How having to choose between my career or having just 7 days maternity leave changed my life.
Deciding to become a mom was one of the biggest and most exciting decisions of my life.
For many years I thought I never wanted kids.
It honestly never even crossed my mind until I was in my early 30’s and met my husband. I guess it took meeting a man I could imagine having kids with to uncover my maternal instinct.
I had been living a very adventurous life up until that point. In fact my husband I met teaching sailing in Mexico.
It took a few more years to finally get to a place in our lives were we felt ready to bring a child into the world. We were also heading into the second half of our 30’s so it was now or never.
We were excited to find ourselves pregnant immediately. This excitement quickly turned to sadness when we learned this pregnancy wasn’t to be.
But we hopped back on the baby bus and with great joy we found ourselves expecting our beautiful daughter 6 months later.
During this time I was also at a stage of taking a next step in my career. I was not on the path to becoming one of the first women CEO’s of a Fortune 500 company like Marissa Mayer. Nevertheless it was going to take my career and income to a new level.
I interviewed for my then dream position.
It was right between the time of my first pregnancy and the second one that would result in my daughter. The job was a perfect fit. It would highlight my skills and talents and I was passionate about the work I would be doing.
I received the offer for the job. They were very excited to have me come onboard.
Then I discovered I was pregnant a week later.
I had yet to put in my notice at my then current job. I decided to test the waters on how family friendly my new potential employee would be.
I had high hopes they would be forward thinking on this issue. Given that some of their major work focused on scientific research of the mother child bond of chimpanzees and the trauma it created if they were separated.
I was so wrong.
The CEO of the organization kindly congratulated me on my pregnancy. She then told me – yes it was a woman – that they legally still had to offer me the job, but “fortunately” they did not have to offer me any maternity leave.
She then started doing some calculations. In 9 months, she happily informed me, I would have accumulated 7 days of leave, which I would be welcome to take for the birth of my baby.
If I took more time off than that for any reason I was told I would be fired.
At that time I allowed myself to feel many emotions.
I felt anger at the company for being so unsupportive of women who wanted to have both a career and a baby. I felt anger at believing I had to choose between doing work I loved and being the mom I wanted to be.
I also now realize I felt guilty and a sense of shame for being pregnant. That suddenly I was considered no longer valuable enough to be part of the company. That the skills and contributions I had shown I could bring to the company were somehow diminished now that I was going to become a mom.
Now as I said I am no Marissa Mayer. I wasn’t earning a 7-figure income or about to become CEO of a Fortune 500 company. I also have no idea what negotiations went on that lead her to taking just 2 weeks maternity leave. If there were in fact any or if that was her choice.
I momentarily considered still taking the position. It was something I had been working towards for a long time.
However I had a moment of clarity.
A voice inside my head told me that although this was going to be my first child and I had no idea what being a mom of a newborn would be like, leaving my 7 day old baby to go back to fulltime work would not be a healthy or happy situation for either of us.
It was also clear there would be no flexibility in my schedule or that I was going to be able to take my baby into work with me to a private nursery.
I love that the CEO of a Fortune 500 company has a nursery attached to her office. Who would ever have imagined that?
Now we just need the same support for other parents in the workplace.
So I stayed in the other position. I am so glad I did. Their support of me throughout my pregnancy was incredible. The 6-month maternity they voluntarily offered me, and the flexible schedule they allowed me upon my return enabled my experience of becoming a new mom truly a time of happiness and joy.
I truly felt they valued my role as both an employee and as a mom.
Although at the time I felt like I missed my big career break, as with many what seem like set backs in life, it lead me to a different path I never imagined.
This experience is what eventually triggered me to launch my own business. Something I would never have imagined before.
It was driven by the desire to have more flexibility to be with my daughter. Now this is combined with a passion to shift the paradigm of the workplace so it truly supports all women (and men) in being able to do work that they love, provide for their families and be the parents they want to be for their children.
So Marissa Mayer, even though I am not the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, who thought we would nearly have something in common.