Category Archives: Depression

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

Who can afford to own a house?

I’ve committed to remaining in our $2500/month one bedroom apartment for as long as we can stand it with our soon-to-be child. I’ve even gotten to appreciate the forced closeness we’ll have living in a small space with kiddo, especially in the first year when it’s recommended baby sleeps in the same room with parents…

However, I’m very concerned about what happens “next.” Yes, we can leave this overpriced corner of the country and live somewhere that a much lower salary would enable home ownership. I don’t even care about “owning” so much as I care about being able to afford some sort of residence that feels less like an apartment and more like a home. A townhouse would be perfectly fine, especially if it has a little grassy area in the back, and a community park nearby… Continue reading

Can you teach empathy? Pregnant daughter of narcisstic parents would like to know…

My sister and I surprised my parents this weekend with the news – I’m pregnant. While I envisioned the surprise – in a normal, loving family -to go something like this…

My parents would meet my sister, who was visiting for the weekend, and she would enter their condo and go to her room to pull out a gift from me to give to them, without them knowing. I would call “from the west coast” as a coincidence, to say hi, and they’d mention my sister just arrived. Then my sister would give them the “gift” and they’d open it to see inside something that clearly stated they were going to be grandparents. At the moment they were having a loving, emotional, “we’re so happy for you” reaction, I’d knock on the door and they’d be further surprised that I was there, not across the country, to celebrate with them this wonderful news. We’d embrace and cry, especially since they know and understand how much we’ve wanted children and how hard it has been to get pregnant, and we’d all go out to celebrate, excited for them to be grandparents, excited for my sister to be an aunt, and excited for myself and my husband to soon be bringing new life into the world. Continue reading

Nothing Lasts Forever

My last boss (the one who fired me) — who joined the company after I was there for about a year and a few months — has apparently left after an even shorter tenure than the one I managed to maintain prior to getting the axe. I have no idea why she left — I can only guess, and I have plenty of guesses–but why she left doesn’t matter. The fact that she left less than a year after firing me means that clearly I wasn’t the problem. Or the only problem.

Now that I’m in my 30s, I’m trying very hard to view my job as just a job. I mean, it is. My job is to help my company make more money. And, if I do this, even indirectly, I likely can keep my job. We’re not curing cancer. So I try–incredibly, ridiculously hard–to care, but not care like that. Continue reading

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A Real Career to Support My Family

The new job is great. My boss respects me. My compensation structure makes sense (lower base than last job, but substantial room for bonus and stock appreciation.) The team works together well and everyone plays their part. Why, then, am I still so concerned about the future?

It’s not this job. It’s still this career. Being in a larger company is helping… but I’m still extremely stressed everyday, feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing. I know I need to hang on for four years in this job, to build that stability profile, to capture the value of the stock, to really add value to my company’s business. My objective is to be a wonderful employee. I don’t plan to ever ask for a raise, or anything more than what I have now. I just want to survive and be known as an asset to the business. Continue reading

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Still unemployed… Still not sure WTF to do with my life.

The further away from my last day of work I get, the easier it is to romanticize the role in it’s high-paid, occasional feeling of mass victory glory. But then I remember just how miserable the job – the career – made me, and I’m desperate not to go back to it, despite the lure of a substantial amount of recruiters knocking on my doorstep, basically asking me to let history repeat itself yet again.

As I take this pause in my career to dissect what I like and dislike about my prior roles, I know that I find it very difficult to put 100% daily into a job where the majority of my waking hours are dedicated to trying to get people to buy software for their businesses that helps those businesses run more efficiently. I enjoy this in spurts — I do believe in efficiency and find it rewarding to help people stuck in old ways break free of traditional processes and technologies and move to better ways of doing things, especially if these better ways impact lots of people. It’s just at the end of the day (or even about 2 minutes after I wake up) I feel this heaviness of dread — knowing that there is so much more to be done to make the world better than improving business processes. Continue reading

Next Steps in This Unemployed Life + Starting on Zoloft

SSRIs are supposed to take many weeks to work, but I swear this very small dose is having more than a placebo effect on me. It’s helpful at the moment, given I was seriously depressed and now it’s like that spot of my brain is muted. It’s like it’s still there but I can’t access it… I’m not exactly happy either, but the deep sadness where I sit and cry all the tears out of my head also is gone. I guess I feel a bit numb emotionally. I don’t know if that’s a good thing long term, but short term a vacation from my emotions helps me focus on more rationally evaluating all the variables of my situation and hopefully makings some decisions that will positively impact the rest of my life.

I’ve found that obtaining interviews for specific types of roles is relatively easy, while getting considered for the roles I actually want is impossible. Funny enough the “easy” interviews are more senior roles. I don’t end up getting them, but I do get calls quickly as my experience seems relevant. I’m disappointed that all of the jobs I’m remotely qualified for are within the same 3 block radius in the city, which is that lovely 1.5-2 hr one-way commute from my home. I think that’s a bad idea – but I’m not sure long-term what else to do. Hubby and I discussed moving, but we really like our apartment, we like that it’s $2350/month with a washer+dryer and big living room and large bedroom and that it’s within walking distance from every major supermarket one would ever want to shop at. If we move to the city, to get anything remotely comparable it would be $3500, at least. We could move CLOSER to the city but that might put us further from public transportation, making the commute time about the same even though we’re closer..

