BY EMMA SORENSEN
Whoever knew you could be made redundant while on maternity leave? Well, now I do. Because I was made redundant today, 11 months into my year of maternity leave.
It happened when I was at my local Woolworths with the baby in the pram. My mobile rang, while I was perusing the herbs and spices for saffron. I was going to make a vegetable tagine for dinner.
A few minutes into the chit chat about maternity leave pleasures (like shopping at Woolworths during daylight hours) she got to the point.
“I’ve got bad news and good news. We’ve sadly had some changes in the office. I’ve had to let several people go. I’m sorry to say I won’t be able to take you back from maternity leave”.
“Am I being made redundant?” I asked, picking up a tin of chickpeas.
This prompted a sad description of the loss of ad sale revenue and how bad she felt having to do the dirty work.
Casually mentioning my husband’s former career as an employment lawyer I switched into thrift mode, swapping the saffron for the “imitation saffron”, which on closer inspection turned out to be a powdered food colouring rather than an exotic spice. A $10 saving. I gave myself a pat on the back for thinking like an unemployed person.
I had an inkling the redundancy was coming because I’d received an email asking for an urgent catch up chat from a member of staff I’m not really given to catching up or chatting with. The round of redundancies a colleague had Facebooked about the week before was also a clue.
I added breast pads to the pile of shopping balanced on the pram and we finished our chat with the “good news”: she knew someone who might be looking for a part time writer and would pass on my details.
“Thank you, that’s kind,” I found myself saying.
I was to expect a letter from finance. She mentioned I might like to come into the office (it’d been a while) and say goodbye, and that it was probably late notice but they were having drinks that afternoon for the others who were departing. I said I’d see if I could make it.
I paid for the groceries, debriefed with the husband on the phone as I walked home, made the baby lunch and cooked the vegetable tagine with imitation saffron.
The strange thing is that being made redundant didn’t feel like I thought it might. It loosely followed the grieving process condensed into a few hours: calm disbelief, shock, anger, sadness, and self-questioning doubt. Sometimes more than one emotion at once. I felt like a bystander.
While the baby napped I added an “end date” to that job on my LinkedIn profile and read an article on surviving redundancy. Summary: Don’t get too depressed, keep looking for something else, think positive. Got it.
I indulged in a quick and quiet wallow in self-pity while I searched seek.com.au and found two part time jobs. One required me to write advertorials on household appliances; for the other I would need to speak Persian-Farsi or Punjabi. This was not promising.
Naturally my major worry became not having washed my hair that morning. It was greasy enough to stay in a ponytail without a hair tie. I woke the baby and arrived at the farewell drinks to find hardly any of my – now ex – colleagues even knew I was among the chosen few to have been made redundant. I had to break the news myself.