Category Archives: Career

Rethinking What I Want Out of Life

I always thought there were two choices in life — work your ass off and live a comfortable life (not luxurious by any means, but have enough to afford a house and a basic middle class lifestyle without a totally crazy commute), or opt to work less and/or do something meaningful (i.e. create art or help others.) Accepting my new truth—that you can work your ass off and not be able to afford a comfortable lifestyle–has led to a major reality wakeup call and revisiting the age-old question: what dafuck do I want out of life?

Now that I have a child, I definitely see things differently. For starters, I’m sitting at a cafe this Sunday morning writing a blog post on my own. Pre kid, I could take all Sunday enjoying solo time. Now, every minute I spend on my own that isn’t at work feels like I’m missing the little time with my son that I have to be a mom and bond with him. This morning, I’ll be at this cafe for under 2 hours, but I question the use of every second of my “free” time. I’m also primarily here to catch up on work that I didn’t finish during the week, especially one deck for an important meeting tomorrow.

I know I can figure out how to be more productive at work, plan better in advance, and mostly avoid these weekend work sessions. I can’t, at least in my current career/job, get hours during the week to go to the park with my son, or teach him things, or enjoy those lazy afternoons and cuddles and naps together. I come home from work at 6-7 and am exhausted. I hate the mom I am then. I try to engage but don’t have the energy. I count the minutes until my son’s 9 o’clock bedtime, when I can slip away to my room and mindlessly browse the internet until I fall asleep, and then wake up to do it all over again.

The money right now at least feels like it’s worth it. I’m making more than I ever thought I would in a single year, at least if I figure out how to keep this job. It’s not forever–I have two more years of stock vesting and then I’m back to a pretty good but not amazing salary. And that’s fine too. But I don’t see this lifestyle being worth it for anything under what I’m making now. And, at some point, if I could actually make what I’m making now ($400k-$500k a year–crazy, I know, esp for someone who never made more than $190k previously) I’ll have saved enough and I won’t HAVE to work as much anymore. But I won’t sustain this level of income. Even if I keep this job, I’ll be back to $200k a year–which isn’t BAD–but it isn’t enough to get me to early retirement. My company definitely doesn’t value my services enough to give me a major stock refresh (I mean, they’re on the verge of letting me go, so I’m not surprised.) But this impacts how much I’ll make in the future, and makes me wonder what I will do after these two years are over (or sooner, if I get fired from this job, which I’m hoping I can avoid!)

The stock market crash this week hasn’t phased me much, but seeing $100k or so disappear from my networth kinda felt like, oh well, that money isn’t real anyway. Nothing is real. I live in a one bedroom apartment and cannot afford a house. Well, I can afford a house if I can continue making $500k a year for the next 30 years. Which won’t happen. I mean, if I was actually good at my job and could move up to a VP-level role in the next 5 years, it’s realistic I could make $500k a year for the next 30 years. But I don’t want to be a VP, even if I could. I see how much work (time) goes into being successful at that level and don’t think it will ever be worth it.

I can do this until I’m 38. And I’m all in on trying to keep this job for 22 more months. I want to do this by delivering my projects on time and making all stakeholders happy and not overcommitting to anything. I don’t think I can do this because my creativity is not consistent and I go through long phases where I get stuck, especially without being able to collaborate with others (i.e. I have to come up with three directions for a video script right now and figure out how to present these in a clear way and I feel kind of lost, despite having 3 general ideas.) I don’t know how to do my job and my whole coaching plan centers on being more confident in my work and upleveling how I communicate my ideas to everyone (which means do not ask other people to collaborate until you have something polished to show that you believe in.) I just want to sit in a room and brainstorm with a small group instead of solving these problems on my own. But it’s hard to group write and that doesn’t really work either.

Anyway, I’m not going to be a VP. That’s pretty much the short of it. The short short of it is I’m walking a fine line between failing miserably and keeping my job longer than the length of this coaching plan. I am still unclear if the coaching plan is a “protect the company to document everything wrong I am doing” and a plan to actually help me succeed and learn how to be a better team player. The stress of wondering which is true makes it even harder to do good work. I wonder–should I be looking for another job? Am I missing the memo here? Does my boss think she’s being kind giving me a 5 month coaching plan so I have a lot of time to find a new role while I finish up some key projects and the departure is a win win for everyone? If that’s the case, I wish she would tell me. But of course, she can’t tell me that. So I’m left to wonder. And stress. And distract myself more from getting my work done. It’s not good.

