The Downers of Working Women

Now that I’m out of the full time workforce, my friends and I have often wondered how we ever found time to go to,the doctor when we worked at jobs 40-50 hrs./wk., still had children at home, and were expected to grocery shop, put healthy dinners on the table, help with homework, work out to keep in shape, then try for 5-7 hours’ sleep a night. Phew! How did we do it?

In reality, it was hard, if not unmanageable for most of us. I really don’t know how some of our parents from the 40’s suddenly recreated their lives by leaving the safety of their homes to work in factories while their husbands went to fight overseas. living double lives as housewife (unpaid job) to working outside the house as a paid typist in a typing pool. Take the movie ‘Mildred Pierce.” She had to leave the house and get a paying job. She may have seemed quite the bitch for how she behaved after doing so, but she accepted her fate, and became determined not to stay where she started.

Here’s the real truth from my working days. When your husband needs help paying bills, wives go to work. When the larder is empty, mothers take jobs. In today’s reality of women returning to work, we do so with grit and determination. In my case, my job HAD to have meaning so I worked in nonprofit education for a dozen years. Overall, though, none of my friends or I handled working jobs with great aplomb. We pretended all was “wonderful”, but there was always an incidence of something left behind, forgotten, or lost and never found. Usually that something was precious to us, but being a good mother and/or wife, we were willing to make the sacrifice.

When I worked at a private school, you were supposed to not get sick, or need to see a doctor, EVER. My boss set an example for me, not necessarily within reason. She claimed she had a high pain tolerance. She came to work with all sorts of ailments – a thrown out back, torn meniscus, kidney stones, vomiting, IBS, melanoma treatments where her upper derma was scrubbed off her under derma, and bronchitis. There were many times when her husband arrived to insist she go home. So of course, as her assistant, what did her high pain tolerance do for me? For 8 of my 13 years working with her, I went in sick, too. I had bronchitis which turned into pneumonia, a torn meniscus, migraines (work related), an ulcer, tooth abscesses, and a fractured elbow.

When my friend worked, she was boss of her own non-profit and tried to stay home to set an example for her employees. Unless, of course, there was a board meeting that day. Then, she’d turn her life upside down and prove she could work sick.

Sometimes my job made me sick. I’d check students in when they were late and we traded germ-I-fied pens and fresh coughs. But by the time my 10 year anniversary rolled around, I was immune to kid germs. After I’d been there nearly 13 years, and let go, I had to get used to,adult germs all over again. Who’d a thunk?

Today, In business, medical and some law offices, sick days don’t include doctor visits. A relative of mine is entitled to 5 sick days per year, but because she works under contract, she will never earn more. She recently got married, and was forced to take time off without pay. When I got married, I took two weeks off with pay for the honeymoon, and a week off before the wedding. I could accumulate time from year to year. Not many employers allow that excessiveness anymore.

In the work environment where my boss worked sick, I tried not to go to doctors, but being a diabetic, as soon as I started on insulin, my doctor visits increased to 4 times a year, two hours per visit. I went out of my way to schedule them at the end of the day, or at 7 in the morning. As for dental appointments? Every time I had a weekday holiday, I’d go to the dentist, just to accommodate my boss and earn brownie points.

Another friend suffered from migraines so bad she’d have to stay in bed in a room that was dark. She’d been to many doctors trying all sorts of snake oils, to no relief. Botox was her last resort and thank heavens it worked.

When my last job involved Satellite parking, I’d schedule my medical appointments for late afternoon so when the appointment was over, I went home. I’d had Satellite parking on a job before, but it was 10 miles from my doctor, and 4 miles from my car. I never went to the doctor the whole time I worked there. The shuttle was unpredictable, traffic to get to the parking lot a nightmare, and it was easier to pretend I was healthy.

Some employees really know how to work “the system” to their benefit. They know employee law better than how much gas they get to the gallon. They know they could combine their accrued vacation time to their parental leave time so as not to start their new baby in daycare until up to six months of age. Also at this workplace, it doesn’t matter if you had only owned your job for three months. Parental leave is a given. Some new employees select jobs based on perks versus salaries.

So many people I know suffer chronic maladies who have kept them hidden from their employer, so as not to make themselves seem vulnerable to lay offs or pink slips. I’m old school, over 60, so I remember a time when you couldn’t be fired for a chronic disease, or more than 5 absences a year, but these days in a depressed economy, companies can garner any ammo they want to use against you to empty your desk.

For those of you still engaged in 7-9 hour a day jobs, here’s some advice from one who’s led a life similar to yours. Take it tongue in cheek, but most important, take it:

Senior citizens don’t always jump out of bed in the morning and take the first medical appointment offered. Senior citizens like to sleep in, wake up and have a leisurely cuppa, and then take a slow drive to their doctor in a large medical practice for their annual exam. They make up for the majority of 11 am to 1 pm appointment times. Check out their hair. If it’s white or tinged blue, you know I’m telling the truth. Avoid any medical appointments offered you between those hours.
Take a sick day every now and then to preserve your sanity. Don’t do it on a school holiday! Stay home, and pretend you’re rich and sleep in, eat anything you want, be irresponsible.even if you don’t get paid, excluding yourself from action is a sane thing, not insane.
I never knew that insomnia is wisespresSd, and can be an excuse for a sick day. The only thing with me is that I suffered insomnia for 20+ years before being diagnosed.
But what a delight it is to shop in daylight hours! To roam down aisles, rather than grab and go. See new products in my hand, rather than on TV at night. Take my time on lipstick colors, get a pedi on a weekday, freeing the spa’s appointment book for people who need Saturday hours. To stay up late, and sleep in. To hit the gym midday, not in the dark of night.

Even though I no longer work a steady job, there are nights when I find myself at a convenience store, looking behind my back for zombies, or times when it’s too darn cold, rainy, or gloomy that I choose to stay home. This is one perk to retirement and growing old.


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