by the whole thing because of the lack of routine that I thought I’d have when I went back to work.
I’m glad to be back at work in a way, in that everyone at my work is very nice. I’m kind of concerned about it because I don’t feel that I have enough to do right now, and maybe people find it weird I’d complain about not having enough work, but I sort of feel like if I’m going back and foregoing more maternity leave, I should be busy and doing well so I can get promoted etc etc!
I just feel a bit torn between lives right now, but I suppose that’s normal. And I’m very lucky my job is allowing me all the working from home time. I guess they’ve kind of had their hand forced because they can’t accommodate the breastfeeding, but I still seem to get on well with my boss so I’m hopeful we can continue to have a good relationship. I guess I just want it to be worth going back to work. I don’t want to miss out on B for nothing.
Also, I think the going back to work has precipitated a change in my relationship with the local mums. Over the past few weeks I was kind of getting a little frustrated with them, because they cancel things at the last minute and don’t commit to things. I think maybe we are just different sorts of people but when I make an arrangement to meet up, I expect it to go ahead unless someone’s sick or something. Nowadays they seem less keen to meet up – maybe they just hate me! But also I find they only confirm stuff at the last minute or they cancel stuff the day before.
Maybe it’s because my time off was more precious to me that I more wanted confirmation of what we were doing, but anyway, it has gotten to the stage where I kind of feel like we are not on the same page. The two mums I was most friendly with are more friendly with each other, as they live really close. And one of them especially is kind of making a bid to be one of the leaders of the local mums… This is the one I used to hang out with a lot.
She tends to cancel stuff at the last minute and I just feel that she’s gotten a better offer. I’m fairly laid back but after a few times I started finding it annoying. She’s also very competitive in terms of sending updates on what her baby’s doing, and buying stuff for the baby, and I’m just not into it.
I think the main thing that happens as the babies get older is that you realise that you all have different parenting styles and maybe that means you have less in common than you thought. I really felt like I got on with them all but everything with them seems a bit more high stress, with routines and so on. We haven’t had much trouble with B because we just kind of go with the flow. I never try and put him to bed early, and I guess we are what you’d call attachment parents, we co sleep and babywear, so he’s not really a big crier and he’s just generally an easy baby.
I say this not to sound smug but more to illustrate that we aren’t very organised parents or set in our ways… He just hangs out with us and we haven’t changed our routines too much. We still go to bed late and because we are off, we get up pretty late too. It means we don’t get up at 5am like the other mums seem to do. (I’m so glad as I can’t cope with 5am wake ups.) I think maybe they think I’m lazy or something because we don’t have all these fixed things we do, and I can’t relate to the constant stress they seem to have.
Some people don’t even seem to enjoy having a baby – it’s like they are obsessed with trying to escape on a night out. I don’t feel I’m missing out at all – perhaps because I never thought we’d get to be parents. I don’t think that makes me a better person; just a different one. But anyway, I sense a distance growing between us.
Because T and I have both been off I’ve had a different experience too – they do a lot of mum stuff but I don’t do much of it as I feel it would be mean not to include T when he’s off too. It makes you realise how much parental stuff is left to the mums. I also can’t understand why mothers complain about it because it’s great. Maybe it’s great where we are in London, but there’s so much to do that socially you really wouldn’t suffer being a mum, unless like me you are going back to work. There’s stuff for mums and babies every single day. And loads of places you can go, and classes and so on. I actually feel exhausted just thinking about what some of them do. I think even if I was alone at home I’d want days where I just relax at home!
So overall, I think I feel a bit like going back to work has been an anticlimax. Right now I’m not fully back at work and I’m not at home on maternity leave any more, so I’m sort of stuck between two worlds. I don’t think I’m depressed or anything, but my mood has been a bit down over the past week, because of the whole back to work thing and then feeling like I’m half and half.
I’m the sort of person who likes to go in 100% on things, and the problem is right now I’m spread thinly between both. I need to figure out how to be happy with the balance.
Quite honestly I wish I could stay at home full time with B, but it’s not possible financially. And I should be grateful that I have a job with a sympathetic company which will allow me to work from home and relax a bit and still get a good salary! Maybe when we’ve moved house – hopefully next month – I will be able to relax into the new reality.
Aka what to do when your company hasn’t quite figured out how to accommodate the breastfeeding laws… Plus pictures!
Yesterday I had my first day in the office. It wasn’t quite a full day – I only had one meeting so I left early. I was catching up with a new manager in my team who may well end up being my (sub team) manager. My boss had said don’t bother coming in until we meet on Tuesday, and to work from home, but I said I’d try and meet this new manager as I wanted to use the time wisely and I really don’t have much (any!) work to do at home.
The new manager is a woman (rare in my industry!). I actually interviewed her even though she’s about two grades above me. My boss tends to send me to do the cultural / female interview! As I love my company and so they usually want to work there after I’ve talked with them! (I wasn’t the deciding factor. More of an add on so a woman interviewing wouldn’t see only men!)
Anyway. It was kind of illuminating. For one thing, I got much more of an insight into the company’s stance on pumping for breastfeeding mothers. Turns out nobody has asked for it before! I suppose the law only came in relatively recently.
The Equality Act 2010 states that it is illegal to discriminate against breastfeeding mothers. In practice this means that employers need to provide a room with a lockable door for breastfeeding and ideally with a power socket. It also means people can’t prevent you from feeding in shops and cafés, etc.
Most clients have a suitable space in the shape of a meeting room or a first aid room. But our base office doesn’t. It’s not that fancy an office as we are a client facing business so most people who work at the company are usually out on client site. I had suggested to HR and the office manager that I could use one of the small meeting rooms and they could stick some paper over the window. But there’s no lock on the door…
The HR woman (probably the first HR woman I’ve gotten on with so well!) was super apologetic and said that she’s told my boss they couldn’t accommodate breastfeeding mothers in that office so I should be allowed to work from home! The office manager agreed and she’s seven months pregnant and said she wouldn’t stand for it!
For my meeting, the first meeting in over four months, I had a good catch up with the new manager. She’s in her 50s and has kids and seemed relatively sympathetic. She said I definitely shouldn’t work longer hours than contractual hours, which was refreshing. (Official working hours are 9-5 but nobody ever works this. But I would have to leave at 5 or soon after to get back in time to pick up B from nursery, once he’s there all day.)
The kind of weird thing was that she said she’d gone back at 6 weeks each time she had a baby as she had to, being the main breadwinner*. And she said she didn’t need to pump at work. Apparently her breasts just adjusted and didn’t leak milk or whatever and she fed her kids when she was at home. (*I am too but didn’t feel the need to say this! But it’s the reason I am going back to work instead of being a SAHM which I would love to be.)
Now it’s a fairly recent development but B is kind of showing signs of moving towards reverse cycle feeding. He has a big feed or two at night and less during the day. So I thought in time this might happen, especially as B has been really bottle resistant. (We have tried giving him one small bottle of expressed milk a day and he typically takes 1-2oz under sufferance! And I mean sufferance! Screaming!)
However when I was out yesterday, he ended up taking way more than usual from T via the bottle. Almost 5oz in 3 bottles! When he seems only to snack during the day lately and he always resists the one bottle a day we try to give him, so this was unexpected. I was thinking maybe 1-2oz not almost 5. I don’t know if he was comforting with the bottle but he’s pretty good at self soothing with his thumb now he’s realised where it is!
So to provide for a day like that in expressed milk, I would most likely have to express during the work day. Currently I express in the early evening when I’m at home, but I feed him a little bit during the day so it makes sense that I’d have to pump at least once during the day to provide that for the next day. Today I pumped once at work and once at home. But if I do the pumping when I’m back at work, I would really rather do it at work as I want to spend the time at home re-bonding with my son, not pumping.
