Monday, February 29, 2016

Know Your Breastfeeding Rights!

Since its founding in 1994, San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition has received many complaints regarding breastfeeding rights violations. Recently it is reported that some teachers in Vista Unified School District have challenges to get adequate time to pump at work.

As a breastfeeding mother, your right to pump at work and nurse in public is protected here in California, USA. But you can’t exercise your rights if you don’t know what they are. Federal laws require any employer with 50 or more employees to provide employees with reasonable time and space for nursing. California laws require all the employers to do this.

Both Federal and California law protect a mother’s right to breastfeed in public. Furthermore, California is one of the states that not only has a law that protect a mother’s right to breastfeed in public, but also an enforcement provision to uphold this law.

Exercise your rights of pumping at work

Most employers are happy to provide the support that you need, as long as they know how important it is for you to have their support. If your company does not have a breastfeeding support program, it could be that nobody has ever asked for one. As a breastfeeding mother, it is important that you be the one who asks for it.

If the supervisor and colleagues don’t understand how important it is for you to breastfeed, explain to them that breastfeeding is the healthiest choice for you and your baby. You can even have an expert from SDCBC to talk to your employer. Contact the coalition and we are here to help.

Your supervisor may not know what you need to continue breastfeeding. Let them know your basic needs to express milk is simply a private location and some flexible breaks. If your supervisor tells you that the company has no space for a pumping area, you can look around, find space that you are willing to use, and make the proposal.

If your supervisor tells you that other colleagues would complain, you can invite lactation professionals to your company and have a seminar about the benefits of breastfeeding to mother and baby’s health so that your colleagues can learn.

Check out SDCBC’s working and breastfeeding resources for additional information.
Contact Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center if you need legal advice when breastfeeding rights violated at work.
File a complaint against hostile working environment at California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Exercise your rights of nursing in public

When someone asks you to cover up in a store or restaurant, stay calm and breathe deeply. If the person is an employee of the establishment, you may ask, “Are you refusing to serve me because I am breastfeeding?” or “Are you asking me to leave (or cover up) because I am breastfeeding?”

If the person respect your right, thank them and breastfeed on. If they tell you “yes,” document their response then inform them that under both Federal and California law, you have the right to breastfeed in any public or private place you are authorized to be, and the law does not require you to cover up.

If they insist on refusing to serve you, tell them your are disappointed with the way in which they handled this situation and that you will be filing a complaint. You can also send a letter to the business after the incident. 

Check out San Diego Nursing in Public Task Force for more information.
Contact Best for Babes if being bullied for nursing in public.
File a sex discrimination complaint under the Unruh Civil Rights Act.

This is an original post to San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition by To-wen Tseng. Photo credit to Mu-huan Chiang.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Motherhood Penalty

A Chinese publisher is hiring me to write a biography for a well-known Chinese American doctor and politician. They wanted 300,000 words by the end of this year. I made it clear that it’s not possible. Considering the long-term contracts I already have, my family situation and my daily schedule, the earliest time I can finish the big book will be next May.

They offered me a $3,000 bonus if I could finish the writing the book on their timeline. Wow, $3,000!
I told them, “I’ll think about it.”

That night for some reason my little one was unusually fussy and insisted to sleep with his mommy. I squeezed myself into his toddler bed and accompanied him. After two bed time stories he fell asleep peacefully. I lay there, staring at the ceiling.

Once again I strongly felt how children can slow a mother down on her career progress. If it was three years ago, before we had a kid, producing 300,000 words within ten months would not be a problem for me at all. I am not boasting it, but hey, they didn’t call me “kuài shǒu” (the fast writer) for nothing!
But now, with a little child, if I want to finish 300,000 words in a year, either I’ll be drained or my child will be ignored. 
Women certainly have a different work-life balance than men. Several years ago there was a white paper on the Position of Women in Science in Spain that concluded a man with children is four times more likely to become a full professor than a woman with children is.
The white paper emphasized that women who have children are discriminated against simply because they are mothers and not because their job performance is actually different. 
Based on my own experience, I believe that is true. I was harassed by my supervisor for pumping at work. Still, there is a lot we can do to fight back when facing discrimination. We can advocate for equal working rights, we can urge our law makers to pass bills that end discrimination against working mothers, we can file law suits against our discriminating employers. I, for one example, took my previous company to court and was happy about the result.

But we cannot fight nature. The nature rule is that women have to spend more time on their children. Mothers have greater childcare responsibilities than fathers. It’s the mother, not the father, that carries the baby for months, is in labor for hours and breastfeeds for months, or even years. And while some may hope for a different division of labor some day, these work-life realities do contribute to the reason why women who are mothers are on slower career tracks than men.

In this case, if I can’t earn that $3,000 bonus, that’s simply because I need to spend time on my child, not at all because I am discriminated against.

I tossed and turned all night long. It’s not that I want the $3,000, but I really want to speed up my career progression, which has been slow ever since I had my child. But do I want to be drained? More than that, do I want to ignore my child for one whole year? Weighing these things in the balance, that $3,000 didn’t seem so much.
In the morning my little one opened his eyes and saw his mommy was still laying by his side. He giggled and touched my face. I made up my mind. 
Working mothers probably will never have the perfect answer to work-life balance. It’s our paradox of choice. I just want to try to live more and regret less.

This has been an exclusive post for World Moms Blog by To-wen Tseng. Photo credit to Mu-huan Chiang.