By Jordan Sapir
Jordan: So, Meesha, we didn’t get to catch up when we were in NY, but I just had to get the details of your new adventure. I was scrolling through Facebook–boom there you are, that familiar warm face and sympathetic smile. I knew from the moment I saw it that you were determined to make an impression. You had on your feminist hat. As I let my eyes drift down, I saw that you had a little baby girl on your lap. She was unquestionably your daughter. I didn’t know that you were a mom now. Wow, I thought, she probably doesn’t know that I am a mom too. A mother of 2 in fact.
The last time I saw you we were wild and free in Switzerland. I was pursuing you to shoot my Berlin Fashion Film Festival Submission Film in your art gallery. This place was way out of my league and of course I had no budget, so it had to be for free. We did the impossible and I even became a finalist.
It was a beautiful film. It featured female models , a female art director and art curator, the crew, the film crew consisted solely of men. We only had one day to shoot, so we shot into the early hours. Carefree and fabulous we were ready to take on the world. It didn’t matter what we had to do the next day. We’d push through it. We’d have a few Cuppa Joe’s and back to business. When I think of my former career and my expectations of my career now, I think, “How could it ever work now?” I couldn’t stay out all night long to work on a film, location scout or produce a show from dust to dawn. Yet, a man with a wife, who stayed at home could. How could I travel and spend endless nights away from my children? The answer is–I can’t. I had 2 options. One. To keep my career and stay single. Two. To have children and stay at home. Many women go through this transition. Majority feel they can’t have it all. Some are right. I’m different. I made a conscious decision to change my career path. I decided that I’m not passionate enough about my past career. I loved it, but I can live without it. I can’t without my children.
I am very fortunate to be in a situation that I am not obliged to spend endless hours away from my family. I’m fortunate to live in Germany, where, I receive a year paid maternity leave. My partner could receive an additional year and if I so chose to go back to work for a company, they would be required by law to keep my position. I have options. We all do, just…well–some have fewer.
There are mothers who work, mothers work from home, mothers who reinvent themselves and women who reintroduce themselves. Meesha Chang is the later. After becoming a mother, Meesha realized some of the injustices that arise for working moms. Modern day woman have been given 2 options, to go back to work or to stay at home. For corporations and companies those limited options are a fair bargain. For Meesha it is injustice. An artist like myself, Meesha thinks outside of the box. What she did next was groundbreaking. She brought her newborn baby to interviews. Not just interviews. Interviews with major corporations. As a young, knowledgeable and experienced woman, what do you think happened? I talked with Meesha to find out.
Jordan: Meesha, what gave you the idea to bring your baby to interviews?
Meesha: I live in NY and the cost of living here is one of the highest in the world. In addition to this I have always worked. Financial independence is important to me. I recently felt ready to go back to work, but I realized, I would only want to do so on my terms, which meant going back to work with my baby. I did not see that option so decided to start from the beginning. My fiance John redesigned my logo and added Lucia (Meesha’s baby girl) so she is on my resume now. I crafted a cover letter for companies explaining my mission, whilst trying to reassure them that just because I am a mom and applying to jobs with my baby, I would still be a serious and dedicated professional. Ultimately, babies at work should be welcomed in the workplace, because it helps expand the job market and help companies also find the best candidate for the job. This movement and shift is important for a fair working world. Babies are doing the most learning they will in their lifetime and I want to be a part of this. I think it should be an option for work places and we should have the systems in place to bring your baby to work. I really want to integrate my new job as a mom. Why not have the next step in my career path work with, rather than against, my new role and instincts? Motherhood changes you on every level and we should stop pretending it does not.. I feel parents gain new skills that are definitely transferable for the work force.
Jordan: Wow, how is that for taking initiative! I’d love to see the look on the face of the employee responsible for hiring.
What is the reaction of the interviewers?
Meesha: It has been mixed. I am always very grateful when I am granted an interview and it is a challenge every time to interview with Lucia. We have had in person, video and telephone so far together. I am aware that by Lucia being a part of the interview process I am making a statement already and it is an interesting moment to see how both sides react and could possibly work together. I feel most mindsets are just not open or ready to accept babies at work as being an asset rather than a liability.
Jordan: That was and is an incredibly true yet sad reality.
According to the International Labour Organization:
More than 120 countries around the world provide paid maternity leave and health benefits by law, including most industrialized nations except Australia, New Zealand and the United States, says a new report Maternity protection at work by the International Labour Office (ILO).
In the United States, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 provided a total of 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for the birth of a child and the care of the newborn. FMLA applies only to workers in companies with 50 or more workers.
12 weeks! Here’s what a child’s development is at 12 weeks. A baby who is 3 months-old is beginning to hold up his/her head, smile, coo and recognize faces. That said baby in the United States, with 2 working parents, would be in childcare. The mother, most likely still breastfeeding, getting very little sleep, with a mind that is responding to Postpartum hormones and changes. A 12 week old is without a doubt dependent on mom or dad for their well-being.
Being a new mother is full of uncertainties and stress. Not to mention, sleep deprivation.
Jordan: How did you find searching for a job as a new mother?
Meesha: It has been really challenging. I feel there is a lot of resistance and criticism and not a lot of support and most jobs I feel I would have to hide the fact I am a new mother to really stand a chance. I hope it gets easier in the future.
Jordan: What would you say is the most surprising realization about mothers in the workplace?
Meesha: A fellow mom was surprisingly not on our side and said she would not want a baby at her workplace. I was really shocked by her reaction. I know every mother and baby are very different; with different needs and of course not all work environments are safe or ideal, but overall I feel very strongly that we need better systems in place to support young families.
Jordan: What type of employers do you feel would be keen on hiring a working mom and her child?
Meesha: So many different kinds of jobs could be baby friendly. Not only remote work, but babies love learning and interacting with the real world. Babies help people to open up also and are excellent for team building!
Jordan: It sounds to me like the States is far behind other developing countries when it comes to Women’s Rights and equality.
Which improvements or modernization need to be made in the 2018 workforce for women?
Meesha: Europe is more advanced than the U.S.. I think we need to see more support for new parents. Many people have unpaid leave only. People have had to accept the U.S’s outdated and inflexible work policies, that force them to make anti-productive trade-offs between career and family. Businesses that fail to offer flexibility to working parents may wind up hurting their own productivity and experiencing increased absenteeism—a result that’s bad for the bottom line.
Jordan: It has yet to be seen how it affects our children. The US should think about crime rates, drug use and childhood developmental issues, in correlation to absence in the home, separation of children from their parent/s at early ages. Of course the detrimental impact on our girls; who potentially become victims of discrimination and sexism.
What lesson would you want your little girl to learn from this experience?
Meesha: Just because something does not yet exist, does not mean it can’t exist. You have to be the change you want to see. I want her to create her own bright future with her hands exactly as she wishes and dreams.
Meesha has experience in being an International Director, Insight Development, Strategy and Innovation, Business Development, Creative Services.
Any company who can not see the benefit of hiring a dynamic and innovative women, in my eyes is failing society, their workers and possibly their clients.
Meesha is an Über Mom and we applaud her for her bravery and courage to stand up for her beliefs and make change with actions.
“When your heart will forever be living outside of your body.” Meesha Chang