toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

November 12, 2012

post-natal breakdown at work!

Erin is 34 and chose to have a baby on her own -- a decision that raised some disapproval at her workplace -- and when she suffered a nervous breakdown after going straight back to full-time work a few weeks after giving birth her detractors seemed vindicated.

"I wanted to have it all -- a career and a baby -- but I just couldn’t cope," sighs Erin. "My son was very fretful, I worried about him all the time and I neglected all the personal survival signs until my body gave up on me and literally forced me to take better care of myself."

"My employer gave me a year's leave to get myself sorted out -- which gave me a wonderful opportunity to bond with my son," says Erin, "and when I resumed work I considered my options."

"I considered working flexible hours in a full time job, working part-time or just working for part of the year," says Erin, "and of all the options I discussed with my employer I chose to go the part-time work route."

"One problem of changing to part-time work," says Erin, "is that if you stay in the same place where you previously worked full-time, you will inevitably come across some jealous co-workers who will attempt to make life difficult for you."

"It may seem odd that anybody would be jealous of a single mom who's had a nervous breakdown and has been forced to give up high consumption in order to live simply, on less pay," explains Erin, "but I work with some hard-nosed women who think I was crazy to have a baby on my own to start off with."

"By giving my baby first priority the other women thought I was letting go of feminist and middle class values," explains Erin, "but the truth of the situation is that some of them were just plain jealous of me."

"They were jealous of my son, the year I had off work and my shorter working hours to the extent of actually discounting the importance of the work I did!"

"I really believe they felt lesser human beings in my presence because they neither had the courage to admit that their lives were stressed and miserable, nor the courage to make things happen for them like I did."

"Most of them are staving off their own nervous breakdowns by taking tranquilizers," says Erin. "It's the only way they can survive all the stress of juggling a full-time job and coping with a husband and family. What sort of life is that?"

To some extent, of course, their jealousy may be related to the fact that as a result of Erin working shorter hours, their workload has been increased to cover what she once did.

"This is a problem related to management, not the part-time worker," says Erin, "and I had a hard time getting the jealous co-workers to understand this very simple fact."

"I also pointed out to them that they have the same freedom as I did to choose to work shorter hours for less pay," says Erin.

"I wasn’t lucky, a person who somehow had shorter hours given to her on a plate," explains Erin. "I went through a nervous breakdown, a long period of thinking things out -- particularly what it meant to live on less income -- and I also had to negotiate with management for the right to have shorter hours."

"Straight talking didn't shut up some of my jealous co-workers," says Erin, "but I got over some of their antagonism by minimizing the benefits of part-time work."

"I stopped talking about the great book I read last night because I know that the last time these women had freedom to read a book was probably when they were last at school."

"I also stopped talking about the weekends I spent with my son in the country. The last time these women had freedom to leave the city and smell some fresh air was probably when they were last at school, too," laughs Erin.

Another method Erin considered for combating jealousy was to affect the appearance of poverty, even though part-time work often leaves single mothers better off financially in terms of tax benefits.

"If the jealousy gets any worse," laughs Erin, "I am prepared to wear my oldest clothes and shoes to work and lunch on bread and water in front of them. But of course I would eat my real lunch in private!"

"The phenomenon of jealous co-workers is something that's more likely to happen when you've previously worked full-time with the same people," says Erin, "but I've heard it also happens when you become a contract worker working for a specified period throughout the year."

"I know mothers who've gone the contract work route and have experienced the same hostility from the women they formerly worked full-time with."

"I guess by choosing a different way of life to just about everybody else, the status quo is upset," muses Erin. "By choosing to work part-time I suppose I broke some sort of work ethic, and while this may be frowned upon by some, it is looked upon with brazen envy by others."

"Interestingly," says Erin, "in the early days of millennium lay-off frenzy a lot of people who did not get laid off felt jealous of those who had. While some of the laid-off were improving their suntans and enjoying time off work, some employed people were trudging off to work with mixed emotions. On one hand they felt sorry for the laid-off, and yet on the other hand they felt jealous of them."

"When you make a deliberate choice to work shorter hours like I did," says Erin, "you may not be treated with the courtesy that's generally shown to the unemployed who can't find full-time work. Instead, you may be considered a renegade or a traitor inspiring envy and jealousy in some co-workers and inspiring denigration in others."

"I have a very supportive mom and my baby son is doing fine now," confides Erin. "I've gone off medication and I'm so glad I had my son when I did. Despite my breakdown, having him was the best decision I've ever made and the next best decision was electing to work part-time."

"I only have to put up with these jealous women on a part-time basis," laughs Erin. "But who would have thought that this sort of thing could happen just by changing to part-time work!"

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