The Unforgivable for Corporate America

In April, 1986 we married and at the same time moved from Kevin’s small house in Jenkintown, PA to a large Victorian home near by.  He wanted to stay close to his parents, his family and I respected it. I felt life had given me the blessing of adaptability and flexibility and no matter where the wave took me, I was going to survive and make friends and make a home, simply because I was willing to put myself out over and over again. Secretly though, I already had a home, inside of me, which I carried everywhere. Any external homes were additional, welcomed gifts, but never my only home, never my soul’s home. It would have been too dangerous to risk my internal home for an outside temporary palace which could have been destroyed, as other outside homes had been, along my life.

However, I fell in love with our new 100-year old Victorian house.  It had high ceilings and French doors, crystal chandeliers, a beautiful living-room, a dining room, and most importantly a two-story barn in the back of a large, sunken in back yard. Eleven rooms in total. Who would have ever thought I, born and raised in a small apartment in Bucharest, Romania would be so lucky to have such a life of luxury? Truly, everything was possible in America if one worked hard and had the right attitude. I was an example of those possibilities and the fact that the bonus I received for the year from the Investment Company I worked for, was sufficient as a down payment for our beautiful new house, was just a small example.

Soon after our wedding we moved in and for a while I felt I lived in a hotel. Kevin was used to large homes, but I never lived in such a big house and  now I was  the one in charge of cleaning it too, a minor detail I didn’t think about when I fell in love with the house. It was hard to manage my full-time work which took me traveling everywhere, my new marriage and the big house, but I didn’t complain, I felt privileged  to be offered all those opportunities. I was determined to work hard and prove myself worthy of such luck.

The first shock came when my husband told me the church next door was a Presbyterian Church his grandfather belonged to, years before. Apparently, he paid the Church’s mortgage in full, but the Presbyterian Session of the Church voted to re-mortgage again and the grandfather, who at the time, owned the whole block, got upset and left the church.  The second shock came when I looked on the sign in front of the church and read that it was a Romanian Orthodox Church now. Apparently the Presbyterians had sold to a Romanian Church!  In all things, what were the odds that I’d buy a house next to a Romanian Church?  Yet it happened and in many ways, I felt that was of good omen. I felt protected by God. I remembered across the street from my parents’ apartment, in Bucharest, Romania there was a small church where I spent a lot of time as a child. Of course not praying but playing around it, and occasionally going inside for the food given in the memory of loved ones who died.  Still, there was a theme, my ” outside homes” near by churches…

The third shock came when soon after we moved in our new home, I realized I was pregnant. We didn’t expect it to happen so fast. I had never been pregnant before and the easiness of becoming pregnant came as a surprise.  For many years I thought I could not have children, and here I was, at the age of 36, getting pregnant and not even trying hard at it. The bliss of future motherhood was to come with a series of  adjustments and consequent  disappointments.

The first, was my boss’ reaction when I told her I was pregnant. She didn’t congratulate me, but said: “Are you planning to come back after you deliver your baby? Of course, if I were pregnant, which I am glad I am not, I wouldn’t, but on the other hand, I wouldn’t starve, like other women.”

At the moment, I assured her I was planning to come back, since I was one of the women who couldn’t afford to stay home with their children. She didn’t quite believe me, and as we were moving from one office on a higher floor, she made me carry heavy boxes with files, up the steps, since the elevators were not working.  That was after she knew I had to complete a high glucose tolerance test, and not feeling well.  I had to bear the consequences of my foolish behavior, for wanting to be a mother.  She had to report the “change in my status” from one of the best producers in the office to a “married, pregnant woman”.  Henry, the boss who first interviewed me over the screwdriver, declared “next time” he will hire “men.”  The months of my pregnancy when I was still working, the insults both my direct boss and the man who hired me from the headquarters were unbearable, yet I had to bear! I was coming home crying and experienced many sleepless nights. I was planning to go back to work, but they were making it known to me, corporate America didn’t need pregnant women. I had made a choice, I had to bear the consequences.

I believe in today’s corporate world such “declarations” would never be made public.  It seems over the last twenty-five years our society made progress in the direction of accommodating working mothers, but then, in 1986 the two were still non compatible, and I were to be punished for chosing to get married and especially for choosing to have a child.

My due date was in February. The annual bonus was due in January, and although  my performance had been equally good and  I  still received a  bonus, it was much less than the year’s prior, when we bought the house using my bonus.  The Company wasn’t going to take any risks on a pregnant woman, after all,  I had already done the unforgivable, I was pregnant! There were no guarantees I would return after the birth of my baby no guarantee my performance was going to be equally good…they weren’t going to risk giving me a good bonus for work already done.

The punishments had already started,  and my not going back…a self fulfilling prophecy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s