Kristine Mary, now a supergrade in the Office of Personnel Management, had her first chile 2 1/2 years ago, when she was a budget examiner in the Office of Management and Budget. At nights she was finishing up her law degree at George Washington University.
"My baby was due the 17th of December. My last exam was on the 15th. I went to work, took off a little early, took my exam, went home,wondering why I felt so bad. Imimmediately, I went into labor. It blew everybody's mind that I could wrap up everything at work, wrap up everything at school and have my baby. That was of the all-time coup."
She had succeeded, beyond a question, in proving that she could do it all -- that she could work during her entire pregnancy in the high-pressure atmosphere of OMB and also finish law school.
Kristine Marcy's second child was due August 5 and again, she has worked throughout her pregnancy, this time as assistant director for human resources for veterans and labor programs. She has turned 32 and has been in demanding, supergrade jobs since her daughter was 8 months old. Her husband, Eric Marcy, is an assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia in the fraud division.
Kristine Marcy has noticed subtle but important changes in her working environment since her last pregnancy. People, she says, are a little more realistic about working mothers and pregnant women. Maybe a little more relaxed about it.And she says she doesn't feel she has to prove a point anymore.
"There's just a lot more familiarity with pregnant women in major jobs around government. It's not such a shock." Several years ago, she believes, women felt they had to be either mothers or professionals. "Now you can be both," she says. It's acceptable to show some emotion, it's acceptable to alter your job style. I think that's happening across the board, though, for men and for women."
She worked to the end of her first pregnancy to prove that it could be done. Had she felt sick, she says, she would have stayed home if necessary and found some other way of explaning her absence to the office. "Now, I would just say, look, I feel rotten and I'm staying home, even if it was obvious it was pregnancy related. I don't feel it's really a question of having to prove yoursele anymore . . . I've proved myself. Obviously, I can stay up all night [with a sick child] and still come into work. I don't think I carry that burden anymore."
She feels pregnancy and motherhood are accepted "in stride" by her coworkers. "I don't get probing questions or the advice I got the first time. I just couldn't walk down the hall without people saying it's a boy or it's a girl. I haven't gotten nearly the unsolicited comments.
"I was very conscious that all the men whe worked for me would go home and ask their wives what it's like, so they would know how to deal with me. I assumed that. I don't know that any of them did. I tried to keep my pregnancy secret as long as possible and have them find out I've been pregnant for four months and hadn't behaved any differently."
Mendenhall's baby was due in early August. "I now work from about 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Everybody at work has so afraid of being offensive, that they ignore it."
"I think the whole society has turned around a great deal, intensively, in the last five years," says Kristine Marcy, who sees changes in men's attitudes towards their jobs as well as women's.
Women no longer have to choose between marriage and a career, and men now are able to choose changes in their careers. "Or they can take a year off without prejudice," she says. "The whole quality of working life has changed dramatically. You see people who aren't willing to move out of a region of the country, who want to enjoy the environmental factors. You see people unwilling to say they won't have children because of corporate wishes. They're saying they want to do both . . . The corporations are probably recognizing that they've got an enriched employe, someone with greater dimensions, someone more fun-loving, a happier person. And in the long run you get a better payoff from that kind of employe."
"I think women felt they had to say it's the job above everything else, even though in their heart of hearts they felt that men were not forced to make that choice," says Marcy.
"The attractive thing today is you don't have to make those hard core choices," she says. "People are a lot more easy going on new mothers and new fathers."