I think what this woman was saying was that her kids had formula when she went back to work. This is not what B is used to, and until today he wouldn’t even take more than 2oz under sufferance. I am really reluctant to give him formula given this is the only thing my body managed to get right! It’s all very well this manager woman saying she didn’t need to express milk, but I currently do!
The thing that really annoyed me a bit was apparently she said this to my boss when he asked her, as she’s The Other Woman in the team. (“I didn’t need to express milk so she shouldn’t really need to and so you don’t really need a room for it.” Paraphrase.) Err that’s not how it works, honey! B is exclusively breastfed and he’s drinking/ feeding during the day – so I need to pump. Whether they like it or not. It’s protected by law!
It kind of gets my goat when women are not all sisterhood-like about these things. It does us a disservice when there’s always one woman going “Don’t make allowances for women because I didn’t need them and I was fine!” I mean, she was nice and all but perhaps a bit old school in that way of showing how kick ass she is, how she didn’t need breastfeeding laws and whatnot. I appreciate previous generations had it harder, but why should we not want positive change?
My boss – who I’ve always adored in a work way and get on really well with – is apparently really stressed in general due to our targets and reorganisation and is really p*ssed off that this is one more thing that needs to be accommodated, and that our office doesn’t have the facility. (Now since I’ve been away four months they’ve built a whole new canteen so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect one small locking private room with power source!) It was definitely a bit demoralising to hear he’s not happy although the manager lady and HR assured me it’s not personal and he still likes me.
I felt a bit upset as I was kind of a bit of teacher’s pet before I left and I don’t really want that to change! I feel like I’ve made a massive effort coming back so soon (most women here take a year) and they didn’t pay me for maternity leave so the least they could do is appreciate my effort! So I have to wait and see what he has in mind for me to work on, when we meet on Tuesday. We shall see.
Anyway, I figured since I had brought all my pumping stuff I should give it a go. They had no room so I went in the disabled bathroom. I felt like I was well prepared with all my pumping gear and no idea!
Turns out that it is pretty horrible to pump in the disabled loo… Having done it once, I can totally see why HR didn’t recommend it. It was really difficult and it made me realise how much you depend on oxytocin and feeling relaxed to get the milk flowing! Suffice to say standing around in the disabled loo is not conducive to those warm smushy feelings!
Anyway, without further ado I give you: My day in pictures! This captures the full horror of pumping in the disabled bathroom… An experience I’d rather not repeat!
I left Baby B sleeping after feeding, around 08:00. You can see Tiger from our babymoon in the corner of his cot. It felt so hard to leave him. His little chubby legs!
My work outfit. It’s a Friday so I wore jeans! I’m a bit bad in that I often wear black jeans because I kinda think they just look like trousers anyway. My Sarah Wells pumping bag is in the bottom left corner. Check out the disabled loo! It’s nice and big but…
My Sarah Wells bag contains the Pumparoo (which you buy separately). If there is one thing I’d recommend pumping mums get, it’s the Pumparoo. Quite aside from the fact it’s in one of my favourite naval motifs, it is super handy for occasions just like this. It is a fabric bag which has a large waterproof zipped compartment and a smaller zipped compartment, plus a clip on/off “staging mat” (see next pic) and it folds up small when not in use. The idea is you can put your used pump parts in the office fridge in between pump sessions and you don’t need to sterilise more than once a day.
The staging mat clips off the side with poppers and has one waterproof side. It means you have a clean surface to put your pump parts on. Believe me if you’re in a public bathroom you need this!
At home I am very relaxed and I don’t have any issue getting milk out most of the time. At work, people were waking past and there was lots of noise and it took ages to get half of what I usually get. I tend to get 8-10oz in 15 min and at work I did 4.5oz in half an hour. It was a bit demoralising. But also I don’t know if my body’s used to making milk in the evening which is when I usually pump. So maybe I’m not used to milk making at lunchtime! B usually eats just little snacks during the day.
It wasn’t much fun during this time as initially nothing was coming out and also people were making loads of noise outside the bathroom. I kept wondering if someone would be rattling the door handle trying to get in or wondering if I was depriving an actual disabled person from using the bathroom. (There aren’t any in our office as far as I know.)
It was pretty difficult and uncomfortable in the end. The disabled loo has no seat so I had to perch on the edge of the toilet seat, or stand up. I could hear people going past and it just didn’t get me in the zone. I kept worrying someone would come in. Turns out having a lock is important! But also knowing someone won’t try to get in is also important!
Anyone who has breastfed or pumped knows that you have to release oxytocin (“the love hormone”) to release the milk. When you’re with your baby, you naturally release it. When you’re pumping, you need to think of your baby. The pump bag even has a little pocket to put a picture of your baby in for that very purpose.
When I left home that morning – I realised I’d forgotten the blasted ice blocks! The Sarah Wells pump bag has a section that is separate from the rest of the bag which acts as a cool bag.
So what was I to do with all my hard earned milk?
Well, my office provides free soft drinks…
As you may know, I recently changed jobs. So far I’m really enjoying my new job aside from a few minor niggles that are hopefully getting ironed out (the guy who works for me!)… But generally it’s been really nice.
One of the things I thought was really important was to do a team outing. It sounds corny but I think team bonding is really important to help the team work well together and also as a leader I think it is important to show some appreciation for the wider team, the guys on the ground. I have one team member who works directly for me but then a bigger team who effectively work for me on the client (as I own the client relationship), and it was those guys I really wanted to thank.
So I got special permission from my boss (the big boss!) to take them to a special London landmark for a pretty special night out. I wanted to do something really nice for the team, firstly because most of them are from overseas (living here away from home for months and years at a time) and secondly because we also had some visitors from the leadership team from overseas as well.
I kept the whole thing a secret right until the last minute. (I like secrets. Think it adds to the anticipation.) And then I took them to the top floor of the client building last night and got them to guess where we were going.
You could see it from the top floor meeting rooms…
The Shard is London’s tallest landmark, a massive glass triangle pointing up to the sky. A shard of glass! It is pretty awesome and a view from the top gives you a 360 of the whole of London.
We went to Hutong which is a Chinese restaurant and we had lots of yummy food… And I made them do team building exercises! Which was funny.
Anyway, I think everyone had a good time…
I’ve always been terrible at cleaning, so the title of this post is slightly misleading. What happened is this: We decided to have a staycation. I know, I know… It’s just so millennial of us. (We are more Generation X though I tend to dress as an overgrown teenager on days off.) The truth is, we had to take some holiday – T works at a place where he has to finish up his holidays by the end of the month, and I’m into my notice period and I never end up taking my holiday very quickly anyway, so here we are with a week off: Staycation!
(For my overseas friends: I mean vacation. Vacay!)
The weekend started off quite nicely, or quite badly, depending on how you want to look at it. We had a Saturday night party at the house of a VIP (from my work). I had said to T that we must go, because firstly I was very flattered to be asked and secondly I was kind of curious about what kind of place a VIP lives in, and thirdly this VIP is very nice to me, and I think it’s a nice thing to go to people’s parties.
Rich people in London tend to live in the West. Guess where we live? (Yeah, it’s not the West.) We spent the day with Dog and then in the evening we got glammed up and trekked across town to this mansion in the West part of West London. It was pretty big. We’d looked it up on google streetview so we knew what to expect. Biiiig. (To be fair, anything larger than a shoebox denotes rich in London. Imagine Manhattan but dingier.) I had kind of ordered T to be on his best behaviour and myself not to drink too much.