The best I can do right now is forget about the coaching plan (other than the actually helpful guidance on how to be a better employee documented in it) and just do my best to do my best. That’s the best I can do. I’ve already missed a deadline, though, because I freaked out about not knowing how to solve for feedback on a video and feel like I’m spinning my wheels with the editor on it vs being able to give clear direction and wrap the project up.

I’m just frustrated. Not with work, but with myself. With my role and career. Because there are moments where I feel like I’m in my element, that I’m delivering good work. That I’m offering something to the company with my unique viewpoint and skills and abilities. But mostly I just feel like a total cluster. And everyone else sees that. I don’t know how I can, in the next four months of this coaching plan (and beyond) change that. I have some ideas how to fix parts of this, but I’m already perceived as a mess and it’s next to impossible to redeem myself.

The easy answer is get a new job and start over. But, there are many reasons to stay at my current company. I like the company. I like our product. Did I mention I’m making $500k a year? My boss is actually a wonderful, inspiring woman who I am, as Insta-influencers would say, #blessed to have as my supervisor (despite that she is kinda over my #hotmess nature), I like my coworkers, I think I still have a lot to offer to the company, and I don’t want to leave. I’ve said I’m not leaving by choice (in my brain, every. morning) and I mean it. They have to ask me to leave. I don’t want them to ask me to leave. But I don’t want to start over.

Amidst all of this, I am getting a new boss. A new boss who is basically being hired to do my job since I failed. It may be a good thing if new boss can help me learn how to do the things I need to do in order to succeed in this role, and give me a framework for how I can lead better in the future when I do take on a new job outside of the organization. Maybe this is a great thing! However, it’s just going to be another layer of politics, and I can’t imagine someone coming in will be happy to have me on their team. Typically I get a new boss and they throw me under the bus immediately to buy them more time to fail (last company new boss fired me then left the company eight months later!)

Well, that’s life right now. I’m trying to just take it one day at a time. I feel better knowing I have ~$1M in stocks (though also knowing that could drop 20-30% next year is kind of scary.) I’m putting all my RSU vesting straight into my downpayment account and hoping housing prices come down in the next year as well, so we can get a good price at least. And, I’m going to try to keep my job, somehow.

Hold On for this Very Bumpy Ride

22 months. I hate to wish them to go by fast–because who the hell knows how long I have left on this crazy earth–but if I can survive at my current job for 22 months a world of life possibilities will open up. I won’t exactly have achieved financial independence (FIRE), but I’ll be close enough that I can take more risks in my career, take a step back as needed, and really focus on what types of companies I want to work for (and what I want to DO in life) and not so much on the money.

Yes, in two years, it is possible my husband and I will be approaching $2M in net worth. This seems ridiculous given just 15 years ago we had next to nothing. I am so grateful that this is possible, yet it has put me in the worst state of terror everyday fearing I will lose this job. 22 months might as well be 22 years right now. It feels that way. I don’t see how I can take my current tasks and succeed in them enough to achieve my targeted tenure. But maybe I can pull it off. I’ve lasted this long — haven’t I?

I’m trying. I’m REALLY trying. I know my boss sees that. But is it enough? And how can it be enough when I’m handed projects that are impossible at worst and next-to-impossible at best? My role is so all over the place, I have no idea what I do, which makes it hard to figure out how to get good at it. Well, it seems what I do is try to keep my job and to do that I need to make people like me by delivering quality work that effectively reflects what everyone else wants. My opinion doesn’t matter. I am nobody. I am the executor of everyone else’s ideas, great, or not so great. And I better not question them or complain or try to recommend something better. Nope. Just, shut up, heads down, GSD, pray I make it to my next vesting date.

That’s 8 more vesting periods, if you’re counting (who’s counting?) 8 isn’t a huge number. It feels more achievable than 22 months. It will soon be 7. Seven is close to six which is close to five which, if you ask my toddler, is somewhere near two. These are just weeks. Weeks that provide me a lifetime of security if I don’t go crazy and spend my earnings like a nouveau riche lotto winner. I can do this. I know it will feel so incredibly good at the end of this rainbow where I get to my fully vested pot of gold.

