Monday, April 2, 2012

Pregnant on the Job and Saying No

Along with my coaching business, I have a desk job.  I work at the local university in the distance learning department and I record, build and facilitate online continuing education engineering courses.   For the most part I really like my job.  In fact, this has been the first job in my employment history where I have enjoyed and understood the work I do.  That may sound crazy, but all my previous employment was with NASA contractors and since I'm not an engineer of any kind, a lot of it went straight over my head.

When I came to work here I immediately loved it.  I had projects that were my own and work that belonged to me.  I understood the processes and procedures in place and could even make suggestions and improvements upon what we were doing.  The meetings I took part in were actually for me, and while meetings are no ones favorite past time, I never really minded going (especially since they were about 1 hour in duration, while NASA meetings could go 4+).

The desk job has never been my thing, even though this one is probably my favorite of them all.  Sitting for 8 hours a day does NOT appeal.  While I can and do get up and walk around, using my feet instead of my phone or e-mail for messages, it is still mostly sitting at my computer (it is distance learning, after all). After about 4 hours of work, I am ready for something else.

One negative thing about my current job is they are not flexible with time.  When I worked at NASA, I could come and go as I pleased as long as my work was done, my customer was happy, and my 80 hours were in at the end of each pay period.  I could work easily within that kind of schedule, especially where training was concerned.  I did many 20 milers before work, coming in late, working through lunches, and staying later other days to make up the time.  I could go to the gym at lunch a few days a week and work right through other days.  And when I needed to be out, I told my supervisor and made sure my work was covered and no hassle was given.

Here, however, it is a different story.  They want 2 weeks notice for all leave and they will still say no (or try) even when that requirement is met. Hours are 8:15-5:00 strictly.  Lunch is an hour only and between 11:00-1:00.  No more lunchtime gym visits for me unless I can run or swim for 30 minutes and then get ready and back to work in 20 (which I have done - still sweating as I sat at my desk).  I can't come in early and leave early.  In fact, if I am required to come in early to record a class, I cannot leave when I have worked 8 hours.  I have worked until 8:30pm on many occasions and received no time or pay for those extra 3+ hours.  That was probably the hardest part.  I can amend my routine to fit a stricter work schedule but I do not want to give free work time over 40+ a week.  My running and my life trump that - always.  Plus, it is more sitting when 8 hours is already pushing my personal sitting limits.

That kind of schedule was not every day, however, so most of the time I could grit my teeth and get through it.  It became a bit more complicated, however, with the beginning of Running Start, LLC.  My time with clients started at 5:30pm on weekdays (unless they were willing to meet in the morning), so staying late at this job interfered with my time training my runners.  The more clients I got, the fewer evenings I could devote to working late - especially when clients were paying for that time and the desk job was not.  When I became pregnant, it got even more complicated.  The first trimester was tough as my fatigue increased along with my desk job work load and my coaching work load.  On top of that I was taking a class every Tuesday evening, which was another night unavailable to clients.

It got a little crazy.  Jason began to see how wrecked I was at the end of the day, coming in most nights at 7:30 or later only to start the next day at 5:30am with a run and another packed schedule.  He reminded me on many occasions that I needed to be taking care of myself and the little one.  I knew this to be true, but I wasn't sure what I was going to do about it. 

So eventually I said no.  When another class showed up on the schedule that would require someone to stay from 5:30-8:30pm, I said no.  By this point my department had begun offering what was called "flex time" meaning we could have a little time back during the same week we worked overtime, but again we still would not get ALL of it.  If I came in late the day I worked until 8:30pm, I'd still have over 8 hours of work plus a very late night.  If I decided to save that extra bit of time for the next day, I'd spend that morning recovering, not running (I mean what else is there in life?).

Before I was pregnant it was vitally important to me to stay fit - especially when training for marathons and ultras.  I could usually run around my work schedule and I got up very early in the morning to get the miles I wanted.  Recovery was important too, but my body was well equipped for that and as long as I gave it the nutrients it needed, I was able to get up the next day and go at it once again.  Pregnancy is a whole different issue. I am tired a lot faster and I don't recover quickly at all!  It was so disheartening when an 8 miler needed so much time for recovery when before it was just a regular part of the weekly grind. 

Now that I'm pregnant it is vitally important to me to MOVE every day.  It doesn't have to be running (although you know that's my fave), but it has to happen.  I'm trying to keep myself and this little one healthy, I'm trying to manage the weight gain to keep it reasonable, I'm trying to prepare this body to be ready for labor and delivery, and I'm thinking about how things will go after that with recovery and a return to training as usual.  Working at a desk for 12ish hours a day does not fit into any of those goals and I begin to feel anxious and resentful of it.

The problem with saying no is that it means someone else has to do the staying late.  I don't like this part, but what other option is there?  We have student workers, but management won't let them record classes any more.  So that means one of my two cohorts in distance learning must pick up the slack.  Part of me feels badly that I'm letting myself off the hook due to pregnancy.  I don't want to be whiny and wimpy.  You know those types.  The other part of me feels that I am not the one making the rules around here.  If we are being asked to do too much, it is not my fault but those doing the asking (or telling as the case would be).  I don't think my health and happiness is any more important than anyone elses, but I can only stand up for me and deal with the consequences or benefits, whatever happens.