We entered the house and the staff offered to take our coats and gave us a cloakroom ticket, and a drink. Uh oh. Maybe that crappy bottle of wine we brought wouldn’t quite be sufficient. (Never mind, it had no label on… The VIP would never know it’s me bringing a mid-priced bottle of wine to a mansion.) We hobnobbed. Turns out that this was a Cuban themed partay and there were canapés being brought round by the staff (to be fair, I think they were hired for the night rather than perm – as if that makes it less blingy) and Cuban live music and free flowing champagne and mojitos. All night.
Here’s a picture to give you an idea of scale…
I think I conducted myself okay, although I did tell one of the other VIPs that I’d resigned. Oh well. We had a nice time, and it was a bit different, and everyone was very nice although it’s tricky to talk when there’s super loud Cuban music in the background. Either way it was enjoyable. Until…
Reader, I puked.
I never puke. I mean, I really hardly ever puke. Fortunately we’d already left the party (partay) and were on our way home but I have to say I’m ashamed of myself. T was sort of sorry for me and sort of found it funny because I really hadn’t drunk that much. I wasn’t acting drunk or anything. But an almost empty stomach (those canapés didn’t make it round to me very often) plus a lowered alcohol tolerance (I don’t drink much any more) and mojitos where you can’t tell how much rum went in are all a lethal combination.
How awful. This meant Sunday was a bit of a write off. T got up early to go and visit his family (pre-planned, not to avoid me!) so I lay in bed with Dog. Eventually I got up, puked another three times, went back to bed, all the while cursing alcohol and telling myself there was no way I would cope with drinking any more. I am definitely giving up drinking for a while. Which neatly segues into IVF cycle 2. It’s nuts really as I drink way less than I ever used to – but I seem to be becoming less tolerant to it. Anyway, by the time I’d recovered enough to get up, it was past 2pm and then I took Dog for a walk (poor Dog!) and sat on the sofa feeling sorry for myself. And promising not to drink alcohol for a while. At least it gives me a good excuse. (Seriously: You need an excuse in the UK if you don’t want to drink; the social pressure is immense. And I really usually enjoy it but not any more!)
Yesterday, Monday, our staycation started. We had an exciting (not) activity planned which was to go all the way to [redacted] and pick up my stuff from storage. It’s the stuff from my ex-relationship which I haven’t seen for years and years. My ex didn’t want me to come round so he put it in storage and I had to go and pick it up. Which is fair enough but the storage was only open during certain times so I had to wait till I had a day off… Yesterday.
There was a lot of stuff. I may have mentioned I’m not one of those minimalist people, and anyway, this is from a really long term relationship… So there was kind of more than I thought. We are planning on moving (house update coming up!) so we didn’t really want to put it all in the house we are hoping to pack up, so we got another storage place near where we are moving to and we moved it all there. The whole thing took most of the day… Even though we were very organised about it – you have to take several trolley loads and it takes a while to go backwards and forwards and stack it all up at each end. Not to mention the drive which was about 2 hours each way.
So now my old life is in a storage locker near where my new life is going to be…
T asked me when I left if I felt emotional. He says he always associates storage lockers with the sad stuff like relationship breakups. We got his stuff out of storage a year or so ago and have sorted through it. I don’t quite know if I felt emotional… I think I did, a bit, but it didn’t really hit because I moved out so many years ago. It’s like revisiting something that happened years ago. I hope that we’ll be able to move on from this, and of course it’s really sad, but I did all my crying back in the year I moved out and before I met T. It definitely seems weird that I’ve lived without this stuff for so long. I almost don’t want it any more, although I need to sort through it and it wouldn’t be fair to leave it all with my ex for him to sort out. So that’s a job that I’ll have to do gradually, I guess. At least it is closer to where we are now and where we’re going to be.
It was a massive job but at least gave us a sense of achievement, and it means we can pack up the house we’re currently in so we can move fairly easily (probably not – eek) if that all pans out. The update on the house is that it is happening! Well insofar as you can determine anything in the English way. You have to do all this extra stuff like surveys – you can’t just buy it. So the survey was done yesterday… We have to wait and see what happens with that. All being well we then move to exchange of contracts, which means you’re pretty much there, and completion is when you’ve properly bought it. I don’t think you can really say you’ve bought it until you at least exchange – things can still fall through but it’s far less likely. So here’s hoping! It means we would potentially be moving in April (ambitious) or May (more likely).
On the job front, I had to go and talk with the Job B people (who hadn’t yet offered me a job but said they wanted to) on Friday. It was kind of awkward in the way that I felt really pressured to take the job. They got me and the two top guys in an office and gave me wine and told me that they wanted me to work for them! I explained I already had the Job A offer in the bag and was probably going to take that… I had a good chat with them and they were really nice, but ultimately I don’t think being nice is the best reason for me to take a job.
There was lots of other boring stuff about pros and cons of each job, but mainly I think I was set on the other job; I think I’m quite bad at saying no in person though, and they then said they wanted me to call on Monday, so once we had packed up the van I called up the guy and… got his voicemail! In the end I left a message saying I was really appreciative of the time and opportunity, but I was going to take the other job (as I don’t think it’s nice to say “Call me back” if you’re going to give someone bad news)… I also told the recruitment consultant who’d been pretty pushy about it.
It’s such a strange situation as I’ve never had two who really wanted me before – I did withdraw from another process once I had a job offer, and the recruiter was quite nasty about it, but I haven’t had two potential employers basically fighting over me before. It’s an odd feeling and a sort of difficult thing to have to let one of them down, but then I suppose it’s a nice problem to have. I have this thing where I sort of go over and over things in my head and worry about how other people are going to react to them, and I worry that the Job B people will now hate me… I try and put those thoughts out of my head though!
So… I’ve sent off the contract for the job I’m taking. Pay rise! Whoop whoop. I’m working my notice which means I won’t start my new job until mid June. Which is a good thing I think, firstly because my current employer should pay me notice, I mean it’s the least they could do, and secondly because I have a bunch of stuff (house move and IVF cycle 2) over the next few months so it would be really good if I could do that whilst not starting a new job.
Part of me thinks it’s foolish to start a new job when I might get pregnant, but I think most of me thinks that’s such a far out idea and so unlikely to happen that it’s not a good reason to delay doing other things. Also if I have to take time off, it’s better to take time off a job that pays more. T and I have discussed it and if they do shared parental leave then I would probably take the minimum and then he would take more time off, or we’d try and share it. It depends when it happened but really I would probably be there 8 months or something before leaving, so it’s not that bad – it’s not like I’d go straight off on maternity leave. Also I really feel like it’s such an unlikely thing to happen so there’s no point worrying about it unduly.
Our plan for day 2 of staycation is to relax and do some fun stuff. We got up late, had some “quality time” (haha) and took Dog for a walk to our favourite waterfront cafe, where he enjoyed his special dog breakfast plus half of my cooked breakfast. It is a very urban retreat even though the owner has made a lovely garden by the river. It’s in an old shipping container. And they do an awesome cooked breakfast.
The rest of the day is planned out – we are going to the cinema and we’re going to meet a friend for dinner after that. I’m currently sitting with my wet hair in a turban and need to go and get dressed. Dog is snoozing in his dog bed (my hanging chair which he’s somehow figured out how to jump into from the sofa) and T is playing on the computer. Almost time to go to the flicks!
So far, so staycay!
Happy Tuesday everyone!