You know, it’s sad in a different way than my past career flubs. I actually like my boss. I want to help her succeed. I want to be a good employee (I mean I’ve always wanted to, but I haven’t always fully respected the people I work for.) I respect her a lot. She works her ass off. She deserves her success. She tries to be a good boss. Unfortunately, I’m not able to help her win. So instead of flat-out firing me, she’s bringing in someone to basically have my job title… and I’ll report into them. This is going to go splendidly, right?

With a new boss coming in next month, a handful of impossible projects, and a performance plan that will be passed on to him or her to introduce my work ethic and talent in the absolute best light ever, I’m kind of fucked–but I’m going to try to make it work. As I do. As my former colleague and I used to joke–I’m Katniss. I’ll survive. Somehow. At least until the sequel.

I Was Put on a PIP (Personal Improvement Plan) and I’m Going to Beat It.

I thought the job situation was improving. Sure, I struggled a bit to meet a few deadlines, but I was getting on top of all of my projects. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I’ve been let go from jobs numerous times, so my current pickle is not exactly surprising. Nonetheless, it’s pouring salt on a long-time festering wound that I’ve been trying to heel, and I’m equal parts upset about it and wanting to fix my problems and be a survivor at my company, at least for the next year.

Looking back on the last year–the year that was officially reviewed–it is easy to forget how in January of 2019 I had just come back from maternity leave and was still pumping 3x a day at work. I pushed out some of my maternity leave to take later in my son’s first year, so I actually was out 6 weeks in 2019 beyond my typical PTO. Nonetheless, none of this was mentioned in the review, in writing or otherwise. Instead, I got handed a “coaching plan” which is a nicely phrased version of a PIP which is a nicely phrased version of you’re going to be fired soon and we’re just covering our behinds.

Many of my friends have advised me that this is writing on the wall and there is no use to trying to address the issues in this plan… it’s far too late at this point to recover. I should be focused on finding a new job. Maybe they’re right. I could regret doubling down on my current role and trying to fix the issues noted in my PIP. So many are subjective, it’s hard to imagine that I’ll ever successfully “pass” it. But there are some changes organizationally happening on my team that might help (or hurt) and my gut tells me to give it my all, wait it out, and see what happens. I’ve accepted I’ll never get a promotion in my company, but I don’t need a promotion. I need to survive and collect the RSUs that are rightfully mine if I’m able to stay. It’s that simple. Just. Don’t. Get. Fired.

My boss SEEMS to want to help me, but I’ve learned long ago to trust no one. I mean, I trust that she’s going to do what is best for the company and her career. If I’m not what’s best for the company or her career, I’m out. The big question is–am I already out in her mind, or can I come back from the dead like one great big corporate zombie that everyone loves?

The whole thing makes me feel ill. It’s hard to sleep and concentrate, so that makes it extra challenging to recover from my issues in the office. I’ve reviewed my PIP multiple times and have come to the conclusion that the issue isn’t my missing deadlines or failing to collaborate effectively with others–it’s that I can’t actually do my job. It’s not the type of job one gets training in–you’re either good at it, or you’re not. And I’m, well, I’m good enough to get by in it if its not my primary responsibility, but it’s pretty clear I’m struggling with the fundamental requirements of the role.

BUT. But. I’m also thriving with parts of the role–I don’t want to toot my own horn (because it’s rusty and busted anyway) but I can’t think of anyone else who would be successful in this role. It’s not because any of my individual tasks/projects are so difficult that no one could do them… it’s that my job is so allllll over the place that it would be hard to find one person who can do all of these projects even remotely effectively. I wear many hats, which seems to work in my favor, until it doesn’t. The hats go flying and no one cares enough to catch them.

