When should you fall pregnant from an HR perspective? A Dutch example

Mag ik je een vraag stellen? Can I ask you a question?”

…is something I constantly hear at the office. The Dutch are unaware that they always ask if they may ask a question before asking the relevant question. A slightly irritating habit if you ask a French lady, one who is not only bad-tempered, but also constantly being annoyed by how little sense this question makes. I’m just surprised that I’ve never heard any Dutch person snap back with a “Nope, too late, you just did. Next!” I suspect that they are simply unaware of this specific cultural linguistic flaw…. 

Anyways, another day at the office, another day of amazement at how some people are so unaware of themselves and so disillusioned that they have created their own reality, floating high above the real world. One of my favourite colleagues, Maria, came in to introduce her beautiful newborn bébé girl, Luna. All the ladies in the office immediately jumped on the bébé, while the men lurked in the back, smiling politely (and honestly not giving a kopeck for that strange looking being). Cuckoo, my blonde-hair blue-eyed colleague was also present. 

You know her. 

Every office has a Cuckoo 

Cuckoo has now been with the company for half a year, and she thinks that she is an incredible asset to the firm. She always boasts about her achievements.

The little issue is that they are nonexistent. 

I must admit she always has good reasons on why she has not done her work:“Oh, I have been told not to do it…” Fair enough.

“I was going to do it, but yesterday was the deadline so then I thought it was not necessary anymore. You can’t beat this logic! 

I am too clever to do that, c’mon! I give up.  

As one observes her professional consciousness, it is so tempting to lean over and whisper to her, “How do you keep a straight face as you take all of us for jestering illiterate hyenas? Are you a genius who is manipulating us? Or are you the one with such a horribly distorted worldview that we should feel sorry for you?” 

Anyways, when Maria and her seven last names arrived with her little miracle, it was Cuckoo who had to declare loudly: “ I want another child.” It struck me: she is going to show up with a bébé before her contract ends and then it will be arduously difficult to get rid of her. And then comes my most anti-feminist question of all: is it morally okay to accept a job and then get yourself pregnant straight away? 

Before I had fallen pregnant myself, my first instinct was to say: No.

When should you fall pregnant?

If you want to build your career in that company, you should not fall pregnant in your first year there, even if unplanned pregnancies do happen. Interestingly enough, women themselves are the most vocal and judgmental about this, as men are often afraid to be perceived as sexists and stay quiet most of the time. 

Some women are genuinely shocked by the thought of even procreating during the first year of a contract. It’s somewhat anti-sisterhood to fall pregnant just after being hired – there is a fear that this would make it harder for women of a certain age to change jobs, as their potential employers might be reluctant to take on the risk of her disappearing after a few months.

Here in the Netherlands 

In the Netherlands, it is the government who pays for maternity leave. So it is not a question of finances for the company, but more of a logistical one, a wonderful workforce-planning one: who wants to hire someone only to hire someone else to replace that someone a few months later? No one. And then like 75% of women in this country, she will want to go part-time. This goes against the very concept of productivity for Human Resources planning. 

Add yet another strike against against gender equality: only 26.8% of men work part-time in this country. 

These figures are brilliant: they perfectly represent the hypocrisy that we women need to face daily. The Dutch help us to prove that even if we are in a society that praises equality, the reality is very different. I think “A dank je wel to you Dutchies” is quite appropriate here.

Behind closed doors, we women are still the ones doing most of the house chores (2 hours more on average!) and the ones who are primarily taking care of that drooling little human being, who is currently pulling the cat’s tail while the other arm seems to be lost in a techno party. 

So why have we decided to work less to be paid even less?! We were already paid 14% less than men. When we then go on part-time, our salaries look like a patronizing gift wrapped in a kinder surprise when compared to those of men.

Do not get me wrong, I love working part-time! But if you look at the figures and what they imply, this is very uncomfortable. We are still living in a patriarchal society where the inequality of salaries inevitably reduces the freedom of women. 

As I put these sentences down, the reality is even more atrocious. If you are a woman of a certain level of education, living in certain parts of the world, you need to work around the timing of your partner – is he ready or not? – and of your own – are you ready or not? – as well as that of the company’s, or in other words  – is your career ready or not? 

There is no place or time for a spontaneous pregnancy. It slides in right next to your KPIs as a future target. You schedule it in your calendar, you download an application to know when you are fertile – but don’t forget to make sure the year seems to be free up ahead. Perhaps in June or May? But it definitely cannot be before April, right before the financial year ends. 

How dull. How complicated. 

So what can we do as women ? 

First thing is to not be fooled by what seems to be an egalitarian society. If you take a look at the OECD figures that I have used, then you realize the fraud or as they would say it the cheap korting (promotion) on the gender equality here in the Netherlands. 

The second moral of my long story is: fuck people planning, KPIs, Bonuses etc – conceive when it is good for YOU! Because (let’s face it) it is never really a good time.

And last but not least for (white) Pete’s sake, be a delusional cuckoo: you will work less, have higher confidence in yourself, and most importantly, you will do whatever you want because you are untouched by what people think of you. Because in your cuckoo mind you are above everyone.

In other words, being a cuckoo allows you to be as free as you can in this world. 

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