This is the week I jumped ship. (Mixing my metaphors here…) Self help-y things and inspirational blogs always tell you that in order to be happy, you have to try and get a sense of achievement. My main achievement this week was handing in my notice. It’s not unsurprisingly an incredibly satisfying feeling. The situation is:
I’ve worked a few years at my current employer – an employer that’s considered by many to be very prestigious. Many, many people here are really nice. However there’s a core group of very senior guys in my group who are
bullies “not very inclusive”. It’s really difficult to explain what exactly went on, because it is sort of intangible. But I know that I’m not in the best environment to be allowed to succeed. I’ll probably not get promoted, for example… They don’t give me work and they don’t include me in team things – I’ve never been out for drinks with them, for example – which is pretty much a standard in this industry (and something I did all of the time at my last place).
This time last year I thought about quitting. They made it so difficult for me, saying I was bad at my job and then when I produced information to show otherwise (client work and pages and pages of testimonials), said I wasn’t trying hard enough to be known in the team, etc etc. They put me on a performance plan, a humiliating thing where I had to go each week and be told my faults, all in the guise of “We just want to help you”. (This includes the classic “You don’t seem very friendly” – even though I have loads of friends here, and “You’re too defensive” – which I pointed out is a charge it’s almost impossible to defend yourself against, without sounding defensive!) Bear in mind I’m almost the only female in my team, dealing with regular stuff like the Dragon’s Den incident (where they wanted to give the solitary female on the winning team feedback on the way she dressed) plus the handy role model for Diversity – being the only non-white female in my team at my level. Basically, it felt like an onslaught of “You are different and we don’t like different”.
During this traumatic performance time last year, I was also doing IVF and trying to get through working 18 hour days with the Project from Hell. Each week I’d be told of a new thing I needed to work on. Each time I “fixed” something, they came up with a new reason why they thought I was underperforming. Eventually through a really terrible time, I sold a big piece of work (which they only let me work on because they thought it was unwinnable) and they had to accept I was okay because I had the sales numbers, which couldn’t be argued with. The
main bully lead guy still made it difficult for me by not publicising the win (the tradition being he would mail everyone each time there was a win – he was sent mine three times and never sent it out – another guy senior to me won a smaller piece and his got sent out), and also by telling other senior people not to work with me. When you work in a small industry it is difficult to avoid someone who is influential in that area… But that’s what I did this year.
And it’s an industry problem. I work in an industry where there are fewer women than men across the board. It starts way back at school, so they try and do all these attraction activities but the fact is, I’ve looked at the stats and it’s pretty stable percentages way back to 2000. With everything they’ve done to attract more women, more and more women are leaving in their droves. Why? Because – if you listen to the men – they’re all popping off to have children. But look a bit more closely and I can think of at least four women who left in the past six months who didn’t have any children. They left because it’s an anti female culture. One female who’s senior to me left her job without another job to go to. Another left after six months of sick leave for stress. It just ain’t female/diversity friendly, however you want to cut it. Which is nuts, because without supporting diversity, you’re saying you’re happy to discount at least half the available workforce.
Thing is, I stuck it out for a respectable amount of time. Most people leave after this amount of time (or less). When I told one of my managers (it’s a complicated structure!) he said he was amazed I’d stuck it out this long. Really! It’s almost like they were trying to get me to leave. I even consulted a lawyer about it last year as I was worried it was building up to constructive dismissal. I was told it sounded like it was a bad situation but that I wouldn’t be able to prove anything, so I was better off leaving. I got my head down and carried on, and I’ve done an okay job – but this is not satisfying to me. I want to do a really great job. I am one of those psychos who loves work and I want to take pride in my work and the company I work for. The worst thing through all this is that apparently I’m seen as a role model for junior females, who have asked me to mentor them and give them careers advice. It makes me feel like a giant fraud, especially when I speak with these youngsters who are so full of hope, and who haven’t realised that yeah, it’s quite possible that you’re not going to be treated as well as other people here, because you’re female/ethnic/not a typical hetero white guy.
And here, they kind of don’t think they have a problem. They are too busy congratulating themselves on being so inclusive because they have all these initiatives where ethnic people / women / gay people get together in their own little groups and get on with stuff. They can tell the world they celebrate diversity. Here’s the ironic thing: based on the work that I do, I was on the radio to talk about how my company thinks diversity is important. They take the credit for the stuff I do in their name, when I have to fight every year for funding – even though it’s a tiny amount and less than they probably spend on a team night out.
I stuck it out because I didn’t want to go out beaten, with my tail between my legs. I stuck it out because it’s important to try and be a role model for more junior employees, so they can see that there is someone who isn’t exactly the same as the homogenous mass of white guys in pinstripe suits who run the company and think the most important thing for women is how they look, and who think (as one told me a couple of weeks ago) “We live in a post racist / sexist world”. Who think we should be grateful that our stereotypes are “positive” because “You lot are good at maths and tech”. Who only started thinking about inequality and the gender pay gap when they looked at their own daughters and realised that they were likely to be at a disadvantage to their sons.
And what of me? The one who’s just not trying hard enough to fit in.
I interviewed with two companies.
They both want me to work for them. I’m pretty sure I’m going to go with one of them, the one who is actually offering a lower salary (still higher than my current one!) because they have made me feel valued. They already have plans for me in the team. When I accidentally ended up interviewing with the big boss, that guy said he wanted me to work for him. And the thing is, it might be just the same as it is here. (I think it may be slightly more diverse – just based on the reception test, where I look at the people walking past as I sat in reception. Lots of women. Lots of non-white people. More importantly – everyone smiled and was friendly.) But even if it is… I’ll be paid more money!
I have options. I have a contract ready to go. I handed in my notice to the big team boss and he went on the offensive. He asked my reasons and I said that I was leaving because I didn’t feel that it was inclusive and that it was going to limit my ability to succeed.
He said [paraphrase]: Have you ever thought that it might not be us… That it’s you?
(Yes I have. I thought that when I was trying to build relationships with people who ignored me or talked down to me. I thought that when I was deliberately excluded from client work even though team members would come by and ask why I wasn’t on the job, because I was more qualified than the person who was. I thought that when I found out that I hadn’t got certain jobs because one guy was going round telling people not to have me work for them. I thought that when people in my network heard what my work was like and advised me to seek legal advice because it sounded like they were trying to make it untenable for me. I thought that when my female friends quit with no other job to go to, simply because they couldn’t cope with being here any longer. And I thought that when junior women came to me and asked for advice on how they could be as “successful” as me.)
Maybe it is me. Maybe I’m all those things you’ve variously said I am. Maybe I’m overly sensitive, not sensitive enough, a hysterical female, a bossy female, not friendly enough, too friendly… Maybe I’ve got that b!tchy resting face that people always complain that my race has – the side-eye (yeah sorry, I can’t do anything about my eyes; they’re just like that). Maybe it’s that you just can’t tell us apart, because that’s happened to me as recently as a few weeks ago when you mistook me for the office junior because we are both of the same ethnic group. (Never mind that I have a British accent and she has a foreign accent, and is about 15 years younger than me – we literally all look the same.) Maybe I’m just…
Maybe I’m just not a fighter. I’ve had to be, being here, but I’m done. I don’t want to fight any more. I think of what I have to give, and what I want to give. I think about all the great things about this company – because they’re not all bad – the fact that they attract the brightest and best students and that I have had great opportunities to influence that. I’m proud of that. But I think… Imagine if I didn’t have to fight; imagine if I could use all my energy towards doing great work rather than fighting a system that thinks I’m somehow not a team player because they won’t let me in their team… Imagine how good I could be then! I’m just tired of fighting and I don’t want to be a fighter.
It’s like school. It took me a long time to realise that some people just didn’t like me. It took a longer time to realise that it was based on not even knowing me, and a lot of the time it was because they just didn’t like people who are different. Even if the difference is skin colour, or eyes, or gender, or accent – something you have no control over. It’s a bad realisation when you figure that some people will literally want to kick you because of something you can’t change, and it’s a worse one when you realise that there are harsher treatments than physical abuse, and that some of the teachers believe that too. The idea that you are intrinsically different, and somehow lesser because you’re different.