I’m in such an emotional roller coaster right now I’m trying my darnedest to hold it together. I need to. For my family. For our future. For my self worth. And because I really want to know–am I failing at this role because I’m not good at it OR is there something else going on. Can I be successful at it? I have some pretty specific marching orders. Even if “success” in these areas is as subjective as whether that dress is blue or gold, I can at least focus on trying to do what the plan says. I can meet deadlines by better project managing and getting people involved in these projects my earlier on. I’ve learned that I need to see myself as a project manager versus creative. I am not the expert here. I am the consolidator of expertise. This kind of goes against the next bullet in the PIP which is have a strong viewpoint about my work and believe in it–but I can do that without it being my viewpoint. Turning in quality work will be challenging because I always make stupid mistakes (I miss the details, thank you ADHD, and sometimes miss stupid things like when I used the word tantamount and meant paramount and the VP caught it and did I mention I’m an idiot?) Other than that, I just need to pay attention in meetings. Ok, I can do that.

Everything above seems simple. If I just show up at work early, leave late, make sure that I’m project managing vs creating then, well, maybe people will stop hating me so much? I don’t know if it’s possible as whenever I turn something in everyone has SO MUCH FEEDBACK on it and wants to change what I’ve written. I don’t disagree with their feedback, I just wonder why I can’t think of these things myself so I can deliver something they would actually like. That’s my real goal and I don’t think I can achieve that… which is why I know I’m long for this career in general. But if I can hold my breath and hang on for dear life for the next 2 years, it will be an incredibly bumpy ride, but also incredibly worth it. I hope I can.

Serious Career Transition. It’s Time. Almost Time.

I had a heart-to-heart with myself this week. Self: it’s not them, it’s you. You hate your career. You hate your career because for the past 15 years your job has been to promote what someone else has built, instead of building it yourself. Plus, you suck at promoting. You like to come up with ideas and build them or manage the building of them (more managing the building of them.)

I want to wake up most every morning and be excited about MAKING each day. I want to work alongside people who are builders. I get along with these people better. Generalization, but I’ve found I enjoy spending time with engineers. Why? I like logic. People on the business side of the house are not so logical, even if they think they are. Business side is all about making the impossible possible. That drains you. You are under resourced and expected to deliver nonetheless. There is no “finished.” Not that there is “finished” in most tech these days given everything is software with constant upgrades and bugs and whatever, but a least you can put something out that people use and probably feel some sense of completion and that you built something or were part of building something.

You know what’s not rewarding? Taking a product that someone else built and then making people feel something about your brand so they buy your product. I want to make the product. I want to fix the product. I want to make the product great. Period.

If I get fired, I’m going to dig into my savings and go to some sort of coding bootcamp and try it out. If I don’t get fired, then I have a little more time to learn something. I have no fucking patience so I’ve never managed to teach myself how to code beyond HTML. I think maybe if I start drinking a shit ton of coffee a day that will act as over-the-counter Adderall and I can learn something. I want to build a more accurate rent-vs-buy calculator than others online (although I’ve seen a few good ones but it’s not super easy to adjust all the variables) so that’s project #1 I think. An idea. But maybe I’ll do it. One never knows with me.

The Job Downward Spiral: There’s a Physics to my Employment

Either I’ve done a better job overall this time around or things just move slower in public companies. I think it’s a mix of both. But now a year-and-a-half in and it’s clear I’m past the phase of newcomers victories and excitement and well into the phase of “I suck at this.”

I’ve been assigned a few larger projects to manage and after failing at one or two my boss was really hoping I could pull off the latest and greatest, but nope, I fell right on my face. Looking back I see a few areas where I could have improved, but overall I just feel lost. I don’t know how to help drive collaboration when I’m unsure what the expectations are. I did uncover these expectations along the way (and feel I could do a much better job managing a project like this next time) but the problem is I seem to keep missing the obvious and not getting what I’m supposed to be doing… which at my level, as my boss points out, is not acceptable. She used nicer words, but that’s what she meant.

The good(?) news is that I’ve been assigned a slew of projects that I HAVE been successful at. Unfortunately, these projects are one-off “do not make any sense on a future resume” type of projects. Maybe it’s time I stop caring so much about said future resume and just try to do what I do best–which is run with the punches and take on creative projects that no one else would have the foggiest how to manage versus trying to become a manager of cut-and-dry processes and failing time and again.

