Discrimination, work and studies, pre and post Covid-19

Artwork by author, 23.01.2020

Before Covid-19

Pre Covid-19, I was in the process of a leaving of a job. I had been discriminated against because I had a baby. My son was 18 months old by the time I chose to leave.

Before having my son, I had been informally asked to be a director of this company. Six weeks after the birth, I resumed some aspects of the work. Communication towards me changed. I was no longer included in conversations about the future of the company. Three people began to take over different parts of my job. This slowly and painfully dismantled my post while someone else fought her way into a vacant director position.

Emotionally, I felt under attack and lost all confidence. I have included a piece of artwork that I made during this time. It gives some insight into the impact of this experience on my mental health. When I challenged senior leadership about what was happening to me I was told, “What do you expect? You had a baby.”

In the same organisation, I witnessed how one colleague lost a quarter of her sessional hours when she took maternity leave. It was simply given away and she did not get those hours back. Another colleague attempted to secure maternity pay however we were all on rolling, sessional contracts and we were not paid any income when we took time off to have our babies. When we came together and raised this issue we were told, “This is life. It is how things are when you have a baby”. I reminded the Directors (both mothers) that their organisation did not have to be like this.

In my last month of work, I felt ridiculed in a business meeting where it was suggested I was “throwing a Paddy”. I found this racial slur offensive because I’m Irish and now see it as a saddening, sexist attempted to silence and erase my experience of discrimination.

Since Covid-19

As a self-employed contractor, I was quickly offered new and exciting jobs. They did not start because of Covid-19. I feel very grateful that I have been eligible for the government’s self-employed grant scheme. However, I have been penalised financially because my hours were reduced in 2018 when I had my baby.

This month, I tried to volunteer at a local community centre packing food parcels. The female manager looked horrified when I walked in with a buggy and I was sent away. As a mother I am isolated; unable to work, volunteer, socialise myself or child at clubs. At the same time, I am actively encouraged to socially distance from friends and family. I know other care givers are going through this too and I am very concerned that our communities will feel the damaging affects of this for years to come.

I have been able to continue and complete a postgraduate foundation course during this time. But unfortunately I am unable to take up the second year of the course because it is too much of a risk. My local nursery can only offer limited hours. It seems very unlikely they will survive a second wave and the economic impact of Covid-19. Also, I have to pay nursery fees because of my sons age so this must be added to the cost of the course, making it totally unaffordable.

With this situation now impacting my studies too, it feels like we have gone back in time 30 years. Some, (mostly female) people around me continue to suggest that:

“There is nothing you can do about it”

“It’s an existential issue. Part of being human. You need to choose between being a mother and having a career”


“You should be looking after your baby and not doing professional development”

“More training might be a bit much for you”

“Do you not realise how lucky you are? If I was in your position and could have a baby, I would be at home spending every second with that child”

Another person thought I had wasted the last 10 years studying and working in my specialist profession, stating, “Things will be never equal.”


Please don’t get me wrong. I feel incredibly privileged to have this time with my son. He is so much fun and I love spending my days with him. I have a very supportive partner and our son will always be the centre of our worlds. But when the time is right, it will be good for him to social outside of our family home and it will be ok for me to take on more work or studies.

However, this situation has left me wondering if society will allow me to continue my career and education? Is society scapegoating mothers, who as well as nurturing beautiful, young lives, also have hope filled aspirations for themselves? Are we threatening? Does it serve a wider social purpose to dump this crap on us? Something is wrong.

It has also highlighted to me the type of negative projections you receive from other women when you promote these issues. It’s left me wondering if their own experiences of mothering and being mothered have been so traumatic that they unconscious project their own feelings of distress and persecution onto other women? Oppressing them. Tripping them up. Stripping them of their self-esteem.

Whatever the reason, I hope our new normal creates an even playing field; otherwise we are going backward.


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