In the fall of 2007 I went on maternity leave, and never returned to work. My salary would barely cover the cost of daycare, and I truly wanted to stay home and raise my kids. So I settled down for a long period of midnight feedings, diapers, potty-training, weekly moms groups, trips to the zoo, dance classes, soccer practices, and school drop-off/pick-up lines in yoga pants with a mom-bun. Ten years and three kids later, my youngest went to all-day kindergarten last fall. The glitz of endless daytime hours to clean, cook, go to the gym, read books, and watch TV wore off, though, and I longed to be valued as a productive member of society once again. So I began to look for a job. I never imagined I would be fired from my first job back in the saddle.
I was picky about the role I would accept. I wanted something within my college-trained and professional experience skill set, and part-time so I could still take kids to school, pick them up, and even volunteer in their classes. And I wanted to work from home. Yeah, right.
I submitted gazillions of applications, got a few interviews, but no offers that were right for me. I was beginning to give up hope, but I believed the right job would find me at the right time. In late October, one of my friends told me the small nonprofit she worked for had an opening in their remote staff for someone with my skill set. My heart leapt! I sent a cover letter and resume to the executive director, had a speedy phone interview, and within a week and a few small negotiations, the job was mine!
I loved the organization. They understood this was my first, real job after being out of the workforce for ten years and allowed me to start out slow with my hours. It felt great to be back at work, and I was thrilled to be the only one at this tiny company with my expertise, and to make decisions for my department. I grew to respect and admire my coworkers, building friendships with them outside of work. Everything was wonderful…until it wasn’t.
Communication was very poor. I couldn’t get everything they needed done for this position in only 20 hours a week. I offered my professional opinion and challenged “old ways” of doing things in favor of cost and time-saving ideas, modern processes, and better quality-control. Perhaps this made the executive team feel threatened? Devalued their authority? Rubbed their ego the wrong way? Whatever the reason, four months into the new job their attitude and tone with me completely changed. I became the scapegoat for everything that was wrong with the company, and the vent for every angry outburst and mean word my boss had.
My head swam with confusion and I felt like I was walking on eggshells all the time. I worried about being fired, and I wanted to quit. I imagined walking away and leaving them high and dry because no one else there could do what I did. But as I took a week of vacation to ponder it all, I knew I couldn’t do that. Not to my coworkers or to the customers who looked up to this organization. I determined to do what was right, despite the wrong done to me. Because that is who I am.
So I stayed. I was extra careful about everything I did, psychoanalyzing any possible criticism, worrying about what small thing would upset the management team next. I didn’t question anything anymore, I stroked egos, and I worked extra hours, doing my best to keep my head down and just do my job. But still, almost nothing I could do was right.
One Monday in July, my boss asked to speak with me. He chit-chatted like everything was normal for twenty minutes before he let me have it. “We want what is best for you and for this organization” he said. “Our personalities clash” and “There is simply not a good fit between what you need to thrive and how we operate, so we are letting you go, effective today.”
I felt like I had been hit with a ton of bricks. He outlined the terms, offered a measly, laughable severance, and asked if I had questions. I said nothing. Why bother? I got off the video call and walked into the other room to tell my husband. As I said the words out loud, “I was just fired” a wave of relief washed over me. I was FREE. Finally! No more would I have to endure the belittling, the defamation, the scorn. I was done being their can to kick when things went wrong, and I was free from the burden of leaving them in a lurch. Now, that was on them!
I may have been fired from my first job after ten years of raising children, but I know how I deserve to be treated, and this was not it. I know I have desirable skills to offer. I’m a hard worker, and I have integrity. And when I look for another job (I’m going to enjoy what’s left of summer with my kids!), I can rest knowing I’ve been a good example of how to respond to injustice and mistreatment!
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