At 35, it’s no longer cute to fail or figure shit out. I should have it figured out by now and it’s clear I don’t. I’m scared because without resume-building projects I have no where to go after this. It’s hard to have that conversation with your boss because you aren’t supposed to be thinking about “after this.” And it’s less about moving up at this point and more about maintaining some semblance of a living wage once this job is no more. Maybe I’ll stay in this role until I retire with inflation-based raises, but that’s unlikely. I know my boss sees that I can do SOME things well (otherwise I’d be OUT already) but is that enough? I don’t want to be the easy to cut person in the organization and without adding clear value I’ll be cut sooner or later.

I just wish the last project didn’t end up the mess it was. I really don’t know how I could have done it all better. I still am not sure I could really do it better if I started over, which is the scary part. I don’t know how to get teams inspired to do great work, or to collaborate. Everyone seems to think I go off and come up with ideas on my own and decide everything without consulting others, but I keep asking everyone else what they want and I’m not getting any answers. I guess I’m not asking them in the right way. Or… they just hate me and don’t want to collaborate. I don’t know. My one co-lead on the project was super nice, but he also ended up driving things down a path that made it all more complicated and took away my control–which, funny enough, is what my boss wanted me to have… control to make the project great, but then also be collaborative and get everyone else’s input, but to lead. At the end of the day, I’m a shitty leader. But I’m not going to stay in a senior-level role without BEING a leader in my field. Independent contributor is not worth much and I’m way overpaid to be one right now. Good problem to have? I guess. It makes me feel like crap every day. I can’t even look my colleagues in the eye anymore.

I’ve set 7 time-based goals for myself to stay in the company and just try to survive. And by survive I mean do great work that keeps me employed, but also do not try to move up or gain resume-building experience… just do whatever my boss(es) want me to do and stop trying to do the things that would help me move up but do not come naturally to me. That’s 7 dates across 33 months that I need to survive and then, as long as there isn’t a major recession, I’ll have some sort of flexibility to figure out my next steps… I mean, not a ton of flexibility because if I have a mortgage and another kid, flexibility is out the window unless my husband is willing to move to a lower cost of living area and he isn’t.

It is just all so suffocating… I’m so fortunate for all I have and I know I’m in a much better spot than many others in this country, but I just can’t breathe. I don’t want to get caught in this self pity crap but I also don’t know how to be better. Once I start thinking this way it’s hard to focus and be productive. Every little thing I do I self doubt so much that I slow down my output and my output gets worse and worse until I inevitably get let go. Fired. Whatever. That’s what I do. It’s not funny. It’s not poetic. It’s just my life.

But with a toddler and wanting another child, it CAN’T be my life. I’m really fucking scared right now. I don’t know if I’ll ever see the day I have a. job where I’m not worried about getting fired. This is the best situation yet as the head of the department likes my work and has given me the opportunity to do projects seen by our senior leadership team, but that still doesn’t make me professionally immortal. And I know even if I can hold on for dear life these next 33 months, there’s still after that… if my resume has nothing on it other than weird projects that make no sense at another company, or would be comparable to what a much more junior person would do with a much lower salary, I don’t know what I’ll do —

I was talking to my husband and we agreed that our mortgage should be no more than $5000 with his father adding another $2000  in rent (basically $2500 for each of us per month plus $2000 for his father.) My husband really wants his mother to go in with us on the property but I’d prefer to buy separately and just have his father rent from us (his parents aren’t married, it’s complicated, but I am comfortable living with his dad if he is renting from us and it’s clean cut like that.) So we can put down $300k on a $1.5M property which is about $7k a month. That might be doable even if I lose my job, but it will be hard to maintain 30 years of a career that can support $2500 a month. And it’s going to be very hard if not impossible to find a place that costs $1.5M that has a good place for his father to live.

Ugh. When will my life not be a mess?

How many kids do you want? Two… and an accident.

EVERYONE seems to think it’s completely ok to ask a new mom of a 9 month old the question “so, how many do you want?” My favorite is when colleagues ask me this out. loud in a public area where my boss can hear… of course I’m going to respond “I want 8 kids in the next 2 years” so she can flip out.

I don’t actually want 8 in the next two years – but I do want at least one more and I’ve always wanted to have 3 kids, even though rational brain says NO YOU DON’T. So, my answer when friends ask me – how many kids do you want – is “two. And an accident.” My answer to colleagues is… “I’m not sure. Maybe I’m done.”

