Displacement

The pained and phony “Good morning, welcome back from vacation” and “Can you come see me in 15 minutes?”  The silent walk to the big boss’ office, blank notepad in hand to look official in case I need to take notes.  The surface small-talk about my allergies.  The way no one really looks into my eyes.   The 1 minute overview of how they are sure I’m aware of the Company’s plans this year to restructure, re-engineer, streamline.  The 10 cent, blue, impersonal folder with a neatly printed label bearing my name and job band level.

 

The quick spiel and the “I know this is a lot to digest, you can take a few minutes before we move on”, as tissues are handed my way.

 

Job displacement.  Job elimination.  Laid-off.   Thirty days notice.  “And here’s an entire packet on your options and your severance package, should you wish to make the decision to leave the Company”.  I officially join the ranks of the jobless.

 

The tears spring – because the other option was nervous laughter – and I make some silly comment about how I haven’t really cried in months and this is so good for me to release.   I’m partially shocked at the timing of it all, and partially pissed off that they would do this to an already-emotional pregnant woman.  Mostly I am glad the tears are flowing because, inside, I really just want to bust out in a huge-ass grin and double over in giggles and disbelief.  They hadn’t known I’d planned on giving my official notice shortly.  And now, with their grand scheme, I’d be getting a nice little severance package on top of it. “Paid to leave”, I think.   I like the idea.

 

My boss’s voice is incredibly steady, peaceful even…without a shred of emotion.  I don’t really hear a word she’s saying; I just notice her slow, rhythmic speech. It is almost hypnotic.  Suddenly, in the middle of all the bullshit flowing from her mouth, I have a flashback from my labor with Kaia and how the voices of my birth team – midwife and apprentices and husband – sounded similar.   Their words and tones lulled and calmed me and became my song.  Though I didn’t always focus on what they were saying, I felt safe just hearing the harmony of their voices in those moments.  

 

But my boss is definitely not my midwife and I’m most certainly not in labor.    Finally, they tell me I don’t have to make a decision anytime soon and that I am free to go home today to think and rest.

 

I collect my purse and my water, and cry most of the way out of the building.  I cry in my car as I call my husband and friend to spill the news.   I want to see my baby girl.  I want to be home.  I cannot figure out why I am so emotional.  I had been waiting anxiously to give my notice, planning for a year to quit work and stay at home with my girl.  Luckily, though finances would be tighter, we had found ways to make them work in our favor.  We felt comfortable with the decision.  But timing had been crazy, we’d been in the middle of trying to get a construction loan, and I had wanted to work just a bit longer so that my income could be verified.    

 

I felt an immense relief, a lifting of weight; I also felt that this decision could jeopardize our ability to close on a loan.  I felt angry that it hadn’t been ME making the decision.   I felt resentful that they could even consider doing this to a pregnant woman, though I could care less that it was me.  I just didn’t like the idea that it could have been another pregnant mama, perhaps in a very different situation than I.  What would she have done? How would she have coped – emotionally, financially?  I felt sad for the baby growing in this imagined woman’s belly, and I also think of mine.  After working for the company almost 10 years, I felt rejected and used.   I’d never been fired nor asked to leave a job. I felt instantly like a disappointment.  

 

I explained all of these emotions to my friends, many of which sympathized and said “I know what you mean: it’s like when you are going to break up with a guy but he does it first!  It’s not supposed to happen that way!”  Yes, the control was out of my hands now.   And in many ways, I was glad to give it up, sick of steering and pulling and trying to keep everything on track. Indeed, I was more than sick of trying to fit into the mold of Corporate America when all I really want to do is watch my grubby little perfect girl grow up, birth another baby into my hands, sit at home braless to blog and eat chocolate…and bear witness to other babies entering the world.

 

This all happened on Thursday.  On Monday, I give official notice that I’ll be accepting the severance package. For four weeks,  I will then sit around in the grey walled space of my cubicle and begin cleaning out the 10 years of history within the cabinets and drawers.   I have already begun to formulate goodbye letters in my mind, of course throwing in a little advertisement for my doula services.    And I envision the moment I walk out the doors forever.  I have dreamed of that moment for many years.  I seriously wish soundtrack music could play in the background as I sashay out into the Spring desert sun that day. 

 

All is well.  Jason and I have surrendered to the news and are excited about the future.  The universe is wise.  She swooped in to intervene, providing me with a little surprise ending to my years of work and drudgery in Corporate America.  I while it’s not a ton to write home about, I certainly don’t mind the little dollar signs attached to that ending either.

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9 thoughts on “Displacement

  1. Oh my goodness. How fortuitous for you ! Rick and I were just wondering on Friday whether you were still working. I have so much to tell you regarding sort of the same issue with me. I don’t want to write about it yet, but we should talk soon!

