Working Parent

Project: Fob Her Off

This post was originally featured at Mothers Mean Business, a website community for the working parent. They particularly champion the career part time role and provide information and support for parents juggling their work/life balance.

Many years ago I sat in on a meeting with my Director and another Department Head. There was a mini white board in the room and the idea was to fill it up with tasks for an employee who would soon be returning to work part time, from maternity leave.

It was very promising. I was in my early twenties, overworked, underpaid and chomping at the bit for someone, anyone to take some of the pressure off.  So there I sat, reeling off mundane task after mundane task – filing, opening the post, basic data entry etc etc. There were plenty of other contributions and together we created a mish-mash job of crappy tasks for this very lucky lady.

Because she was lucky.

Lucky to be getting a job at all.

We were told.

Things like this have a habit of coming back around and this same meeting was had about me a few years later. I can just imagine how it went…

“Come on everyone, we need a list of at least twenty things, that fill up an A4 sheet of paper so we can call it a job and fob her off with it.” 

Or perhaps it was a company wide, call to action email –

Subject: Project Fob Her Off
Dear All,
If there’s any old shit that you don’t fancy doing anymore, whack it
over on an email by Friday and I’ll add it to the brain dead Mum list.”
Kind Regards,

Either way I went to my ‘back to work’ meeting a few weeks before and came away believing it was all going to be alright because you know – that sure was a long list and they’d obviously been considering my new position carefully.

I spent the next ten months filing, doing basic data entry and staring into space. It was as if everything I’d achieved, everything I had contributed over the years had been forgotten. My slate was wiped clean and I was back in a Junior role, a filler role that required no real skills or experience. It had a massive impact on my confidence and I started to believe that perhaps I hadn’t even been that good at my job in the first place, perhaps I hadn’t actually achieved that much. I started to wonder if I was lucky that they took me back. It was after all, terribly inconvenient of me to have a child and then request to come back part time.

What nonsense. Truth was, I’d allowed myself to be well and truly fobbed off and  I was paying the price.

So if you are returning to work part time after maternity leave, don’t let yourself be mislead like I was. Don’t be afraid to be clear about what you want, what you expect and definitely don’t be afraid to remind them of your previous experience and contributions to the company. You were away for ten months, you had a baby. You didn’t have your brain erased, you did not become less accomplished or less able. All you’re doing is cutting your hours and within your working hours you are still as driven and competent as you were before. Be the first to tell them this and don’t, ever allow anyone to fob you off with anything less than you deserve.

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  1. Hate they made you fill that way, but remember that you can change you .

  2. When I went back after my 1st leave I went straight to the same job. 2nd time I didnt go back and 3rd time i was unlucky i was moved departments (different company i worked for) as my job was no longer available. 5 months later i was luckily offered my old job back! #stayclassy

  3. Gosh! I really feel for you. That place stinks from here! Glad you made that clear to them. And well said! x #FabFridayPost

  4. Gosh I can’t believe that this sort of thing happens with all the political correctness and law suit mentality! I didn’t go back to work, but I was planning on it, if we hadn’t of emigrated I would have slotted straight back into my old role. I’m thankful now that I didn’t!

  5. Double the Monkey Business says:

    I didn’t go back to work after maternity leave, but I am sure the same thing would have happened. We should not have to choose children over career, they should go hand it hand. Unfortunately it feels like we are a long way away from that at the moment x #FabFridayPost

  6. Morgan Prince says:

    Great post. I didn’t go back to work after having children but I’m sure that would’ve happened to me too! Women definitely shouldn’t think they are ‘lucky’ have still have a job because they have children!
    Thanks for linking to #PoCoLo

  7. A really important topic. Did you return after 9 months? I thought before that you kept the same job? Even so, that does not make it okay for them to downgrade your job so drastically, disgraceful behaviour. Well done for sharing x #picknmix

  8. It is awful that in this day and age stuff like this still happens! Way to make new mum’s feel useless the beggars.

    Thanks for linking up to #Picknmix
    Stevie x

  9. This is an important post. Your honesty about contributing to this practice is important. As you say the pressure to fit in may lead people who would ordinarily balk at discrimination to take part in it. A canny employer may try and pass it off as making reasonable adjustments for a returning mother but if the mother has not explicitly asked for such treatment (hey, demote me!) than they are treading on very thin ice.