But my heart says I’m definitely not done. Even though being a mom is the hardest thing I’ve ever done (especially being a working mom), I absolutely love it. I no longer am searching for this greater purpose in life — I’ve found it in my son. I love being a mom. I don’t see how I can afford 3 kids but f it, who can? I can afford 3 kids better than most people with 3 kids…

Since I’ll be 36 in November, I don’t have a ton of time to have two more kids. It’s possible it’s already too late. At the same time, I have 2.5 more months of vesting my stock at my company, and while I am focused on doing my absolute best at work, it would be safer to be pregnant during some of this time. They COULD still fire me, but it’s less likely as long as I’m doing my work and the company is doing ok if they know I’m pregnant (**there are no legal protections for a woman who is pregnant outside of not being able to get fired because you are pregnant.) However, in order to get fired while you are pregnant you need to be doing a bad job, versus be doing an ok job but not an amazing job.

I won’t suddenly stop working as hard once I notify work that I’m pregnant (I didn’t last time either) – it will just be a bit of a relief knowing that for a year (9+3 months) they’re slightly less likely to fire me in that time. So I have about 30 months left of survival here… 15 months “pure survival” (12 months until May, get pregnant, 3 months until notifying company – or maybe I’d tell them early?) then 12 months of slightly more security, which gets me to 27, then I just need to make it 6 more months until… some form of freedom. It’s not that long to make this all happen… so if I play my cards right, I can, in the next 2.5 years, have one more child, and hit $1.5M in net worth (which then opens me up to IVF for my final child at 39/40 and my husband would be a lot more open to having a third if I have $1.5M accumulated in the bank/stock market.)

I know I am a bit crazy about my planning but it seems to work decently to have goals and to go for them. After hitting this goal, I want to loosen up a bit. That $1.5M will be a huge milestone, as will having $1M before giving birth to #2. I think it’s very doable as long as I keep this job. That on its own is the single biggest challenge I have. I’m doing better than in past roles, but not perfectly at all. My MO has been staying up all night to get a lot of stuff done always and that doesn’t work anymore being a mom, so I need to figure out new ways to be productive during daytime hours. I already am in a bit of a low this year after a few communication fuck ups so I’m digging myself out one day at a time. I know I have a lot of room for improvement and I’m just hoping that my team sees I’m not only making an effort but actually being ON in hitting all my deliverables and communicating the right amount with clarity and purpose.

Now, in reality – do I think I will last at this company 2.5 more years? Probably not. Being as there’s already a bit of a record on my poor communication skills and missing a few deadlines, as soon as someone better comes along they can get rid of me. It’s just hard to find a replacement for me because I do all the crazy projects that don’t really fit a set job description… you could hire 3 different people to take over for the work I do, because the work I do requires 3 different skillsets, at least. Do I do all of these “jobs” perfectly? No. But when. you can’t hire 3 people, sometimes you settle for one person who tries her best and gets it all done. As I’ve learned as a manager and in my years in business, sometimes it’s better to keep on people who are loyal and who won’t be leaving any time soon by choice, versus hiring someone who constantly has one foot out the door. I’m sure my boss sees me as a bit of a necessary evil–which is NOT what I want to be, but it is better job security than I’ve had in a while. My goal is to, in the next year, really make sure the whole team appreciates my contributions. I think I have a path to get there but there’s a long road ahead. So I have one year in which to really kick ass (as much as someone with such horrible human skills as myself can kick) and then head into my second pregnancy as a worker that’s valued in the organization–not on a PIP or worse.

It could definitely go either way. I just need to get my act together… which is so so so hard on this little sleep. But… I can look at the next 12 months–the next 4 quarters–and within those 4 quarters figure out how I can make sure in each quarter I’ve delivered a few major high-value projects, and also didn’t totally fuck up any internal communication. If I can become the best project manager in the company that would be amazing but let’s be real – that’s not going to happen. I can, however, start setting realistic deadlines, and do my best to get everyone’s feedback on time on projects so we can hit them.