It is hard, though, because I want to do my part here.  Before long I will retire myself from this job to begin one as a full time mom (continuing to coach as well), and I'd really like to leave on a good note.  I'd like for my coworkers to see me as someone who worked hard and did a good job, someone who did her part and was always willing to help. In essence, I don't want them to get mad at me.  But I also don't want to work until 8:30pm and suffer the effects of such a schedule.  My exercise/health/well-being will always be more important to me than work and it is my belief that everyone should feel that way about their own.

I have a client who is recovering from a heart event, something a lot like a heart attack.  The other day we were talking and she told me something that I found shocking and then not shocking at all.  One of the FIRST things her cardiologist told her was to cut back her work load.  Not eat right (which came next), not exercise (which goes with eating right), but work load.  What in the world?  Stress.  It is nasty stuff.  And many times we have NO idea how it impacts our bodies, but it is bad news on all systems.  Add stress to a body that sits all day and what do you have?  A heart attack waiting to happen.  Now, there is a lifestyle to consider with that too and my client has shared her eating and exercise habits that were less than stellar.  But what did the doc say to change first?  Workload! 

Hearing that only strengthened my resolve in the matter of saying no to more work.  Before pregnancy I would have done what I always did - gritted my teeth and run it off later.  My body could handle it.  Now things are different and it doesn't take much for my body to rebel and tell ME no.  And if stress hurts this body, what does it do to the baby?  I have no idea but I don't really want to find out.

One of the first articles in my pregnancy book covered telling people at work about one's pregnancy and how to handle different situations being pregnant on the job.  I sort of shrugged it off thinking that since I worked with mostly women (yikes!), most of them had kids so... they'd totally get it.  The truth is, they might get it but they don't really care.  I'm probably a bit more wrapped up in my health and exercise needs more than most, and maybe I am over the top, but right or wrong I am standing my ground on this issue.  But I will tell you, it isn't fun. It is downright unpleasant every Monday when someone besides me has to stay until 8:30pm.  I want to hide under my desk until Tuesday.  But even so, I don't want to give ground on this one.

What do you think?  Did you have any crazy work stories when you first became pregnant?  I'd LOVE to hear them!  


  1. Good for you for saying "No"! I wish I would have been that way a little more! When I was pregnant with Andrew,I was doing home health PT here. Since I was the "newbie" I was the one who got the North Hsv and Huntsville projects patients (started here when I was 3mths pregnant and worked til the day I went to the hospital). I was expected to transfer stroke patients all by myself, go in potentially dangerous situations, and drive all over Huntsville. I think back now and think, "I should have said no"! Luckily, as you know my children are perfect ;), so I did no lasting damage to them or myself, ha!

    1. Goodness, Shannon! Working late sounds NOTHING like what you were doing! ha! and if your children turned out okay, little Eloise will probably be alright too. :)

  2. Sounds like they sure aren't very sympathetic!!! Being a teacher while pregnant was great. I could take 1/2 days to get to my doctor's appointments, I could sit to teach my lessons when needed, and the kids helped me when I could no longer reach things I'd dropped on the floor!! I actually found more time to focus on the pregnancy while I was working then I did when I was pregnant as a stay-at-home mom. I loved feeling the baby kick during meetings, etc. I think you mentioned that too, in an earlier post.

    1. That sounds nice! I can take time off for doc appointments, but I have gotten some flack for that and it was annoying. I think they are understanding up to a point... as long as it doesn't inconvenience them or make things harder. I think that is what I feel being pregnant around here - inconvenient. :)

  3. Your feelings are understandable Jane!! As you know I left my job way Earlier than really needed but felt the "Need" to do so to prepare myself emotionally and physically and my home for what was to come. I had Big plans of Natural birth No Meds and what happens to me is High Blood Pressure (and a breech little one) and I'm off to do a C-section (something I had NOT wanted or Planned on doing). I Believe Stress does play a big part and I Believe that you are doing the right thing and taking care of your body (treating it like a temple) more so than I do and I ADMIRE that in you!! You are AMAZING!! Do What You Feel is RIGHT for You because at the end of the day it will be just You, Jason , and Sweet Eloise. I'm grateful to have left work in April and have those months (Lee Marie was born July 21) of mental preparation and decorating and sometime for myself and my husband. You do what you need to do!! ;) You have my support!! I Miss Seeing you girl!! Take Care!! ~ Dana Savage

    1. Hey girl! I don't think you left work too early. I'll be leaving earlier than most do as well for those same reasons. I want to get everything ready (okay, and do some traveling with Jason). :) And I am sooooooo excited. I do worry about the responses to my decision but then I remember it is mine and Jason's to make and I try to have confidence in that. Plus I'm too excited to stay down for long on those issues. :) Thanks so much for your encouragement!