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Am I wrong to be offended?

by Nataly  |  6347 views  |  9 comments  |        Rate this now! 

Something happened at work today that really offended me. Not in a “turn your face all red and feel the blood boil” way but to a point where I felt like I could not just let it go.

I went to a meeting with five other people. We are all fairly senior in our jobs, work in the same industry, and have known each other, to varying degrees, for years. In other words, this is not a story about how I was mistaken for someone’s assistant until I explained that yes, even though I am a woman and wearing heels I do have the power to make decisions. (Perhaps more on that another time.) As everyone waited around for the meeting to begin the usual chit-chat ensued.

“So Brad, what’s the latest? Any interesting deals?”

“John, I heard you guys invested in XYZ company, how is that going?”

“So, Nataly – (that’s me!) – how is mommy life?”

Pause here for some devil’s advocate role-play.

The person who asked me this question is someone I’ve known since before I became a mom. He is a smart guy and I respect him. He has never previously made any comments that led me to believe that he did not respect me back. He is generally a likable guy. The last time we saw each other was a few months back and so it’s conceivable to believe that he was genuinely wondering how I was doing in my ongoing battle to balance work and my family.

Devil’s advocate out. I am back. And what I felt when he asked me this question was disrespect and offense. Why didn’t he ask me about my last deal or how business was going or even say, how my daughter was doing? He asked me how my mommy life was going. What the heck does that mean anyway? What is my mommy life? Aren’t I one person, living one life, which includes going to work and being a mom, wife, daughter, friends, and oh, a person?

You might be thinking I am overreacting. Or maybe you’re wondering what I said in return. (Regretfully, absolutely nothing worth repeating here.) But I was really offended. Not as much as when I brought my breast pump on a business trip and some of the people I was meeting asked why in the world I’d lug that thing around. But enough to make me wish I took that glass of water I was holding and let this guy’s face have a water bath.

About the Author

I am the co-founder of Work It, Mom!, a freshly minted entrepreneur, and an amateur writer.

Read more by Nataly

9 comments so far...

  • I am surprised I am the only oneto comment who wouldn't have been upset with this?!
    I get that question all the time at work especially from people who haven't seen me since I was pregnant. I imagine they feel that they are friendly enough to inquire on something that really is the most important thing in my life. I wonder if you would have felt this way if a working mother asked you the same question under the same circumstances? Just a thought?

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Patricia on 14th September 2010

  • Oh! That would've pissed me off too! I've found that once I became a mommy, men didn't know what to talk to me about anymore. My whole identity changed. To them, I was simply a mother. I can also relate to working with all men. I worked for the Governor doing criminal justice budgets in my first career. At a very young age, all of 22, I had a lot of responsibility and influence. Because my direct supervisor was a total slacker, even more so. That said, my male supervisor and I were meeting with the agency heads of the Organized Crime Task Force. The meeting had just started when a guy from the agency asked me to go get him some coffee!!! It still pisses me off to this day! Fortunately, I just looked over at my supervisor who I was friendly with and said "Ken, do we have coffee?"

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Shannon Hutton, M.Ed., M.P.A. on 13th October 2007

  • I think I would have responded with, "Great! And how's your sex-life?" ! JK, JK, JK! That is a sexual harassment suit in the making...You did not overreact...what a cad!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Lisa R.(dirtydiapersyndrome) on 8th August 2007

  • You were correct to feel offended but it may not have been intentional.

    Sensitivity training in order perhaps?

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by rocrebelgranny on 14th June 2007

  • I love the bitchy...I mean snappy...comeback response to this situation. Personally, I would have been pretty vicious with a smile and say something like "Probably on par with your wife's mommy life. How's that going for her?" Yeah, maybe too harsh, especially since you have known him for a while. The other idea I had was to take him aside at a later date and just casually mention how his comment made you feel. If he knows and respects you, I bet he will be horrified at his own behavior. I think mostly guys are conditioned to stereotype in this way but many don't really realize what they've said/done and the good guys are properly remorseful.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Aliza Sherman on 22nd April 2007

  • Sadly stuff like that happens a lot.... and unfortunately we tend to not get confrontational and just answer the question. At times I get similar remarks by men and I tend to just brush it off. When I complain to my friends, male friends, they usually make a joke out of it and tell me not to take things so seriously! There is this assumption that women are too sensitive and should develop thicker skin if they want to be in the business world. But what if we try to make similar remarks to our male counterparts? Will they brush it off and just move on?

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Victoria on 12th April 2007

  • I love the idea of a snappy comments area! (and you should write an article about that too!)

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Nataly on 12th April 2007

  • The "mommy life" phrasing is where I would take offense. Smacks of patting you on the head like a golden retriever, as if your brain drained out with the afterbirth. Miss Manners would probably have advised you to point out his gaffe with a "Pardon me?" (which would require him to repeat his stupid remark so he'd realize how obnoxious it was). I would prefer something snappier, such as, "My daughter's great, Jack. How's the Moron Life treating you?" and turned the conversation to your latest work achievement. (Maybe we need to start a "snappy comebacks" file on this site, just for these occasions?!)

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Jeannie MacDonald on 12th April 2007

  • Wow! I don't think you overreacted, and unfortunately this sounds all too typical for a man to say to the "little woman" in the boardroom. I have not had exactly the same experience, but close, and I can definitely relate.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Susan Ogilvy on 12th April 2007