It was the second time this week she had to strip off her clothes, and it was only 8am! She must be really under the weather…
Sarah had her children later in life. She was a proud mother of two great kids, an 8-year-old and a 6- year-old. She felt young, she was only 48 years old.
Her usual routine was the same as lots of working mothers. She’d get up with her husband, grab a coffee, then begin the routine of getting the kids out of bed, rustling up breakfast, and encouraging them to get ready and out to school. Some days were better than others. Some mornings they would bicker and wind each other up. They would change their minds about their favourite breakfast from one day to the next, but Sarah had become an old hand, and despite these spats, she had never let the morning routine affect her work.
She worked at a local company that was 20 minutes away from her daughter’s school, so once the kids had been dropped off (her son was at a different school), it was off to work. Her routine was timed to perfection, and despite the challenges of becoming a working mother, Sarah had never been late in the last 10 years.
Her job as an administrator was a vital one. She was so good at what she did that she almost blended into the background. Things just happened. Bills and staff were paid correctly and on time. Sarah was an excellent employee. She loved her job and knew that after she had her first child that she wanted to come back. She now worked 4 days per week and had plans to go back to full time at some point.
So as she stood there, dripping wet for the second time that week, she had no choice but to jump in the shower and get a change of clothes. Maybe she was just under the weather? It was a real struggle to get to work on time but she managed it. It was just as well there were no speed cameras en route!
Over the next couple of months this became a more regular thing. What was really off-putting was there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it; why she was so hot and sweaty? Sarah put it down to stress, as she had recently taken on more responsibility at work. That must be it, surely? Getting to work on time was becoming really stressful. Sarah was also not sleeping well. She was exhausted.
One day in Spring, Sarah was late. She knew there would be a meeting with her manager. They had worked together for a couple of years. The meeting seemed pointless and went something like this this;
“I know you were late this morning. If you’re late again, you might be in trouble as per our policy. Please make sure it doesn’t happen again!”
It was wasn’t Sarah’s intention to be late again. She’d never been late in 10 years and wasn’t planning on making this a habit. But it did happen again two weeks later. The kids had been acting up, she’d been putting on a load of laundry, and boom-the same thing happened again. She was dripping wet and left with no choice but to get showered and change her clothes again. The heat was unbearable. It seemed to come from within, and there was no escape.
Despite driving at breakneck speed, Sarah was late. The quality of the conversation was no better. No questions were asked about what had caused the lateness, and no encouragement was given to go to the doctors. No questions were asked about menopause and what might be happening?
After 10 years of exemplary service, why could Sarah’s manager not see this was out of character? This wasn’t explored. Sarah was in trouble. Sarah hadn’t been told about menopause and what she might expect, and neither had her manager.
Sadly, Sarah was late again and was put on a warning. She decided to leave her job as she didn’t feel supported. She later found out that what she was experiencing was peri menopause. She feels bitter that she didn’t know about menopause and that her employer wasn’t more supportive.
What would happen in your organisation right now if you had a Sarah working for you? How much talent might you be losing? How well equipped are your managers?
* Sarah is not her real name. However this is the story of a real working woman in the North East of England.
Raising awareness about the menopause among women, men, and employers is all about education and making it comfortable and acceptable for people to speak about it. Menopause is not a condition to be treated and cured, it’s a normal stage of life that every woman goes through. Helping people to realise this is my mission.
My training events are aimed at educating HR professionals, managers, and working women about the menopause in a fun, engaging, and informative way.