Thursday, May 13, 2010

Back to work

The day after Hannah turned 11 weeks my paid leave was used up and I returned to work. I expected changes and challenges but wasn't quite ready for what greeted me. I had been moved out of my own office and my computer placed at a desk in an open plan area, just in front of the new boss' office. I had my back to him and was facing a blank wall and a bookcase blocked my view of everyone else - except the male casual employee encased in a large glass office to my right. I had no phone or power point to recharge my phone or netbook.

And that was before my boss told me he was thinking of changing my job title to something that to me sounded a lot less responsible and professional than the one I had had previously.

I was in total shock. I had just wanted to go back to work and get on with doing my job – in fact I’d been looking forward to the intellectual stimulation and getting back into the swing of things. I knew there would be some changes but it was hard not to perceive what I found as anything but an attempt to intimidate and undermine me; it was completely insulting and unprofessional.

I now, however, must accept that this wasn't a personal attack on me as a mother returning to work but a reflection on the general upheaval in the organisation. A call for voluntary redundancies had gone out and by lunchtime on my first day back every single person in my new department (aside from my boss and another colleague on long-term leave) had applied. Did I even have a job to come back to?

One thing that had been organised properly was a lockable room for me to express my breast milk. I had sent my boss a polite but direct email about 3 weeks prior to returning to work explaining that I would need a private hygienic room to express.. It was also possible that my jokes about expressing in front of the CEO’s office if suitable accommodation was not provided had reached him. This was too much for the middle-aged men in the office to deal with and I got the room.

My colleagues have provided me with a lot of support. I heard a lot of stories from older women who didn't have any paid maternity leave and who had had to express their breast milk in the toilets because there were no facilities. (I refuse to hide in the toilet; after all adults wouldn’t prepare their meals in the toilet -why should I prepare Hannah’s meals there?). I think they all quite like the fact that I'd been very upfront in asserting my rights in regards to the breast feeding issue.

With regards to my workstation, I finally got an office thanks to intervention from several other managers and my workplace rep. I had a full and frank discussion with the new boss about my expectations of being treated as a professional and with respect. I asked him directly if the organisation wanted to get rid of me and, if so, I would appreciate if they had the decency to say this to my face. “Oh no, no, no, no," he claimed.

I even managed to negotiate working a day from week at home and a new job title that was at least on par with the one I had previously.

I’m trying to relax and keep an open mind and see what the next few weeks bring. But I so understand why so many mothers give up and drop out of the workforce or end up working at a job far beneath their ability. It’s hard enough to only see your child for a couple of hours each work day; this kind of ‘welcome’ back to work makes it almost impossible.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Vacination day

Yesterday Hannah got her first round of vaccinations - polio, diphtheria, whooping cough and more. Unfortunately whooping cough has made a comeback in Australia, partially due to moronic ill-informed parents who believe the risk of side-effects from vaccinations outweigh the benefits. I guess this happens when we forget that thousands of children used to die each year from what are now largely preventable diseases.

So Hannah's father and I also had a booster whooping cough shot accompanied by a tetanus injection.

Interesting fact: apparently vaccinations only 'take' in about 90% of recipients, according to our maternal health nurse. Those who aren't properly immunised are protected due to the fact that the majority of people around them are protected and hence not getting and spreading the disease. But once you have too many people opting out of vaccinations everyone who isn't fully immunised is at risk of getting the disease - including that 10% of the population who thought they were immunised. And this is what happened with whooping cough in NSW. Whooping cough is not a big deal for healthy adults; in fact they may not even realise they have it while they are spreading it around the community. Hence the push for carers, as well as babies, to be immunised.

Hannah was the very last baby to receive her shot at the health centre. Which was a good thing as she expressed her displeasure by opening her bowels and releasing a stench that could be smelt a kilometre away.

It was still better than risking she get polio or whooping cough.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

10 weeks tomorrow

Hannah Smiles for Daddy

Hmm, mum has been a bit slack in updating the blog!

Over the past 4 weeks Hannah has:
  • Had her first illness - conjunctivitis - which embarrassingly manifested itself at a party held in her honour where we asked everyone with sick kids to stay away.
  • Started sleeping through the night (averaging 6-7 hours now - we have to be very quiet about this at the New Parents' Group where many babies only manage 2-3 hours at a time).
  • Discovered her hands which she explores with her mouth and tongue at every opportunity.
  • Pokes out her tongue at every opportunity - this is apparently an essential step in her learning to talk.
  • Been out and about with mum on playdates, visiting her new 'best friends' - Georgia the fashionista who is passing on her outgrown clothes (Sonya's daughter) & Josephine, Bronwyn's daughter who is just 3 weeks younger than her and the only baby we've met to have even more hair than Hannah at such a young age.
  • Visited mum's work and met the new boss as well as other colleagues - I've put in a formal application to work 2 days a week from home and am hoping the new rights for parents to request flexible working arrangements will assist with this.
  • Visited 'Aunty Mel' and her children in Gisborne (who passed on even more gorgeous handknits for her), an indoor play centre in Footscray (where mum met up with Sonya & Nadine from work) & Ana in Yarraville (who is due to give birth any day).
  • Had lunch in Hurstbridge with Grandpa Alex & her Uncle John.
  • Caught up with 'Aunty' (honourable title) Susan in Toorak and lunched at Georgio's in Malvern.
  • Attended Joshua Solomon's 6th birthday party (today)
And I'm sure there have been other things.

Mum has still been taking plenty of photos - including ones of Hannah in her latest knit; an 80s black rainbow funk version of the rather more sedately named 'Elizabeth Tunic'.