By Linda Kelly, MSW, RSW
We shouldn’t have to choose.
I can’t say this enough. To put off having personal lives and families out of fear that we’ll lose our jobs or our place in the workforce is shameful and demeaning. It is mind-boggling to see countless examples of people who have suffered for making that choice. In many ways, our society has not yet evolved beyond this division of priorities.
The Kelly Mental Health family is growing. And the evidence of this growth comes not only with the addition of new team members who have courageously taken the reins towards helping our community, but in the growth of families, relationships, and partnerships among our team.
I could tell that when Amanda, our Office Administrator, approached me a few months ago to very tentatively announce her pregnancy, she was worried. She worried about what we would do, how we would cope without her there, how I would react given that she’d only been there a few months, and she expressed perhaps even a sense of guilt about having to take time off.
I had to laugh, because she didn’t know.
She didn’t know that I lost my job when I was 9 months pregnant. That I had worked, diligently, up until the point of no return and then surrendered the on-call cell phone to the team who promised me that I would be able to get my regular hours once I returned.
A month after my son was born, given that my status as an independent contractor denied me access to Employment Insurance benefits, I let them know I was ready to return. Unfortunately, they had merged my team with another one, and the cell phone belonged to the new girl. I was facing the prospect of 7 hours a week, down from 40.
Being young, with a newborn son, I had no idea of my rights and instead of fighting, I pounded the pavement in search of a new job. I had a Master’s Degree and ended up working at a temp agency covering for receptionists on holidays for $11.00/hour while my son spent most of his time with family members. I was lucky enough to have them, since so many people don’t even have that support.
In all that time, I swore that for every moment of my son’s life, every first, every hug that I missed out on because he had to sleep at Grandma’s or had to be babysat for so long, I would make it up with the next child. I told myself repeatedly that it was okay because I’d have a second chance. I worked weekends, evenings, anything so that I could make damn sure that with the next one, I’d have the time to be present.
I swore I would make it up with the next child.
And it didn’t happen. The second one never came along.
And it broke my heart.
And ever since, life has just been that way. I haven’t had a chance to go back, start over, and prioritize my baby, my family, over work. As much as work has been rewarding and liberating, and how proud I am of what I have achieved, my desire for family and children has left me feeling incomplete, like I’m running a race with half a shoe.
I swore that when I built Kelly Mental Health, we would stand for something more.
We would be that place where employees would never have to choose between having a career and having a family. We would praise and applaud our people living their best lives. Whether that meant helping them set goals to see the world, or encouraging them to build new skills, helping them pursue higher education, supporting the growth of their families, and building them up for whatever choices they made that was best for them.
Sometimes that even meant supporting those for whom Kelly Mental Health wasn’t the right workplace, because there’s nothing wrong with that. People have to do what is right for them, ultimately. And I won’t stand in their way.
But I will stand up, and stand tall, for what is RIGHT.
So when our lovely Admin Assistant recently announced her own pregnancy, joining an already shocked Office Administrator (yes, we now have both Administrators expecting little ones!!), my reaction was this:
“You have our support. Whatever you need, let me know, and we’ll make it happen. And we will get the heaters in the front fixed. ASAP.” (There may have been some squealing from me too but not important…not important…)
No woman or man should EVER have to make a choice between family and career. As if the two are mutually exclusive. This is life, and we get one shot. You owe it to yourself to do what is right for you.
Kelly Mental Health will be one of the workplaces that sets the tone and creates the change in our society, because we’re in this for the long run.
We will stand for what is right, what is healthy, and what creates a good quality of life for everyone around us.
Check here periodically for updates from Kelly Mental Health staff.
Check out kellymagazine.ca for recent mental health articles and blog posts.
This blog is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide personal support as an alternative to psychotherapy services. Please note that replies are viewable by the public, and we may take a few days to respond. If you require immediate assistance, please call us during business hours.