Ladies, a piece of advice: When you’re considering a new job, and everyone promises you in the interview it’s a family-friendly work environment, be sure to ask, “Where do new moms breast-pump?”
Because if the answer is a dark supply closet, or in their car, or in the bathroom, I promise you this: It’s not a mom-friendly office.
I know this because I pumped in the bathroom at my last job, standing up, listening to my coworkers, well ... do the things you normally do in the bathroom. Fun times.
So when I saw a bunch of moms were sharing their horrible pumping stories on Twitter using the hashtag #IPumpedHere, I worked up the courage to share a photo of my experience. (The hashtag was started by the non-profit activist group Moms Rising, to bring attention to the fact that 60 percent of working moms don’t have enough break time or adequate accommodations for pumping.)
I had snapped the pic a year before thinking I would post a rant on social media about how I had to pump in the bathroom at my new job, but I chickened out. At the time, I was still proving my mettle. And I wasn’t sure how my friends would respond.
Seeing other moms bravely sharing their snaps gave me the backbone to finally post the photo on social media. I didn’t know it would resonate with so many moms—Scary Mommy, Romper, and the Huffington Post all ran my photo, along with others showing a depressing array of terrible places moms have pumped.
Like me, they pumped in bathrooms:
They pumped in cars ...
And they pumped in storage closets:
The sad part is I knew the law. I knew the Affordable Care Act required my employer to provide a private place to pump that’s NOT in a bathroom. But I also knew that such a spot simply didn’t exist at that office—or, at least, not one with an outlet that I needed for my electric pump. I’m ashamed to admit it was just easier to let it go, and pump in the bathroom. I planned to breastfeed for just a few more months, and I thought it was better to suck it up and ride it out since I was a newbie.
Here’s what I regret about that decision: When I quit that job (because it turned out to be just as bad as that pumping spot promised), I didn’t leave the office a better place for my fellow moms. While I was very clear in my exit interviews that the insane amount of work and the breakneck pace simply weren’t suitable for people with young kids—did I mention that I was gchatting with colleagues while I pumped, because we couldn’t be out of pocket for more than a few minutes at a time?—I didn’t bring up the terrible pumping accommodations. And I should have.
Because while employers aren’t legally required to give moms flexible hours or fewer assignments, if need be, they are legally required (if they have 50 or more employees) to provide a spot—and time—to pump. Those rights are important, but they are vulnerable and we shouldn’t take them for granted. It's already hard enough to pump.
Sure, standing up for your rights as a mom isn’t easy. I didn’t, but I wish I had. Because when we do, we make it easier for the women behind us to succeed as working mothers. At the end of the day, that may be a more lasting legacy than any projects we lead or profits we achieve.