I’m definitely worried this is all going to go downhill fast, but keeping this “12 months of greatest” in my head feels more achievable than the 2.5 years of survival. I have no idea what I’ll do after those 2.5 years, but the more money I can save, the more doors that will open–whether that’s freelancing part time and staying home with my kids, getting a job at a startup that’s really helping the world somehow, or – who knows. There are a zillion things I could do… I just need the money to feel stable enough to take that leap. I’m so fortunate to be in the place right now where I have a winning lottery ticket in my pocket and all I need to do is just KEEP MY JOB.

For someone who has been fired 8 times in her career, though, that’s easier said than done.

 

Why I’m So Stressed Out About Maternity Leave

Three months ago, I met with the director of benefits at my company who, after congratulating me on my pregnancy (then just starting my second trimester), told me point blank that I was not eligible to take more than 6 weeks off immediately following the birth of my child (paid or unpaid.)

Due to the way the California policy works, I would be eligible to take 12 more weeks off (6 of them semi paid, 6 unpaid) once I hit my “year” mark at work, but given I’d only be at 9 months when I would give birth, I was basically SOL.

I did ask if I could use any vacation time to make the leave longer (since we have “unlimited vacation time”) and was told no. I asked if I could take an unpaid leave and was told that I would be let go if I did not return to work at the start of week 7. It basically seemed like I had no choice, so I just accepted it, three months into my new job, grateful to have any protection and moved on.

But now that baby is just around the corner and I’ve been talking to more moms, I’m terrified of going back to work at 7 weeks post birth. Like, I will be nursing every two hours through the night and I just don’t know how I will be able to do this. Even if I do make it to the office I’ll be a zombie and useless. I’ll certainly perform poorly leading to getting let go anyway. I mean, I’m not sure I’ll suddenly be on my A game again after 10 or 12 weeks post birth, but it sounds like at that point baby might be sleeping a little bit more through the night, and hopefully so will I.

So now I’ve contacted the head of HR and I am worried I’m just making things worse for myself right now. But I talked to my (newish) boss who basically told me she wants me to take all the time up front and I tried to explain to her I can’t. Maybe if she talks to HR I can, but really they’d have to work something out as it seems like I can’t do this on my own. I’m already so terrified about pissing my boss off–I am not the type of person bosses like to begin with, so I’m just really trying to keep my head down and get my work done… but now I feel like I’m just a walking target the next time they’re looking to downsize or just get rid of that one person who doesn’t fit on the team.

And it sucks because I don’t even want to take that much time off… I feel like I’m doing ok now… not great, but ok… ok enough to maybe every day not feel like I’m about to get fired. Except when I’m gone for 8 weeks or 10 weeks or more, well, then people will forget about all the effort I put in this year and I’ll be back to square one. And regardless of when I go back I’ll certainly be more exhausted even if I try not to be since I am baby’s food source.

There are days I think I should just quit but I know I can’t. There’s the salary plus the health insurance plus the fact that my stock is worth a substantial amount and I don’t see any of that until early next year. I’m fortunate to be in this situation but at the same time I’m crying every single day because I don’t know what to do — how hard to I push HR? I’m so new to this job. I don’t deserve any protection. I know that my skillset is somewhat unique and hard to hire for — so there’s a chance they wouldn’t find a replacement for me in the extra six weeks I’d take. There’s also a chance they would.

Part of me feels like I should just shut up, come back to work at 7 weeks postpartum and hold my breathe for the rest of the year until I vest my first chunk of stock and get some of my bonus (whatever they decide to give me) and then if I’m completely frazzled and ready to jump off a bridge I can consider leaving if necessary. I don’t WANT to leave but at that point I may need to. Or maybe I won’t. But at least then I’ll have made it through phase #1 and should be at about $650k networth. It would still be very upsetting to leave as I’d be throwing away my career at that point, along with substantial upside, but I’m scared and feel like I’m constantly on edge and really just not doing so well from a mental health perspective right now.

