Back in Iran, I had become used to colleagues and co-workers who considered themselves blessed for having no small children continuously pointing out the fact that they worked for much longer hours than us, the harried and hassled mothers of young infants who were basically pawing the ground and breaking chains to get out of the office at the earliest possible second we could.
I hadn’t become used to it in the sense that I was never comfortable with it, but I had learned to grit my teeth and bear it. In my paranoid two-babies-in-three-years state of mind, it seemed to me that colleagues were constantly pointing out to me that while they stayed in the office for all hours, well until midnight if need be, popping in at weekends for an extra session of shining the bosses shoes etc, I was always in a rush to get home and breastfeed my babies. Or change their diapers. Or give birth. Or just rest and relax. Or something.
And when I talked, in nervous secret with other mothers of young kids in my office (there weren’t that many of us, the prevalent culture of Iran still being that a new mother should give up her job and devote herself to the child), I knew that others felt the same.
Of course, we could never point out that our small-child-free colleagues did not devote the whole amount of the time they were physically present in the office to actual work- indeed, I would estimate that barely twenty percent of the non-working hours passed in an office would be spent on work-related activities. After all, we were working there too, we knew how much work there was to be done and how much had been done! Fast, free internet, a bubbling samovar offering limitless supply of tea, a quiet atmosphere, free phone lines, abundant free stationary- well, if that isn’t enough to tempt strong men out of the arms of loving wives (I knew newly-married men claiming to “slave away” at their “job” until 9:00 pm every night- you have to know an Iranian bureaucracy to realise what a joke that was), or lonely women out of empty apartments, then I don’t know what is.
Anyway, come Halifax, with its reputation as a slow provinicial town, where people make a point of not being as much in a rush as in Toronto, where they talk about “quality of life”.
And I still have to put up with colleagues (always peers, never superiors) nattering about “staying last night until eight- Oh I know its different for you as you have to get home to the children…”
Gah. Call me when you’ve won the Nobel Peace Prize for all the dedication and extra hours you’re putting in- until then, I refuse to be impressed.