I had two kids at home, one of whom was just six months old and I was still breastfeeding. My job involved a commute of around 45 minutes each way but often it was more than an hour if the traffic was bad.
I was new to the company and I was trying to prove myself. I was determined to show that I could mix it up with my coworkers and that I was committed to my job but they were almost all men and very few of them had families. Nobody else seemed to care about getting home in time for dinner or to see their partners or kids or take their dogs to the park.
Paranoid that I would be seen as a slacker if I left on time, I developed a way to avoid the Walk Of Shame that so many women do when they leave the office before their co-workers to pick up their kids, take care of aging parents, go to the gym for their mental health or any of the other things that would fall into the “having a life” category.
Do you know the Walk Of Shame?
Where you get snide looks from your co-workers because you’re leaving before them, even though they know nothing about how hard you actually work. They’re probably just sitting there on Facebook!
So at this job, at lunchtime every day, I would take my handbag and my coat and put them in my car which was parked downstairs. I would hide my car keys under the seat and leave the car unlocked and then at 5:30, I would pick up my phone and a manilla folder full of random bits of paper and pretend to be having a conversation as I walked confidently to the lift as though I were on my way to a meeting in another part of the building.
Then I would slip into my car, duck down behind the steering wheel and whizz out of the carpark, praying that nobody saw me and branded me a ‘slacker’. It didn’t matter that I logged back on and did hours more work after I’d put the kids to bed. I knew I was being judged by the number of hours I was sitting on my desk which is bloody ridiculous.