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After having my first daughter, I went back to work under the best circumstances anyone could ask for. While I never really had a maternity leave, I was lucky to spend the first five months of my daughter’s life working from home. All summer long, I was able to balance both work and motherhood somewhat successfully with the help of family and a babysitter. The babysitter would bring the baby into my home office any time she needed to be fed, and I came and went as needed for meetings.
But as they say, all good things must come to an end. As a small business owner, I had to make the tough decision of moving my team out of their home offices and into real, legit office space.
The downside of that meant that at the end of summer, I would have to be separated from my baby girl four days a week.
As a nursing mother, I was less worried about leaving my daughter in the care of another (I knew she was in tremendous hands), than I was figuring out how to maintain my milk supply during the day. It was important to me to produce enough milk to sustain my daughter when I was at work without having to supplement, since up until this point that is what was working best for us.
I knew from months of pumping in the back of my car in between meetings that more often than not, a convenient place to express my breast milk would not always be easy to come by.
So naturally when finding office space, figuring out where to pump was one of my biggest concerns. Prior to signing the lease, I had asked the leasing company at the shared office space center how they could accommodate me. They said, either in one of the private handicap bathrooms (locking door, outlet, private room), or in an empty office. The problem with the offices is that they all have glass paneling, so there wasn’t going to be enough privacy to make that work. Not to mention that they could be leased up at anytime, so I would be bounced around—or worse, walked in on. For a place where I was going to be spending up to an hour a day, I opted for the bathroom.
We moved in and on the first day at the office I nervously headed to the bathroom for my pumping sesh. I walked in and realized that there was no place for me to set the pump, so the only option I had was to sit my butt down on the floor. Taking a few moments to get set up with the pump and bottles, I tried to make myself comfortable, feeling determined to look on the bright side of the situation…and instead found myself looking directly into the eye of a nasty toilet.
At that moment, I realized I was pumping in the poop bathroom.
I started to gag, but luckily the lights abruptly turned off, plunging the room into sudden darkness.
As I sat on the dirty bathroom floor, in the dark with the bottles gradually filling up, the only sound the woosh-woosh of the pump, I waved my hands frantically to get the lights back on.
Like a strobe light in a horror movie, the lights came on to reveal the poop toilet and a look of pure disgust on my face. Then I was again plunged into blackness. And thus continued the battle every 20 seconds for the next 10 minutes.
In order to pump a proper supply of milk, one must be relaxed. And it was hardly ideal to be sitting at eye level with the shitter working on bottling goods for my baby.
This wasn’t going to work.
Always one to advocate for change, I headed straight down to the management office. Of the dozens of businesses they house, this “breast pumping issue” had not come up before. They couldn’t have been more understanding, however, and offered to make me a sign for the bathroom, and said I could bring in a chair and table and whatever I needed to make myself comfortable.
This really felt like a victory! I was making a difference!
By my next round of pumping, there was a sign on the door that said “Mother’s Room: Please be respectful and cleanly of the space.” That would work. But about 15 minutes after I finished, someone ripped it down. Oh. I guess that people were really territorial about their poop bathroom (did I mention there were several other bathrooms on the floor?)
Still, I had to stick to the plan of making the bathroom more comfortable. The next morning, the sign had been replaced and I was armed with my little side table and chair, ready to create a more comfortable pumping station. I waited about fifteen minutes outside the restroom door for a nice gentleman to finish taking his morning dump, so I could move in and set up shop.
Unfazed, I moved in after him to create my little pumping station. With a table in the corner, a chair and a pillow for my back, I could at least get comfortable in this space. Uplifted, I pictured adding a scented candle and a nice bouquet of faux flowers. It’s the little things, right?
So far, the new sign has remained in place, and the truth is, I am satisfied. But is it messed up that “progress” feels like a table and chair in a handicap bathroom where I am in constant competition with people’s morning constitutions?
And I am one of the lucky ones.
I am sure that if those on the floor were more educated on the challenges of being a working, breastfeeding mom, maybe they would be more understanding of my need for a few minutes of privacy each day. Then again, if someone had thought to create a mothers room in the first place, then I wouldn’t have to kick anyone out of their favorite space to begin with.
What it really comes down to is that we need to change the conversation for working mothers. So moms, if you are in a similar situation, please speak up. Don’t accept sitting on the poopie bathroom floor as a solution. Advocate for change and don’t give up. I promise that I wont either.