There are some people who aren’t logical like that. And if those people are in power (like the “popular kids” at school), you need to realise that no amount of reasoning with them will get them to like you or include you.
At school, the time I realised that I was was 14 or 15. (I was a late developer. Book smart not street smart!) And I realised I wouldn’t ever be what they were – I wouldn’t suddenly morph into being white, and tall, and good at sports, and a smoker (because smoking was cool….. ironically I did take it up as an adult before I realised what a dumbass thing it was to do).
And the time I decided to be myself… A funny thing happened.
I suddenly got “popular”. I had my own clique, only my clique had a very low barrier for entry which was pretty much “If you want to be in our gang, you can be… Just don’t be mean*.” [Being British, sarcasm is totes okay. Just be a nice person and don’t put down other people to make yourself feel better.] I spent all that time wishing I could be popular when all I had to do was have the confidence to accept myself, and in doing so, be accepting of others. I always thought of myself as an absolute geek… But when I met schoolfriends as an adult they told me that they admired that I was different. “You ploughed your own furrow.” Weird because I always thought I was an idiot. (I probably was/am. But I’m quite nice if you get to know me and ignore the obvious dork alerts.)
And now… I’ve realised the time has come to be authentic to myself. I’ve got to stop beating myself up about not being like those guys who don’t want me in their gang. I have to accept that some people aren’t ever going to accept me, and my efforts are worth more than that. Some people like difference, and some don’t.
In my last couple of interviews, both final round interview panels, I took risks. I made it really clear I was different. (It’s sort of easier to articulate when you look different, too.) I acknowledged that some people find me a bit much… I’m very excitable. I get easily frustrated. I work my ass off and I expect the rest of my team to as well. And I abhor that kind of thinking where people think they’re better than other people for no reason other than race, gender, age. I believe the best ideas come from diversity of thought, and the best teams incorporate a bunch of different people. (It’s like the pub quiz: You need someone for the music round, and someone for the geography, and someone for the cryptic clues – and Dog, for the licks.) I kind of don’t see why you’d want to limit that. In my book, everyone’s default okay unless they show themselves not to be.
And a funny thing happened.
Both of those companies want me to work for them. They think it’s worth having some different people. (And the whole “working my ass off” bit probably doesn’t harm the chances of job offers, either.) They actually seemed to enjoy the ideas and the bouncing so. (I sort of bounce a bit – I drink a lot of coffee.)
So I’m now in quite a nice position. I can figure out the best opportunity for me right now. But I also have a bit of confidence to say, if it all goes pear shaped I can find myself another job. It will be okay. I guess my philosophy has always been that you need to be able to react to whatever life throws at you. You never know what’s around the corner, so keep beavering away and grasp the opportunities when they arise. If stuff is bad, it means on average that good stuff is around the corner! So I just keep going…
Our house (flat) is still going through (slowly).
The transfer of the old house is still going through (slowly).
I’m starting down regulation at the end of March, for IVF cycle 2.
I’ll start Dr S’s borderline protocol alongside.
I’ve lost a bit of weight (though I have my period therefore insatiable craving for pizza, so a bit up, but YTD down).
I’ve quit my job!
I’m feeling a sense of achievement. For anyone who made it this far, you should too!
This weekend I went to see my parents. They live a while away – a few hours – and it took a couple of train rides and a car ride to get there. I took Dog, because I don’t like to leave him.
The main reason I went to see them is because T was going to see a friend along the way, so we thought we could take the same train for a bit and then I’d go and see my folks. Same for way back. Also, in the UK it’s Mother’s Day / Mothering Sunday next weekend so I’m kind of due a visit (although on the actual weekend next weekend, we will be at an engagement party / recovering). And also because they live a while away, I don’t see them as often as I should.
Anyway, I had literally been there for less than an hour when we got into a huge argument! I don’t know how this happens. I guess it’s families. T even texted me and said he hoped I was “being nice” and I thought, probably not.
Got me to thinking about how much of us is tied up in history and triggers and the roles and identities we’ve had since forever. I’ve always been the headstrong one. I’ve always questioned things and refused to go along with the status quo. Maybe I’m the difficult one. (I probably am… Funnily enough we all have our difficulties and mine wasn’t a life threatening one like my other sibling, or a “lifestyle choice” like another. We are all unfavourably compared with The Golden Child and we’ve all railed against it at one time or another. I’ve kind of always done my own thing rather than seek my parents’ approval.)
The reason for the argument was the decision I told them about to buy a place with T. They started asking about the settlement with my ex (which I’ve mentioned before which is in the works) and I’ve already told them I’ve done everything I possibly can to sort it out. They’re not happy that I’m getting next to nothing for the house (which I paid half the mortgage for the entire time I lived there), but I don’t really have a choice. I’d have to either take him to court and try to evict him (which I don’t want to do because I’m not heartless and I can’t afford anyway), or wait for it to be resolved (probably years and years by which time we would be old and grey!).
They also asked about some stuff that they’d given me that they wanted to make sure I got back from the house. I got exasperated then and said I have sorted it out and everything is in storage, and I’m picking it up in a few weeks when I have time off work. They literally can’t understand the stress I’ve had to go through to try and get to this position, negotiating with a mentally ill person who won’t allow me access to the house I half own, and who insisted the only way I could get my belongings back was for him to put them in storage – at a place near him, which is only open during work hours (hence having to take time off to go and get them).
We all have our triggers. Being questioned on my ex relationship, the one I left years ago and have tried to move on from, is one of mine.
It’s worse because my parents, especially my mother were against it from the start. They made it really clear they didn’t think it was a good idea. But offered no actual alternative other than the fact that I’m not The Golden Child (married to childhood sweetheart: perfect family, one boy, one girl, naturally and easily conceived). When they question stuff like this, the old resentments come to the core.
They questioned whether the new place was “a good investment”. It makes my blood boil. Not only was I the only one of the four kids not to get given a deposit to help buy my first house (because I was proud and wanted to do it on my own, so went ahead and did it anyway) but now they think that the new place isn’t worthy either. I’m not looking for an investment. I’m looking for a home.
This very small flat we are looking to buy is half the price of The Golden Child’s house. They made a lot of money on their first flat. In all honesty I think between the two of them, they probably earn less than I do, but they struck lucky on the property market and their previous modest flat tripled in price. They also had help from both sets of parents. The flat we are looking to buy is easily affordable and either one of us could afford it on our own.
We are trying to be sensible, and we are trying to get something we could live in and call home for a few years. Then we’d either trade up (if we have a baby we’d probably outgrow the flat by the time it’s two or three) or we’ll stay put and pay off our mortgage really quickly. And hopefully have an easy early retirement! There has to be some consolation to not having kids. Either way we are trying to do the best we can, and parental disapproval is really tiring – especially when you’re the adopted one and you feel you’re constantly being negatively compared to the real firstborn.
I guess it’s a trigger for me. The funny thing is, my parents love us fiercely and they don’t see anything wrong with making their feelings known. I guess sometimes I just wish they were those more standoffish parents (like most of my friends’ parents seem to be!) who approve of everything or don’t care enough to intervene. I think mine care too much!
We made up of course. And I’m sure it will be okay until the next time. Although I’m on the train back and get a little text from my mother saying that she wishes I’d speak with my father about whether it’s a good investment or not. That’s the other thing about my folks: they don’t live in London and to anyone outside of London, London things seem crazy. When I mention people are sexist at work, they just sort of say things like “Well you just have to tell someone about it!” (Yep, it’s that easy.)