  2. Sorry you got laid off, that sucks. Nice that you got a severance package though, something you would not have if you’d given notice on your own. Talk about fate taking control! Wishing you the best with this pregnancy and enjoy this bit of time alone with your sweet girl before #2 arrives….

  3. I really felt your words about not being the one to choose and how having the choice, the option, your plans taken away makes it so hard. Of course the tears would fall. And, you are also free now. Free to follow the path you have been dreaming of for so long. It is a bittersweet transition, but I know you will soon be happy and able to sink into the end of this pregnancy with great peace and joy…nary a grey cubicle or ventilated room in site. Only your growing family and the wild desert wind.
    Love to you,
    Brooke

  4. Leigh,

    Did you know that your mom was one of the pioneers is establishing pregnant women’s employment rights?

    Way back in 1972 we were living in Chicago and I had just started my career with the airline. Your mom had given up her teaching job when we moved from Kentucky and taken a position as private secretary to a Vice President of General Telephone.

    We had just learned that she was pregnant with our first child, Billy. All excited and happy she told her boss about our wonderful expectation.

    Gruffly he responded “I am not going to have some big bellied pregnant woman bumping around my office.” “You can quit soon or I will fire you!”

    Your mom came home to me that evening in tears. You can imagine her broken heart and the damage to our struggling finances. Given no other choice, within a few weeks she quit to avoid the embarrassment of being fired.

    The EEOC was in it’s infancy in those days but your mom was aware of it’s purpose. Being the fighter that she has always been she soon filed a complaint with the EEOC. Many months passed and we heard nothing from them.

    I finally decided to write the senior Senator from Illinois and enlist his help. Much to our surprise within a couple of weeks his office wrote back. They advised us that they would be in contact with the EEOC and General Telephone and that the Senator would use the power of his office to help us.

    Within a couple of months the EEOC contacted your mom. General Telephone had agreed to back pay her for all of the income lost. Further Gen. telephone was forced to write a policy,in compliance with EEOC standards, which would prevent another woman from ever having to indure your mom’s experience. She may well have been able to regain her position also.

    By then however we had made plans to move to Missouri and fly out of the St. Louis base. So in March of 1974: your mom, me and baby Billy came to Missouri and began a search for land upon which we hoped to one day build our dream home,

    We used the money which your mom had been awarded to purchase the 9.2 wooded, acres upon which this house now stands. The rest is history.

    Although your situation is not exactly like your mom’s: you and millions of other women have been treated with greater dignity….thanks to women like your mom.

    Brave woman your mother: then and now. But you already knew that.

    Love you,

    Dad

  5. Leigh,
    No wonder you are so wonderful, look at the parents you come from! You mom sounds amazing and I can feel the love your dad has for his family. It comes through so clearly in his writing.
    Give me a call sometime. I want to talk to you about a part-time temp job that might be fun (if you even want to bother with it).
    Much love Sister 🙂

  6. Leigh,

    I totally get the anger and sadness about having the control taken away. The example of wanting to break up with a boyfriend and him doing it first was right on! I’m glad it was the direction you were headed in anyway, though, and brings you to the place you wanted to be, even if the journey was a little different than you imagined. Much peace to you, and enjoy this last bit of time with your beautiful daughter and growing baby.

  7. We are sisters now in both pregnancy and severance! The exact same thing happened to me – exactly. I was anxious to escape from a very toxic work environment when it all fell down like a deck of cards.. and literally weeks within my planned exit I was laid off and the envy of all my co-workers. The severance package, while not big by many standards (my salary wasn’t huge to begin with) became the down payment on our first house. What a gift!

    I reacted just as you did though, with mixed emotions.. indignance that they would mark me as disposable (that’s how it felt, anyway) but a case of the giggles and a real struggle to keep myself from jumping with joy in the meeting.

    I know you’ll look back on this and see it as a turning point, a catalyst for bigger and brighter things. Blessings are all around you, from your absolutely gorgeous family, caring hubby and clearly lovely parents.. and now a parting gift from the corporate world as you embark on your passions.

    So I’ll just say congratulations on this turning point! Now you can focus on your growing belly and growing possibilities alike.

  8. being laid off is hard. while i was in college, i was laid off from a crappy job and even then, i started crying because i felt like i was getting rejected – like it was something personal against me. i imagine it’s even harder to take when you’ve been with a company for 10 years and are pregnant.
    i’m glad that it is all working out for the best though and that you are getting ‘paid to leave.’

  9. Wow. That all seems surprising after 10 years. And I think it’s interesting that it was so upsetting even though you were planning to leave anyway. It totally is like someone that broke up with you first.

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