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Dear Coworker: Back Off This Working Mom

Dear Coworker,

You seem like the kind of person that could be a blast to hang out with — if we didn’t work together. That wasn’t rude, was it? What I mean is, you and I could probably be gal pals and have the occasional drink together. But we can’t and we won’t because working with you, well, it kinda sucks.

Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? Oh yes, girl, I’ve heard your comments in the break room. I’ve heard you mutter under your breath about how I’ve “got it made,” because I can use my kid as an excuse. For some reason, you think that missing work to be covered in throw up is a luxury. I saw waves of puke, and you’re thinking I’m on an ocean somewhere with a piña colada in one hand while hitting "ignore" on my phone in the other.

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Oh no, girl, that’s not it. Despite what you may think, parents do not get it easier in the workplace. This letter isn’t intended to make you feel sorry for me and the other parents in the office, but perhaps some insight can help you see things from my point of view.

I get it. It was my decision to have a child and continue to work. But that doesn't make it any easier, because many women don't have the option to not work. Women in American are given six to 12 weeks with their newborns before they have to hire someone else to take over. That in itself is enough to make me an emotional wreck. Let’s add in attempting to focus, pumping during the lunch break and fighting back tears every time I think about my child. You saw me coming out of the bathroom with red eyes, and you asked me what was wrong. I told you that my allergies were acting up. But really it was a combination of sleep deprivation and guilt. I couldn’t tell you this. This is a place of work and not a venting session for working parents.

Let me be clear: I am a mother first. The work will get done, but only after my child is taken care of.

I work hard to prove my worth. I focus at work and get the job done. You seemed to think I was getting special privileges when I left work to pick up my daughter with a 103-degree fever from daycare. You rolled your eyes when I told you that I’d be missing our 11 a.m. meeting. The next day, I worked from home while balancing a sick child with one hand and typing up a proposal with the other. I was operating on three hours of sleep, hadn’t eaten and was covered in funk. But I got the job done anyway.

That’s the part you fail to see, dear coworker. Despite all that I have to deal with in my personal life, I STILL get the job done. I work just as hard as, if not harder than, you to prove my worth. I, like many working parents, fail at the whole “work/life balance,” and so I am often putting in overtime. While you’re sleeping, I am up at 4 a.m. answering emails and getting a head start on tasks that you likely won’t touch until you step into the office at 9 a.m.

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This isn’t the case for all working parents. Some are lucky enough to work in family-friendly environments where colleagues know that family come first. I’m not asking for your sympathy. But please understand that we are both here for the same reasons — to do our jobs well. As important as my job is to me, however, let me be clear: I am a mother first. I am willing to drop everything if I feel my child needs me. The work will get done, but only after my child is taken care of.

Sincerely,

Your Coworker

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