For the last three months, I have been pumping at work in a handicapped bathroom.
And I hate it.
The rules around my particular situation are quite grey. Let me explain. I am a business owner who leases an office in part of a larger coworking space. That means I share one office with four coworkers, and the multi-floor facility also houses several other businesses on a handful of floors, and they have their own offices as well. We all pay rent to the management company, who helps things run smoothly, and all share the common amenities.
Prior to signing the lease, I asked the management company to provide me with a space to privately pump—it was a condition of my lease. They said I would receive a private office with a lock, but when I showed up to work after we moved in, they directed me to a handicap bathroom on the 18th floor (Read more about that experience here).
To provide additional context, each floor of the building has public restrooms for men and women, each with two stalls, plus the accessible bathroom. None of the bathrooms have outlets, aside from the newly designated “Mother’s Room” on the 18th Floor.
The problem is that the people on the 18th floor liked using this private space for going number two—and they were neither handicap or nursing. When you have to use a space to pump three times a day, it gets pretty exhausting having to wait outside for able-bodied individuals to finish their business—not to mention how disgusting it is to pump milk for your baby in the remnants of someone’s poop. And the fact is, that space shouldn’t have been designated to me in the first place.
But again, the laws are murky, since I am not employed by the management company. After doing some digging, I learned that each building must have some sort of private space for nursing mothers by law. As luck would have it, the management company also owns the building, so I kept pressing them to give me a new space. They “worked” on this for three months.
In the meantime, I was still making the best of the Poo Bathroom, despite the blatant disregard for the sign on the door by the others on the floor.
One day, I simply HAD ENOUGH. I decided to write a letter and tape it inside the Mother’s Room, so that anyone who used that bathroom would understand just how rude they were being. I took the letter to management, then borrowed their tape to hang it up.
Here is what the letter said.
To Those Who Keep Using the Mother’s Room:
My name is Ashley XXXXX, I own a marketing agency called XXXXXX XXX, located on the 16th floor. Please feel free to come by and introduce yourself. In addition to being a business owner, I am also a breastfeeding mother.
I have a baby girl at home who is allergic to formula. So each day, I have to spend 15-20 minutes pumping milk from my body, three separate times. I bring the milk home so she can have enough food to eat during the hours I am away.
Not going to work isn’t an option. Not providing food for my baby is also not an option.
Here is the kicker: The only place in the whole building where I can go to privately pump is the handicap bathroom on the 18th floor. There are no other outlets in bathrooms in the building, a feature which is required to utilize a breast pump. Take a look for yourself next time you go into the very clean bathrooms provided on each floor. Even the other handicap bathrooms lack outlets. Except for this one.
As a result, the management company was kind enough to designate this room to me so I can pump in a private environment. Still, when I go to use the Mother’s Room, I oftentimes have to wait for people to finish doing their business. The place where I have to make food for my baby oftentimes smells, is typically dirty and in many cases already occupied. In fact, 9/10 times there are remnants of feces in the toilet, which is unsanitary and offensive.
As it stands, this current situation is unacceptable. While I am sure that you weren’t aware of the circumstances, the sign does specifically say “Mother’s Room.” May I kindly request that you utilize the other facilities on the 18th floor, unless you are indeed handicap, in which case, lets discuss how we can work together to share the space.
Since at this time, there are no additional accommodations provided to me as a nursing mother, I ask that you kindly respect the fact that being a working, nursing mother is hard enough without the daily opposition of those who refuse to relinquish the space for their private use.
Thank you in advance for you understanding and cooperation.
Harsh? Maybe a little. Justified? Absolutely.
Within one hour, the management company took action and provided a private office for me to use. Maybe they didn’t realize how bad pumping at work had been for me. Maybe they didn’t want to face the wrath of the other tenants.
Either way, the lesson here is to keep on fighting for your right to do whatever is best for your family.