  10. Wow this same thing happened to a friend of mine too! It must be very difficult getting back into things after maternity leave and it really shouldn’t be! Great post and very informative too! #FabFridayPostLinky

  11. i didn’t realise they can change your job title while you’re on maternity leave, hope they don’t alter salary

  12. Yes this definitely happens but I also remember being asked to compile a list of all my menial tasks to make up the job description for a new assistant but I guess that’s more common and justifiable! To play devil’s advocate when I returned to work after my 2nd baby my job just wasn’t my priority, I was tired from endless nights of broken sleep so probably not even 100% focused on the job, when the nursery phoned because of ‘another loose nappy’ I did have to drop everything and go and collect my children. I know everyone’s experience of returning to work will be different but eventually I just realised that I wasn’t happy being back at work and after 6months back at my desk I jacked it in to become a SAHM. It was a risk ( I’d always worked and been independent) but I knew it was right for us. #FabFridayPost

  13. topfivemum says:

    Great article Sarah and I hope things have improved for you. I went back to work full time and committed the cardinal sin of telling them I’d be going off on mat leave again after just 6 months (I was already 3.5 months pregnant when I went back). If I ask for part time on my return next time around, I doubt it’s going to be viewed favourably.

    I’m hoping to approach it on the front foot when the time comes – telling them what I can do, how I’ll add value and then they won’t have to come up with a made up list of jobs on my behalf. That, of course, is the theory…

  14. Thanks for this post Sarah. It is such a tough role we have, the working Mom–in sacrifice to our familes, our sanity and our incomes and self worth. Someting few men will understand and all working moms will. Thanks for hosting and having me here!

  15. It’s good to speak out about this. Your honesty, looking at this issue from both perspectives, is needed. I have never witnessed this sort of thing personally, but I’ve seen elements of what you’re talking about displayed in more subtle ways so I’m sadly not surprised it goes on but I should be shocked. We all should, and we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for better treatment when we return to work. Easier said than done, of course.

  16. What a powerful post. So many important points! Thanks for cohosting the #FabFridayPost

  17. It’s awful that this happens and people shouldn’t stand for it. Luckily for my mummy, she was in a particular specialist role that no-one else could do…(graphic designer) so she was thrown right in the deep end and hit the ground running after her maternity leave. Thankfully it’s a job she enjoys! #FabFridayPost

  18. The Pramshed says:

    Great post, I’m returning to work at the end of June and have a “back to work” meeting in a few week’s time. I’m already planning in my head what I’m going to say, as I really don’t want to be fobbed off. It is going to be hard going back to work, and I hope that my colleagues still see the career driven person I was before (just with a baby as well). Claire x #PickNMix

  19. I think it probably depends on what it actually is you do for a living – luckily in my line of work (I’m a journalist) I’ve never experienced this. But everything you say is right! #effitfriday

  20. min1980 says:

    Very good advice. Sadly there seems to be an assumption that when a woman has a baby she will a) come back part time, if at all, b) leave as soon as possible to have another baby and c) no longer be remotely interested in work at all, which is a huge stereotype. Certainly none of these things were true of me. Interesting post about your personal experience. #FabFridayPost

  21. pottyadventures says:

    Excellent post and very valid points. I’ve just read this with my wife who will return to work from maternity leave in June. She recognises a lot of the issues mentioned here when she returned to work a couple of years ago after our first child. Like you, she is now resolute that she won’t allow herself to be fobbed off again this time.

  22. The Mum Project says:

    Excellent post for all women, but highly relevant for me right now. I have 2 months left of maternity leave and will be returning to work full-time (apparently I’m not able to work part-time as my role is “full-time”). I’m going to take your advice and make sure I am clear about what I want when I return. Before I left for maternity leave I felt as if they were giving me the ‘filler’ tasks you mentioned, and while it’s nice to take a break, it actually annoyed me because I want to make a difference and be successful in my career, I’m not there to just exist. So I’m hoping they don’t do this when I return! Thanks for linking up with #StayClassy!

  23. Such a vital post, important to know your rights and to never be made to feel you must settle x

  24. Oh dear, it really is a disgrace that this happens! I didn’t return to my old job and work as a freelancer now. I did have an interview after maternity leave though where the interviewer made a comment about my ‘time off’ and how other candidates would be at an advantage over me! Would someone say that if I had been travelling for a year instead? I’m not sure… Like you’ve said our brains have not been erased permanently! Did you resign from your job in the end? #FabFridayPost

  25. Bravo… It’s crazy that in today’s society this is still happening. Just because we’ve had a baby doesn’t mean we can’t actually do anything other than mundane tasks! Well said!

  26. I’m going back to work soon and have yet to have a discussion about what I’ll actually be doing – I’ll keep this in mind. I’ve already asked to come back part-time and my employer has said no, which isn’t a great start. Hopefully I’ll at least be able to get involved in interesting projects again. #StayClassy

  27. So true! We are made to feel that we lucky that they have accepted our request to go part-time and as a result you can end up feeling a door mat doing the most mundane tasks. The reality is that they should giving the returning Mums all the tricky jobs because after the birth of my first child I found that I was able to complete work quicker and to a higher standard and my multi-tasking was very impresssive. Ha. #stayclassy

  28. Thank you for sharing this. I think a lot of women find it hard getting back into their careers after leaving to have a baby or focus on their families and it’s all too easy to settle for something or feel grateful that you have a job at all. It should not be like that! I think there’s still a long way to go regarding rights in the workplace and how women are treated. #StayClassy

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