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When moms return to work after a maternity break, they often face a bleak response or harsh questions. Here is a mom who fought back!
We all talk about the independence that comes when you follow your ambitions, work for an organisation and are financially independent. Well, I had a very well settled life in India where I had a high paying job with a top MNC. On the personal front too, I had strong family support but I left behind all those comforts to move to Australia, following my career ambitions.
That period of struggle was intense and it was then that I realised how powerful I am as a woman and how independent I was to take care of my toddler and an unborn baby along with myself in a completely new place and without much domestic support.
On moving to Australia, I got a job in Brisbane. I remember dropping and picking up my son from his school everyday till I was 8 and a half months pregnant. Whenever I used to start the car, there was always a fear running at the back of my mind, “What if an emergency happens?” I’m thankful to my husband, my mother-in-law and my dear friends Kshama and Nitika who always supported me in this tough situation.
However, it was not easy.
In hindsight, I am proud that I did not sacrifice life over work. I remember how my employer on learning of my pregnancy wrote me a mail that you don’t need to come to the office from tomorrow since the person whose work you were doing is back to his job. He also mentioned how well I had performed during the time I stayed at their company.
Many questions hovered over my mind. Why did you hire me in the first place when you were so unclear if so-and-so person would get back? Why did you not inform me during my interview that this might happen so I could have said ‘No’? Why is the person back just 2 days after I confirmed my pregnancy to you?
It was depressing to the core to know that you are being discriminated against for something that is so natural for any woman. I never discussed this bitter truth of my life with anyone including my friends and family because I did not want any negativity hovering over my unborn child. The time was not right to get into the legal complications so I accepted their decision and did not search for another job till ‘Aarna’ was born. I decided not to search for work for another 6 months due to my medical condition and went back to India at my mum’s place.
Once I was physically fit to take up a new role and Aarna was doing well too, I got back to Sydney and gave myself a 3 month window to return to work, after which I would go back to India and look out for a job there. So my job hunt started again. Many times I had heard the heartbreaking stories wherein women who take a career break are hardly considered and this time ‘that woman’ was me!
Initially I did not understand why despite a good resume and a number of years of experience, my profile was not being considered for interviews. Later I realised that 7 years of professional experience was nothing in front of the close to 2 years’ break I took.
In one interview, when I could not answer a few questions, the interviewer asked me, “Are you planning your third child? Let’s not waste each others’ time.” Yes, I was not well prepared for the interview but does this give interviewers the authority to say anything to me?
The dark period was not yet over. I was devastated but my husband stood rock solid by my side. He gave me hope and strength to move forward. I applied to all relevant and non-relevant jobs through well-known websites but no luck.
Once a recruiter told me when I checked with him about one of the openings relevant to my profile, “How are you going to justify your maternity break?” I could not stop myself and blasted him, “I don’t need to justify my maternity break. It’s a basic human right and if anyone doesn’t regard it in that light, I would prefer not to work with that organisation.”
Mind you, this person was Indian and why I’m explicitly mentioning this is because many a time we blame Australia for racial discrimination but I strongly disagree with this. Maternity break discrimination is not done based on your region or race.
Frustrated by this industry response to my maternity break, I wrote this post on LinkedIn.
Thank you for taking your time out and checking on my profile on LinkedIn.
I would like to clear your view on my maternity break of 1.5 years though.
Yes, I was off work during this period because I was taking care of my new born and a toddler to a completely new place without much of the family support. And I’m not at all ashamed of it because I gave preference to life over work and paused for a while. This decision eventually made me a better person in terms of multitasking capabilities, being more organised and staying more patient.
So next time you call me, don’t judge my skills based on maternity break I took.
It was just a comma (,) and never a full stop(.).
Within 5 days, this extremely ordinary post got an extraordinary response with 1.3+ million views, 12000+ likes and 500+ comments. My LinkedIn profile was flooded with thousands of invites and many messages. I started getting job offers through LinkedIn messages mainly in the sales domain. This post went viral and I wondered since I did not do anything extraordinary! I had just put down my real feelings so that no such recruiters contacted me if they feel my career gap is the end of my career.
Here too a few people did not sit quiet. While most appreciated my move a few wanted to pull me down. One them wrote this:
“Mausmi Lata well of course there will be concern. On paper, if you have 2 women who have been of working age for the same time, they are competing for the same role, if one has 1.5 years away from working they will be considered as a slightly less desirable candidate than the one who hasn’t.”
Which means you are already being judged if you have a career break.
It was after this post that I met Brett Iredale, a brilliant person who is the CEO of the present organisation where I work, called Jobadder Recruitment Software. I was fortunate enough to know meet a person through this post. He arranged an interview for me based on the requirements they had in their team. After two rounds of interviews when my hiring manager finally called to offer me the position, I could not stop my tears from rolling down my cheeks.
I was back to the workforce!
When I decided to take a maternity break I never had imagined that getting into the workforce again would be such a great deal. I have worked for companies who respect this break and support their employees a lot during this period. The number of responses to that post made me realize that I’m not alone on this painful journey. There are many sailing in the same boat for different reasons and there is no empathy towards such situations.
It’s high time Moms, take a stand for yourself and speak up. Don’t get settled because you have to, do it only when you want to!
Don’t judge a mother and force her to change her career just because you think she won’t be capable; she just needs to dust off her skills. If you are doubtful of the skills she possessed in past, give her a timeframe. Ask her to get prepared but never discourage her.
When you say you would prefer to choose a candidate who have current experience and not in the past, then arrange an interview for such two candidates and then decide – particularly for mothers who already have experience in the past.