As a young woman I worked as the office manager of a family-owned, high-end retail store. I loved my job, though it seemed there was no end to my job description. I was under-paid for my performance, but made more than anyone else my age – so I didn’t have much room to complain. In my years with the company I married, bought my first home, and got a dog. With children and a family looking to be the next logical step in life, I sat in my employer’s office one day and confessed that I was making plans to begin a family. To my surprise, her immediate reaction was one of shock, confusion, and general concern regarding my future with the store. The store owners, an older married couple with no children, could not understand why I would “end” my career to become a mother. Until that moment, I had not considered the decision to begin a family to be synonymous with professional suicide. Coincidentally, I was soon approached by a business competitor and family-man who offered an unbeatable maternity benefits package, so I jumped-ship, and the rest is history.
Soap opera actress Hunter Tylo filed suit in 1997 when she experienced discrimination and contract termination due to her pregnancy. Hired to play a sexy, husband-stealing vixen on the original Melrose Place (Dowd, 1997, p. A13), Tylo was terminated before filming began after she informed show executives of her pregnancy (Jennings, 2008, p. 211). The December 1997 court proceedings heard the Melrose camp claim “material change in appearance” saying Tylo could not perform the role of a seductress while pregnant. Appearing before a jury of 10 women and 2 men, a then-pregnant Tylo walked away the victor (CNN, 1997). Dowd (1997) reported “[the] eight-month-pregnant mother of three looked better in the tight miniskirts she wore to court than most of the women in America” (p. A13). The Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects pregnant workers as long as they are able to do their job (USDLWB, 1994).
Segura (2009) speaks to this same issue stating “employers may be reluctant to ‘invest’ in or train women workers who, they perceive, may leave a job at any time for familial reasons” (p. 309). The idea that motherhood is an employment hindrance is based in hegemonic ideals and intolerance. My former boss believed child rearing to be important, but time-consuming, unpredictable, and distracting. He assumed that an ideal worker and a mother could not be one in the same. Obviously there are others who share his opinion, but as long as we’ve got whistleblowers in the workplace, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Box 3.1 How Long is a Mother's Work Day
5:30 a.m. Get up early to have thirty minutes to exercise, make grocery list while getting dressed
6:30 a.m. Make the kids’ breakfast and their lunches
7:00 a.m. Walk the dog, get kids up, dressed, fed and into the car
8:30 a.m. Take one kid to day care, the other to school, stopping at dry cleaner on the way to work
9:00 a.m. On the job!
1:30 p.m. Meeting at daycare center with childcare provider
2:00 p.m. Back on the job
5:00 p.m. Shut down the computer, forward calls to the cell phone
5:30 p.m. Pick up child from school aftercare and discuss the evening’s homework assignment while driving to the daycare center
6:05 p.m. Pay the late arrival fee at the daycare center. Convince both children to help at the grocery store and do the grocery shopping
7:00 p.m. Arrive home, unload and put away groceries, make dinner, referee a spat between the kids over which evening TV program they’re allowed to watch
7:30 p.m. Dinner time—take a breath, sit down, and enjoy learning about the kids’ day
8:00 p.m. Do the dishes, supervise the kids’ household chores and homework, change the load of laundry put in this morning, and feed the dog
8:30 p.m. Bathe the kids, call home healthcare attendant caring for an elderly parent
9:00 p.m. Read bedtime story and get the kids their last drink of water
9:30 p.m. Sit down and put feet up while folding the laundry; fall asleep over the cable news
Table 1. (DOL, 1999, p. 30).
CNN (1997, December 16). Jury gets ‘Melrose Place’ pregnancy lawsuit [web post]. Retrieved from http://cgi.cnn.com/SHOWBIZ/9712/16/melrose.suit/index.html
Department of Labor [DOL]. (1999). Chapter 3: Work and family. In Futurework- Trends and Challenges for Work in the 21st Century [report]. Retrieved from http://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/history/herman/reports/futurework/report.htm
Dowd, M. (1997, December 24). Civil rights sirens. The New York Times, pp. A13
Jennings, M. (2008). Business Ethics: Case Studies and Selected Readings. Florence, KY: South Western Educational Publishing.
Segura, D. (2009). Working at Motherhood: Chicana and Mexicana immigrant mothers and employment. In V. Taylor, N. Whittier & L. Rupp (Eds.) Feminist Frontiers (pp.308-321). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
United States Department of Labor Women's Bureau [USDLWB]. (1994). In The ‘Lectric Law Library. Retrieved from http://www.lectlaw.com/files/emp31.htm