I wish my husband cared to make more money but he doesn’t. He provides in so many other ways and will be home to take care of the kid while I work, and for that I’m grateful. But the costs of living here are just really too high and he could be making more if he wanted to but he consults for one small business on a part-time basis and never really gets raises so every year his income is worth less and less. Now with baby the flexibility is worth a lot but it just feels like we could be in so much of a better place if he had any interest in financial stability for our family. I know that’s not his thing and I knew that from when I first started dating him, so I can’t put this on him at all. It would just make it easier if we both earned about the same, but we don’t. It would make it easier if I was better at my job or wasn’t having a baby, but all these things are not the case.

I feel really really really shitty about asking HR for more than the 6 weeks, and for every single conversation I have with my boss about my leave. I feel guilty for having a kid and I feel guilty for knowing I won’t be able to dedicate the time I want to raising it because I’ll be so paranoid that I will look bad at work that I’ll probably increase my time and output at work compensate. All the while I’ll likely be extremely exhausted. Maybe I’m thinking too much worse case scenario but how awake can one be waking up every  2 hours to nurse all night?

So many parts of me want to just quit but those parts want to quit because I hate the guilt and embarrassment of being a pregnant woman less than a year into a new job and dealing with crappy US maternity leave policies and also not wanting to seem like I’m entitled to anything just because I made the choice to be a mom. I guess if it gets to the point at 7 weeks where I just cannot return to work for my mental wellbeing, I don’t, and I deal with the financial consequences (which would be brutal to the tune of $100k-$150k+ in lost earnings, depending on when I return to the workforce.)

And I have no one to talk to about this which makes it even harder. I can’t talk to my boss–she wants me to take all the time up front and doesn’t care (nor should she) about the pay or no pay situation. I can’t talk to HR because their job is protecting the company. I can’t talk to my husband because he knows I lose my jobs often and just sees this at yet another one of those situations. I can’t talk to my family, they don’t understand. I can’t talk to my friends–my female friends who have kids have husbands who make $300k+ per year and either are stay at home moms or run part-time businesses. I can’t talk to my therapist about it because this isn’t a mental health issue this is a I need advice on how to handle maternity leave issue. So I just feel really alone right now and that’s what hurts the most and leads me to this very dark, hopeless place. I’m trying to be excited about having a baby but I’m just scared. I know I’m lucky to have even 6 weeks of covered leave at semi pay, but what happens on week 7?

 

 

Another Rough Week – Thinking About the Future

Day 9029230952 where I have at least one mental breakdown in a bathroom stall at work. One project I thought was nearly finished (and got approved by a very senior person) and then theohead of my department looked at it and requested a pretty significant change that requires a ton of extra work and budget and may not even be possible.

It didn’t help that I have been sick for the last few days and the head of my department keeps telling me to take care of myself and work from home, and then a few moments before a senior lead in HR, who apparently heard I was sick, told me I should go home — and, I didn’t want to say “but if I am working from home then I know I’ll have less of a case to make to take time off after I have a baby because our unlimited vacation policy is confusing and I just feel like I have to be at work and show my face in order to have any chance of ever seeing my kid once my leave is up” and I just, well, I was a mess today, breaking into sobs about once an hour, and trying to make it look like the red eyes were only due to my cold and nothing more. Continue reading Another Rough Week – Thinking About the Future

10 Years from Now…

In 10 years, I’ll have an almost-10-year-old. I’ll also likely be at the same exact level in my career. I’ve been writing a lot about this lately, because it’s on my mind a lot. I see others my age who are already much higher up in their careers, and even though I know it’s not the right fit for me, I can’t help feel disappointment in myself and a bit of jealously.

It’s nice to work in a larger company where there are some older folks (late 30s, 40s, etc) that are in mid-level roles and probably will never go much further. It’s hard to accept that for myself. But it’s so hard for women in my industry to get ahead, even if they’re rockstars and socially capable.  Continue reading 10 Years from Now…

Thinking I might need a new gameplan…

Although I really like this job, I think I’m going to fail at it because there are quite a few unrealistic expectations and I am now thinking I should be proactive in looking for what’s next before I fall on my face.

While I appreciate that I have been given the opportunity to lead a few high-visibility projects, I have very senior team members who are unhappy with their progression. I feel like I’ve done my best in managing them (a billion moving parts) but I am not delivering fast enough, and although I don’t think my job is necessarily at risk, I am not in a state right now where I can handle being yelled at for doing my actual best. Continue reading Thinking I might need a new gameplan…