Aside from that we had a pretty good time. My family are definitely the kinds who have fever pitch arguments and then completely forget about them and you’d think nothing had happened. It’s a bit strange actually. I’m the kind of person who likes to have a resolution rather than pretending that nobody got upset. I think it’s a British thing. I often feel like a bit of a foreigner in my family. (Ironic.)
We took Dog to the pub. It was funny because it’s only when you take Dog out of his home environment that you realise just how badly behaved he can be. I guess he’s nice most of the time, and he’s little and cute but omg does he make a fuss over food. We got to the pub super early so it was quiet, and even though he had food and I gave him some of mine, he kept yapping silly little yaps (in Dog language “How dare you leave me on the floor and not let me sit at the table and eat with you!”) until the couple on the next table decided to move tables. I was very apologetic but the wait staff said not to worry. Once the pub had gotten a bit more busy, it wasn’t bad at all – it was just his little yap in the middle of silence that was bad. (I probably sound like one of those horrific parents pretending their kid isn’t Chucky.)
Then this morning I took Dog for a run about the garden. This went fine for a bit. He’s tiny and he’s a Londoner so he likes space. So much so that he ran out the back of the garden and onto a golf course. This wasn’t planned at all. I had to get across the divide and onto the golf course all whilst wearing high heeled boots. It’s been raining a lot so the whole place was waterlogged. A load of golfers were pointing in a direction and it turned out they were pointing to where Dog had run off to.
I had to run as best as I could all the while calling Dog’s name. His name is a human name which means it’s quite comical. I ended up over the far side of the golf course where Dog was happily running about and sniffing things. I eventually coaxed him over to get some food (as the only thing he’s motivated by – he’s so disobedient) and grabbed him for the walk of shame back to the house. Of course the golfers thought this was quite funny. My boots will probably never be the same.
One of the saving graces about going to visit parents is that you get to go home again! (I promise you I love them; I just find them a bit much at times. Like all adults I think. Maybe it’s always a bit weird to be forever someone’s child, even though you’re grown up.) We are currently sitting on the very slow train – this is the result of Austerity (our plan to save enough to buy a place). It costs about £50+ less than the fast train so it’s worth it. As long as you don’t have anything else to do!
Some other funny stuff: I’m actually going to get interviewed on radio talking about a work event I organise for my company. It’s pretty cool but obviously the idea of being interviewed gives me the chills. It’s all part of my plan to do things that are outside my comfort zone.
Also: I had a really positive meeting with the HR lady about the job! They definitely want to offer me the job. Which is awesome! (We got on like a house on fire- she was so lovely and was like a good friend. We happily chatted for two hours instead of the allotted one! Haha. One hour for worky stuff and one for chat.) I’m hoping to get an informal offer on Monday and then if I agree then they will formalise it. It would really be a great feeling to hand in my notice! Not to mention that it would probably coincide quite nicely with IVF and moving house.
I’m the kind of person who doesn’t count chickens before they’re hatched. But we do have a few things going on. A few eggs that might turn into chickens!
Our house is progressing – I signed the papers to sign over the old house to my ex last week, and we have a lawyer working on the new one doing whatever it is they do.
We are seeing Dr S tomorrow for the test results. T can make it, as it’s after work. Which is great. I’m interested to know what is wrong with me, if anything. (“Personality disorder” – haha.) But at least we can try and figure out what the plan is for IVF 2. I mailed my clinic about the random bleed – it didn’t turn into a full period, which was weird – so hopefully will get some answers, and a plan for the second round. Second time lucky, maybe!
And I won’t believe I have another job offer until I see it in writing. But… I think it’s progress.
I hope it’s progress. I hope we have some chickens to count in the next few months!
I’m a woman of a certain age. (The age where if I ever manage to have a baby, I’ll be a “geriatric mother” – the old label which was used to define women who were over the age of 35 when they have their first baby. Here’s hoping that term’s died out!) I’m also a female of a certain ethnicity, and it just so happens that people think I look young for my age. The last times I got IDed, people thought I was, variously: 16 at the age of 34, or under drinking age at the age of 37, so I’m going to go with that.
Nevertheless, there’s nothing quite like a bevy of students to bring it home to you just how ancient you really are.
How it started: I got an email at work asking me whether I’d be interested in being one on a panel of a “Dragons Den” style exercise where students from one of our affiliated universities would have the chance to pitch their business ideas to real life corporate people. (Me! I know! Don’t tell them I wear pizza sweatshirts and animal clothing in my spare time.)
It occurred to me they were asking me to be a dragon. And that I’d probably (as per usual at my work) be the only female. Which makes me Deborah Meaden, I guess. (Do you have Dragons Den in the US/Canada/Aus? I don’t know. It’s a show where there’s a panel of 4 “dragons” who are businesspeople and then entrepreneurs come into the “den” and pitch their business ideas, and the dragons decide to invest or not. I think they’re called dragons as they tend to be pretty brutal.)
This sounded way more appealing to me than the other activity I had planned, which was to have a meeting with The Most Tedious Client In The World to go through a data collection task that they were determined to get us to help out with for free. (Yeah, I totally love working for free, don’t you?) I decided I’d try and get out of that meeting and be a dragon.
The whole thing was awesome, for the following reasons…
- I’d forgotten the sheer joy and enthusiasm of youth. I’ve been at my company for so long that my natural enthusiasm has kind of been stamped out and replaced by cynicism. It’s still there, of course, bubbling away, but I’m constantly told that I need to be less like me and more like [insert old white guy here]. It’s tiring. And there’s something joyful about seeing young people who really believe in an idea, and have worked their asses off to see it through, and who aren’t afraid to fail – who don’t even consider that they might fail, in many cases! That enthusiasm is infectious. I kind of felt great about the world.
- It reminded me that there were some good bits about my job. I mean, there are plenty of good bits, but occasionally it can grind you down. A lot of the time, people are busy stomping on me and anyone else who dares to be different. These students all had different great ideas that they’d worked on – in their spare time – and were busy making them happen. I felt privileged to get to do that for a day as part of my job.
- I actually have something alright and useful to say. Turns out I was the only female, which was no surprise. And turns out that I went down quite well. I was doubling up with one of the other guys who I get on well with (he’s senior to me, natch) and apparently we were a great double act. A few of the kids asked for my business card. These kids were 19-21 and they were interested in what I had to say. I kind of think that’s crazy, as I was so interested in what they had to say – they were brilliant. Even the ones with whacko ideas were great.
- It takes a lot to stand up in front of peers and pitch your idea, and get constructive feedback. It was kind of mind boggling how well they did it – even the ones who were nervous. I can’t imagine doing it at that age, and yet here they were, in London, wearing suits and they took a day out of their lives to do this. I get the heebie jeebies if I ever have to present, and it pushed me out of my comfort zone to have people hanging on my every word (the format is that each dragon has to speak, each time) but I managed it – mainly because, well, if these kids can do it, what excuse do I have? It was strangely liberating to just go with it.
- Represent. As the kids would (maybe not) say. I was that one female. And in the group, there was that one female too. Tough when you’re one among the boys. Also tough when you get singled out. One of the other dragons (who I later began to think of as “pompous old guy”) decided in our summing up that he wanted to single out the girl for “not dressing smart enough” and “women are judged more than men on looks” and “she should have worn heels” etc. I called him out on this. I said to him, no way are you giving that feedback to that girl in a roomful of men. There were guys who weren’t as smart, either. I said I’d be happy to give her some offline feedback, but please don’t make her feel bad about being female when she’s been the one girl who made it this far. He started ranting something about “everyone’s so politically correct, yadda yadda” at which point I filed him under Pompous Tw*t. But yeah, made me feel good to stick to my guns. Even if it doesn’t help me later.
