This is quite a hard blog to write… but I started this blog as a release for any emotions and to help others and I am sure that I am not alone in what I am going through so here I go…
The last couple of days have been especially trying for me… I have been suffering from anxiety in the workplace after working for two bosses that enjoyed seeing other people suffer and made everyone’s life especially those with kids miserable. The anxiety comes and goes. Mostly, I thought I was well rid of it, but something in work triggered it again and it was back with vengeance.
In my first proper job, I had a contract for a 4-year project. I thought myself one of the luckiest people as not many people who get their PhD are lucky enough in Ireland to obtain a position for this duration and quite a high salary (for Academic research). The bossman seemed nice and the first two years were great. My hubby started doing his PhD in the same lab and life was great. We got to travel to different countries for conferences together, we took one car to work and at work had two different projects so had no marital spats (some people didn’t even realise that we were married till the end of the 4 years).
All of this changed when I got pregnant. It was a planned pregnancy and we were very excited, however, didn’t understand exactly how precious this life inside of me was and I continued working as hard as I did before, if not harder as we had our 12-month annual EU commission review coming up and I had to present my findings. That week my hubby was away at his annual meeting and I was working long hours and could barely sleep all at night all the time worrying about the upcoming meeting…
When my hubby returned I didn’t feel well (I won’t go into details) and my GP sent me to the hospital, where they didn’t really check me just took some bloods (no baby scan) and said that it was normal and sent me home saying that I was ok to return to work next day. Upon returning to work everything seemed fine in the morning, but by afternoon I knew something was horribly wrong… I got my hubby and took him outside to let him know that I thought I was losing our baby. I lost the baby half an hour later, right there in work. I was 14 weeks pregnant. We went to A&E where they confirmed that yes I lost my baby. I was supposed to go to present to Italy next day. My hubby made a call to my boss who sent me a message saying “Tell her not to take too long to get over it…” and “it happens all the time”.
I was back to work 3 days later. I did not know that I was allowed to take some time off work and my boss didn’t say anything to me. But after that bullying had started. Two weeks after miscarriage in a meeting my boss said “Sure they (my hubby and I) have nothing else to occupy them in the evening so they can write the papers instead”. Having just lost the baby two weeks prior, it brought me to tears to know that someone like him could be so insensitive.
After that the world started being quite a gloomy place. After couple of months, however, we decided to try and have another baby. I got pregnant very fast with my rainbow baby Alexei. We waited until I was 4 months preganant before telling anyone as we were afraid we would lose this baby as well. My boss upon finding out said only two words “So soon?” and also that he did not believe in congratualating anyone until baby was actually born. After that my life in workplace became hell. We were working 12-13 hour days, my boss started picking on everything we were doing. We were shouted at, berated, made feel guilty for going to maternity appointments. This continued throughout my pregancy and I could not wait to go to maternity.
Upon return from maternity the bullying continued. It got so bad that he made it obvious that he wanted me to quit voluntarily or take a part-time job. He also told me that I should ship my son to my in-laws to be raised by them and focus on being all the time in work. I did go to HR, but was told that because my hubby still had a year to go in his PhD I am better to leave it alone or it would make matters worse for him.
I decided to let it go… and instead finished the project and spent 2 months at home with my little rascal. After that I started another job, this time with a woman boss. I thought that may be as a woman she would be more understanding. Lets just say that it was a complete opposite. She was even worse than my first boss. At one point during my year there I got sick with scarlet fever (thank you Alexei for bringing it from creche), and I took 5 days off work. Well when I came back I was told that they do not care how sick I am, I am supposed to be at the bench, working. The boss woman absolutely hated the fact that I had a child (she couldn’t have kids herself).
Towards the end of the year I was putting in 15-16 hour days, didn’t see Alexei, and at one point understood that yet again I was being forced out. At that time we made a decision to take Alexei out of creche (to save money for that month) and my mother in law agreed to mind him. We found out that the creche was not feeding him and because of that he was too weak to fight chest infection and kept having a re-curring infection every two weeks.
Worried about Alexei’s health and after a particular nasty meeting I made a decision to quit. It was the best decision that I made. As I was already in talks with HR and they knew that my boss was in the wrong, I was given a month payment in lieau and I left that day.
I spent 9 months after that at home, taking a career break as well as a mental break, enjoying seeing Alexei grow up healthy and happy and enjoying learning new things while studying in 2 colleges.
I got another job after that in academia and it is complete opposite. The boss woman is lovely and very approachable. My maternity was great, she was very supportive and made sure that I was paid for maternity; but still sometimes old feelings come back. Whenever something happens like people around me being given more responsibility and I am not self-doubts start arising and thoughts such as “am I good enough?” or “is my boss happy with me?”.
I know now that I would never allow myself to be bullied again and feel strong and proud for quitting my job. However, the long-term effects are still there. The important thing is not to remain in a position like that and do what is best for you not for anyone else.
It feels good to finally being able to speak up about it even if it is through this blog.
I hope you re all having a great day today.