The Postpartum Work Conflict

I was in the process of formulating an idea for today’s blog while I was completing a rather lengthy document I am presenting to my team tomorrow, when I had a rather unpleasant exchange with a coworker. It was more passive aggressive, actually. Which is the worst kind. But it upset me completely, and since I have lost focus on anything productive I thought, ‘hey, I’ll just write about that. It’s relevant.’

As a woman in a male dominated field, I am used to having the occasional conflict. What I will never get used to is having them with other women. We have to constantly assert ourselves into the Boys’ Club that is so prevalent in our work environment that I don’t understand why we as women can’t band together. Not exclusively like starting our own Girls’ Club, but in some personal ways that I think most women respond to, such as support and encouragement. After being called ‘little lady’ and ‘darling’ on a construction site, or I don’t know, losing my raise because I’m reproducing (yeah, I’m still really bitter about that) I think we owe it to each other to give each other a break.

But I have found that women in my industry can be, for lack of better terminology, high-strung control freaks. I am sure it is some sort of coping mechanism to compensate for our lack of man-ness. It’s the idea that we as women have to be twice as good at our jobs to be taken seriously. And then we get labeled the B word. I find that so insulting and such a double standard. The problem is, we as women in any industry dominated by men tend to involuntarily develop these defense mechanisms. And it becomes a problem when women develop it with other women. Because then it turns into B Fest 2014 in your office, and that isn’t very professional.

My little ‘episode’ we will call it, revolves around two emails I received. They were from my only other female coworker asking me to perform a task. A task I recently performed for our boss and another coworker. The problem is, she actually had inserted herself into the discussion the first time I performed the task for my boss because SHE HAD ALREADY DONE IT BEFORE. She had all the facts, and passed them along to me. Condescendingly maybe, but I am also very sensitive right now, so she might have genuinely meant to be helpful. In any case, now she has requested that I do this for her. This task requires personal information that she is already in possession of. So, in a nutshell, she wants me to do something that will require several email exchanges for information and could take up to an hour to complete that she could do herself in five minutes. She basically asked me to go make her coffee, folks.

So I considered throwing things in my office. Especially after the second email making specific requests about how I handle it. I responded with ‘DO IT YOURSELF!’ but I didn’t send it. Instead I went to ask her politely about it, and she told me to do it again, even though she admitted having all the information and necessary tools at her disposal. So I came back to my desk. And I cried. My sad, ‘I want to be home with babies’ cry.

Here’s where the postpartum comes in. I had my beautiful daughter almost four months ago, but my emotions are still a bit tricky, my body is still very much showing signs of recent childbirth, and I am still pretty stressed juggling my work schedule, pumping milk, and going home to take care of Squishy Bug and Panda. So when I feel affronted, I have to take some extra time to chill out. I’m not blaming my hormones, don’t mistake it for that. But I do find some comfort in the fact that I might not be the B that everyone expects if it weren’t for a little bit of the chemical stuff still being out of whack in my system.

So I went and pumped my baby’s milk and thought it over some more. And let me tell you, nothing makes you really feel your situation like standing in a bathroom stall at work with your boobs out while a machine squeezes milk out of them.

I considered going to my boss and explaining how I can’t work with her, and yada yada yada. Bad idea if I wanted to maintain his respect. I considered sending her that email I typed out earlier, but that was also a bad idea if I didn’t want this to become an office vendetta.So then I had to totally dismiss the idea of keying her car, because you know, what if I got caught?

I realized that the only way not to be the B that everyone expects me to be is to just do it. Just complete the dumb task for her. I don’t have to like it. And I don’t have to do it like she wants me to. If she wanted it done a certain way she would have done it herself. But if I want people to respect me as a professional, then I have to be very careful which battles I pick. And this is a very silly battle.

So I’ll do it.

But I might make her wait for it for a little while.

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