In other news, on my lunch break I got a call from the recruiter for the last job I went for. The one where I worked over last weekend to prep a business plan and so on. Anyway: good news! Positive feedback from the boss’ boss. Which was really nice to hear.
One of the things I took a gamble on during the interview was to include some non-traditional stuff about myself. There’s a psychometric test we use which compares different traits and behaviours and how they apply to business. (I usually hate psychometric tests as they’re mainly bunkum, but this one is brilliant as you can easily recognise the different types – at work we actually refer to the types all the time.)
In my profile for this test, I’m kind of different. I’m a certain type which is more excitable and enthusiastic and willing to try new things. (Also: easily frustrated and intolerant of people doing the wrong thing. It’s not all positive!) For that I’m in the 95th percentile, which means I have a higher score in that one area of behaviour than 95% of the industry average. It’s a bit nuts. My type is more associated with entrepreneurs and inventors… And I work in possibly one of the most traditional industries and firms you could think of!
Anyway, I knew I was taking a risk with this because some people don’t like different people. And some don’t like psychometric tests, and some people don’t like me. But hey ho, risks are made to be taken. (That will be my personality traits coming out.) So I did it. And the head honcho really liked it!
He was awesome. Really I think sometimes you have chemistry with people and sometimes you don’t. I am a naturally ebullient person and I get that sometimes people find me a bit much. And this guy was a big guy in a pinstripe suit. Not like me. And yet… He was smiley and friendly from the outset. He was super enthusiastic talking about growing the business. He wanted to hear my ideas and he gave me a lot of non verbal feedback. I would happily have gone to the pub with him. (My ultimate test: Would you buy them a pint? How many? I’d buy him a few.)
Chemistry is that kind of undefinable thing, really. I don’t mean s*xual chemistry. I mean human interaction and feedback and enjoyment. Sometimes I forget how much that matters.
Upshot is, I don’t know if they’ll offer me. It’s not in the bag yet, but this afternoon I have an appointment with their HR, who was this lovely lady I yakked to on the phone for like an hour as she called to persuade me to go to the second round interview. We had a great rapport and she sounded absolutely lovely (which I can’t say for most HR folk I’ve met!) so I said we should meet for coffee if she was in town. So before the second round she scheduled this in… And I figured if she didn’t cancel then it might be a good sign! Also, yesterday morning the head honcho linked in with me on LinkedIn, which I reckon also had to be a good sign. (Unless “Yeah, liked you but as we won’t be giving you a job, let’s stay in touch.”)
So, wish me luck!
This week has been a bit of a slog. I like to keep profanity off this blog (for some reason I’m one of those people who worries about releasing swear words into cyberspace) but, really, thank €#%¥ it’s Friday!
Anyone else enjoyed their week as little as I have? In the spirit of trying to see the good in everything, I give you:
The rubbish bits
- My work is literally the most thankless task at times. (All times.) This week I’ve been yet again working on a project where they’re really rude. I’m basically doing them a favour but they treat me like the proverbial – and I’m one of the most senior people on the project. It reached a tipping point yesterday when the director told me that he wasn’t interested in my expert opinion (when they’d brought me onto the project to give my expert opinion) and “We’re going to break the business anyway” (when I said I couldn’t recommend a course of action they wanted me to recommend, as it would in my opinion be detrimental to the business). Not being able to act with integrity I find hugely depressing.
- Annoying woman at work is still annoying, and is still hugely pregnant, and I still want to smack her in the face. But I won’t, because that would be bad. It’s nice to think about it though.
- I don’t get to spend enough time with Dog, as I feel like I’m working long hours right now. Yesterday I did around a 12hr day even though I was working from home, so I feel guilty for not giving him enough attention.
- My favourite work friend who sits opposite me handed in her notice. She has a new job with a great payrise so I’m happy for her! But I’ll miss her.
- I have to work this weekend because I have to prep for Monday’s presentation (see below).
- I’m still infertile! Ha. (I just added that for effect. It hasn’t changed or gotten worse or anything.)
The good stuff
Because life isn’t that bad! I just feel all tired and end of the week-ish.
- We won the pub quiz! There’s this team who always win, but this week we won! We don’t go every week but it’s nice as there are a bunch of people from our block of flats and other friends who occasionally turn up. So that’s nice.
- I managed a new YTD low on weight loss. -4.8kg, yesterday. The fact that I cancelled it out by going out drinking last night is just minorly annoying. Hopefully I’ll be net down on last week! I measure myself every morning and compare it to this time last week. Today I was still down but not by as much! At least austerity is helping. (I tend to go up again at the weekend – boo!)
- I had one of my second interviews this week and it went pretty well. I don’t know if they’ll offer or not but it would be nice if they do as I would have some escape options. I have the other second interview Monday night. Am less looking forward to it as I have to give a presentation, which is one of the things I hate the most in the world!
- We had a nice night out as a trio (me, T and Dog) as we went out for a friend’s birthday. The friend lives the other side of London so we don’t see her very often, and she also has a dog and we get on really well. It was nice to see her and her boyfriend and dog, and reminded me that sometimes it’s good to make an effort to stay in touch. It’s easy to get caught up in the mundane day to day tedious stuff and not make enough time for fun!
- A friend of mine from school started a whatsapp group to share some old photos she found. They were really funny. I’m still in touch with everyone but they’re not in touch with each other, so we got them added to the group (I think five of us in total) and had a bit of a chat and a reminisce and a laugh about the old photos (turns out I’ve always had b*tchy resting face) and it was a nice little interlude in the week.
- We may have bought a house! Well, a flat. We saw one last weekend and really liked it. It’s teeny but has lots of character and is in our preferred area. We put in an offer this week and waited to hear. Then they said they’d accept if we offered the asking price as we were the favourite buyers. (They had 3 offers but I tried to build a rapport by email – I think it worked!) So now we have an offer accepted and just need to try and get all the legal stuff in place. I really hope it works out!
So that’s it really. Highs and lows of a very tiring week. Sometimes I’m just too tired to process anything until Saturday morning! I’m hunkering down for a night in with Doglet – after a couple of nights out this week I’m very tired, so obviously getting on a bit! T is out with the boys so I’m in with my boy-Dog and we are lying on the sofa reading (me) and snoring (Dog). It’s a gentle way to finish the week!
Plans for the weekend involve (annoyingly) prepping for the presentation. But some other nice things – planning to go to the flicks with a friend tomorrow night (T is off with one of his friends from overseas who’s in town) and we are meeting another couple of friends for brunch on Sunday. These two are quite hilarious in the way that they’re always exceedingly drunk! Unfortunately I won’t be able to drink if I want to be on my A game for the interview on Monday. Probably a good thing!
Happy weekend y’all! Tell me what you’re up to!
In case you hadn’t gathered from my blog musings, I work in a very competitive and fairly aggressive industry. It also happens to be an industry mainly populated by white males… which isn’t something I considered that much as a student at a Russell Group university, or as an adolescent doing her GCSEs and A levels, or as a little non-white girl dreaming of what she’d do when she grew up. I went into this industry largely inspired by my father – a white male* – who was my main work role model growing up.
(*I was adopted transracially by white parents so have grown up mainly around white people, as an ethnic minority.)
That’s not to minimise the role of my mother. She is possibly the strongest woman I know, and probably the main reason why my youthful dreams weren’t shattered earlier. I grew up with the British version of the American Dream, with a female prime minister – with no concept that we might be limited as women by the lack of male genitalia.
