Sunday, July 12, 2009

Still-Working Girl

I am the second pregnant person in my department within the past year. The first, my good friend C, had her beautiful baby boy in early January. The only hitch? She wasn't actually due until late February. Her son was born six-and-a-half weeks premature but perfectly healthy. My office wasn't quite so fortunate - C was unexpectedly confined to bed-rest for a full six weeks before she was supposed to go out on maternity, leaving my bosses in a neurotic frenzy as they pictured work falling through the cracks, responsibilities neglected and deadlines kaput.

Although we ultimately functioned just fine in her unexpected absence, this traumatic experience is now burned onto the consciousness of the higher-ups. From the moment that I publicly announced my pregnancy and informed my superiors of the date that my maternity leave would begin, there have been innumerable doomsday comments, along the lines of "July 29th? If you make it that far..." or "Late July? Ha! That's what you think!" or, my favorite, a cocked head and a ominous "You're tired? Well, all that matters is that you're healthy."

As my pregnancy has progressed, my bosses seem to have employed two tactics in their interactions with me - either largely ignoring me or nervously eying the belly while cautiously asking "How ya feeling...?" Evidently my increasingly impressive bump, coupled with the Scarlet P on my forehead, has the power to scare the bejesus out of my fearless leaders, two balls-out 50-something professional women. Impressive, young one.

In the early months of my pregnancy, I repeatedly attempted to quell their fears with many annoyingly perky, hyper-positive affirmations extolling my general health and well-being. This evidently made no difference whatsoever, as their paranoia about losing me to early disability due to some ill-fated pregnancy woe won out and led them to bring in my maternity leave temp a full TWELVE WEEKS before my last day in the office. As I write this, she has now been working for us for almost ten weeks. Even better, I wasn't even informed when she was hired - one day my boss's assistant simply walked by with a random smiling woman and introduced her as my maternity leave replacement. Excellent. Just what one wants to hear in this economy - how easily replaceable they are!

That's not true, of course. I've been with the company long enough that I am confident in my necessity there, and I rest assured knowing that this girl will only be a fill-in for some of my duties, not a complete substitute. Upon her arrival I took to the task of training her with a fanatical zeal - if the muckity-mucks are foolish enough to hire someone so early, I'll certainly do my part and get the training over with. Over the course of the first two weeks or so we had covered a thorough overview of my general duties - coupled with the creation of a 16-page single-spaced document detailing everything I do, I was feeling pretty confident that I could leave my post in fairly capable hands.

Shortly thereafter, much to my annoyance I began getting emails from the bosses - "Is she trained? When is she going to start assuming your duties? We need this transition to start NOW." To assuage their fears, I responded with innumerable reassuring messages assuring them that she would indeed begin doing my job as soon as possible (!*$&@?!), but this harassment begged the question: what the hell was I supposed to do for the next TEN WEEKS if another person is doing my job?? The response from my immediate supervisor? "I guess just sit around and collect a paycheck."

Some might find this delightful - to me, it's depressing. Ten weeks of self-imposed laziness? Sitting around twiddling my thumbs? Did they just MEET me?

I've largely ignored this advice and continued doing my thing from day to day, mostly disregarding my temp. Early summer is a particularly slow time of year in my little niche of the TV industry, and I'll be damned if I'm giving up what work I do have for the time being. Thus, with two weeks left until my leave, I'm still trucking along doing my thing while Temp Girl sits there doing who-knows-what. In the past week or so I've finally begun to relinquish small tasks to her, and will continue to do so gradually in order to make my phase-out as painless as possible.

Fortunately the pestering of my bosses has dwindled, but not the paranoia - one of them scurried by the other day, casting a wary glance down to Bellyworld. I was suddenly tempted to leap to my feet (well, as much of a leap as an 8+ months pregnant person is capable of), yank my shirt up and thrust the belly at her, shouting "Is THIS what you're looking at? My FETUS-incubator?"

I decided against it, as such behavior would doubtlessly render me 1) fired and/or 2) committed to the nearest mental hospital, stat. After all, times are tough, and I have mouths to feed.

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