But my dad was the corporate guy. (My mother the entrepreneur, which as all good children of the 80s know is dangerous.) The number one focus for us growing up from our “Tiger parents” (very Asian even though they’re white!) was how we were going to be self sufficient later. And the route to security was not strewn with artistic and creative endeavours. The path to Comfortably Middle Class (for my working class background parents) is lined with Bloody Hard Work, and University, and Getting A Good Job.
I once said I wanted to be an artist. Like Van Gogh. The response? “In your spare time. Van Gogh never made any money whilst he was alive, and he cut off his ear!” I loved art as a child but I relegated it to a side interest. (Even now, I try and introduce creativity to spreadsheets and powerpoints, but I’m fighting a losing battle against corporate branding!)
The fact is: there aren’t very many women where I work. And in the sector and industry where I work, there are considerably fewer. I kind of thought I was used to it, until in the past week I was called in to provide subject matter expertise on a client outside my usual industry. (My usual one is the old white guys in pinstripe suits stereotype, and I have to tell you, it doesn’t deviate much.)
I walked into the office and the first thing that hit me was:
There are women!
There are ethnic women!
There are people like me working here!
Seriously, I could have had a little party right then and there. I went to a board meeting and I was prepared (and scared) for the usual being talked over and so on that comes with being an ethnic female in a white male space.
It didn’t happen.
Because when I looked around the board table, there were almost equal numbers of women, and this was a senior exec meeting. They were in charge of stuff. There was a black guy too. It was extremely diverse and it wasn’t even worthy of comment, other than for me – who wasn’t used to this level of diversity or equality. I talked through my section and nobody challenged it. There was no pushback. The white guy in charge even backed me up.
Shocker! But sad when you think that my default position as an ethnic female – even as the most senior female in my position – is automatically to assume that I come lower down in the pecking order. To assume that I am less valid than others, and that I’ll have to justify my opinion harder because of it. That’s nuts.
And I know that part of this is the industry I work in (where white guys in meetings routinely “forget” to shake my hand, or acknowledge me last because they assume the males are more senior, even when they aren’t). I guess it’s some kind of syndrome where you have had enough bad treatment to not be surprised when someone treats you badly – like a maltreated animal shrinking from humans.
And I realised yesterday how that way of thinking was damaging my own ability to think of myself as someone who is competent. Not just competent, but pretty good.
I mentioned the other day I did two first round interviews lately. (Not because I’m actually desperate to leave my current job… I mean, I am, some days… But because my philosophy is that you might as well have a conversation about opportunities. Every time I have changed jobs in the past few years it’s been because someone reached out and said “Why don’t we have a conversation?” And I took the opportunity! I kind of think you have to make opportunity for yourself.) The completely unexpected outcome is that I have two second round interviews. One of them even had their recruiter call me yesterday (as I’d expressed some concerns about it, mainly that the interviewer didn’t seem very keen on me!) and she told me all this great feedback. Somehow the interviewer had seen something in me I didn’t see in myself.
I also had a feedback session with one of the senior women at work, based on some work I did for their team before Christmas. She asked me to write some notes on my own feedback and then gave her own version of what I should add. She would then write up the notes.
Firstly, this woman is one of the most senior in my industry – there are very few who get to the top, and she’s one off that.
Secondly, she was really nice to work for. I mean, she cared a lot about the people who worked for her and everyone got on really well. I was there to write a report, kind of an external programme assurance report on their team performance and they were super high achieving, and also super nice. And it was due in no small part to her leadership.
Thirdly, every time I ran through what I’d written, she gave me a different, more positive way to write it, and also thought of things that I hadn’t even thought to include.
Me: Able to draw on previous experience of XXX structures in XXX.
Her: Nara was able to run information gathering sessions with the team to focus on articulating the XXX sections which were more challenging to define.
Me: Identified ways in which the information gathering process could be streamlined for future reports.
Her: Nara was inventing and driving us to the reward (net new business) – coming up with conceptions of the report and articulating that with the client, and coming up with ways to iterate with the team.
Me: I didn’t really work as part of the team, so I haven’t put anything much in that section.
Her: Nara’s role enabled the team to deliver whilst she produced the report – it was hugely important for the team to be successful and not overloaded. She recognised that they all had other priorities but was able to extract the information with minimum distraction.
Do you see what I mean? The woman’s a genius.
One of the cliché ways that women apparently don’t help themselves is to not want to “blow their own trumpet”. I’m considered a confident woman, and I even got asked by some more junior women to mentor them at work. (I was really honoured as I don’t work with them and they’d somehow come across me and considered me a role model. I even have weekly meetings with one of them.) And I’m still not comfortable having to tell people what a great job I’m doing. It’s definitely something that she really helped with. (Even if it sounds like jargon, which I think it probably does to someone outside the industry – what I’m trying to get across is that I had put down some very objective and neutral feedback, and she found a way to say it in a more positive way, that would be seen as a better contribution.)
At the end of our meeting, she said to me that she realised that I had no direct female leadership or even any leadership in my specific area. (The complicated way our company works is that you’re aligned to multiple teams – one team based on what you do, and one team based on the industry you work in… The type of clients you have. I am basically the most senior person – not just female – in my specific area, which makes it kind of tricky to develop new business without going more technical or more into industry.) She saw that, and she offered to mentor me. It was all I could do not to bite her arm off!
So I was really pleased. I guess the thing is, I don’t focus all the time on being a woman, or being non-white (I promise I don’t!). But sometimes it takes someone more senior to say: I think you’re selling yourself short. You’re actually okay. I think you’re quite good.
It’s what I try and pass on to my mentees, a belief in themselves and a way to try and think of the positive things about themselves and how they can build on them. In business speak, how you can monetise yourself! I think as women *mass generalisation* and as ethnic minorities *mass generalisation* we often fall into those roles that stereotype us as submissive, or less able, or less hungry, or not one of the guys. (The last one is probably true.) And nobody’s asking us to be white or male, no matter how much we might pigeonhole ourselves. Sometimes we have to figure out a way to tell them our value – and sometimes (a lot of the time), that value is in not being a white guy.
My dad, the white guy, used to tell me that he always made sure he had women in his team. He was pretty senior in his industry before he retired, and he worked in a stereotypical white male environment. He didn’t want the women for their looks. (That would be bad!) He said he wanted them because they’d often be able to see things in a different way. He said he wanted to make sure he’d considered every angle and that the more diverse the team, the more different ways of thinking there were. This is from the guy who adopted two ethnic babies. But also the guy who won industry awards many years running for being the guy everyone wanted to work with.
So I say…
A February resolution:
- I’m going to blow my own trumpet more.
- I’m going to encourage others, especially my mentees, especially those who are not stereotypically into telling people how good they are, to blow theirs.
- And I’m going to take that leader up on her offer. Partly because every time I speak with her, I come away with a new insight. And partly because she’s really bloody nice and really bloody cool.
Call to action!
Tell me how awesome you are. I already know, but I want you to tell me.
1. IT’S EMASCULATING FOR HIM “I can’t give up the position of empress. Everything is in my name. When I’ve gotten really bratty, I’ve said, ‘Well fine, leave,’ knowing he can’t leave. I’ve never had such security in a relationship. There’s no risk of flight. But it’s only giving me a short-term…
(Edited to say… I think this is a thought provoking read and does not reflect my personal opinions about female breadwinners – I am involved in various women in industry initiatives as part of my job, and I think it’s interesting that something as basic as tipping the scales in favour of female breadwinners seems to be considered so radical. This is notable as it’s about now that we have Equal Pay Day – the day in November after which, on average, reflecting the difference in male and female wages – that women are effectively working for free until the end of the year. It’s a sobering thought!)