I know that obtaining a job close to home is not the solution to all of my work problems. I HAD a job that was 20 minutes from my house and that didn’t go over well. I was still depressed, wasn’t confident in my responsibilities there, and would show up late because I dreaded going into the office. And, I’ve had good weeks in jobs that are far from my house, because I’m excited about the work and feel like I can do the job justice. So, location isn’t everything.

Still, given that I really want to focus the next year on having my first child — and the reality that I have to go to lots of doctor’s appointments for infertility treatment – I need to think about logistics. Right now my infertility clinic is actually IN the city — I’m planning to switch to one closer to my apartment (on their waiting list for early 2017) — I know I’m horrible at being consistent about anything but if I want kids (and I do want kids) I HAVE to focus on the infertility treatments, eating healthy, exercising, losing weight — this takes a lot of time and energy (and money), so thinking about having a 3-4 hour commute 5 days a week AND doing that AND knowing myself is something that doesn’t add up.

Are there jobs by my apartment? Well, there are large companies that aren’t far away. But they never call when I submit apps to them. They know better. They are looking for people who were really good at school – who are able to focus and study and work hard and who are ok doing the same thing over and over again even if the result of that work will never see the light of day. I do like small companies because I know the work I’m doing will be used and it will have an impact – and I like that no two days are the same. But I’d like to be able to work at a larger company — somehow. It would be good for my and my family’s future. And the commute situation. And small companies have PLENTY of cons/issues too.

I’m even struggling with my small freelance project at the moment. It’s a messaging exercise for a very young company. It’s not that it’s hard for me — I just find that either I’m in a state of mind where the creative juices are flowing and I can do work really fast (usually, unfortunately, at 3am) or I just can’t do work. It’s not like I’m writing the next great American novel, I still need to channel a certain kind of creativity that comes and goes to do the work. When I find it, I can be VERY productive. My clients seem happy with the work thus far – but I have to turn around the next rev of the assignment today and I’m currently blanking. I’m writing this blog hoping to quite my mind and get the writing juices flowing. Hoping it will help.

But this issue is a microcosm of what happens in a full-time job. At least with this project I am able to spend a huge chunk of time sitting at a cafe, writing a blog post to clear my mind, feeling the warm breezes and sun on my back. In a full-time job, you don’t have hours upon hours to take mental breaks… nor are you able to do your work at 3am and wake up at 9-10am.

All of this leads me to the very serious question of – why the fuck do I want to have kids? It may be biological, or that i’ve been conditioned to think kids are the most important thing in life. I don’t know. I know that if I don’t have kids, I’ll regret it. I also know all signs point to me being the type of person who should NOT have children. Kids aren’t a job you can quit or get fired from. If I can’t handle maintaining a job, eating healthy and exercising without any other responsibilities, how on earth can I add to that being a mother?

On the other hand, I’ve saved $500,000, and I am in a pretty good place in terms of being mentally grown up. In the world, lots of women become mothers when they are in significant debt — or when they’re still basically kids themselves. There’s nothing wrong with any of that either (if it works for them and it’s what they want), but there are some good things I have going for me on this journey to parenthood. And I have a husband who will be a great father and who loves children and who will gladly take over the childcare when I need a break, especially when the kids are young.

I don’t see us being able to stay in this area and have a family… maybe for a few years, but not long term. Right now, even if I manage to get pregnant by early 2017, I won’t have a child until end of 2017, a year from now. Then – while it’s not ideal – we can definitely stay in our 1 bedroom apartment for 1-2 years with one child. So – that’s at least 2-3 years when we can stay where we are. Maybe that’s 2-3 years of staying where we are and commuting 3 hours a day while having young kids — not sure how that works, but people do it. So maybe I have to do it. Maybe the missing ingredient has been SSRIs. Maybe this medication will do wonders and I’ll be able to wake up on time and calm down and get my work done and have a child and be a good mom. Hey, it’s wishful thinking, but perhaps it’s possible?

I do know I’m exhausted right now. I haven’t really adjusted back to the time zone after my trip and I’m not doing the best job of going to sleep at night or waking up in the morning. I can’t imagine being at an office right now! I am fine doing work, but I’m a hot mess.

Speaking of… I’m headed home to take a quick nap and hopefully find some energy to get this project done in the afternoon. I definitely wouldn’t be able to do that if I had a full time job.

Rough Night, Writing to Keep the Tears Away

Why I put myself in these situations, I’ll never know. I thought a trip abroad with a good week and a few days on my own post travel with my husband and sister would be just what I needed… to relax a bit… stop thinking about work… stop thinking about how much of a failure I am and just be present in the moment.

Instead, this trip just reminds me how much of a failure I am. I haven’t died yet, so there’s that, but I feel so incredibly alone here. I know I have just 5 more days before I return home and they’ll go by and the trip will be over, but I want to figure out how to enjoy this. It’s proved challenging indeed. I struggled with my travel plans today… making it to an island on time in the morning but then not being able to ride the electric bike safely so instead taking a bus to an overpriced art exhibit that I didn’t know how to appreciate properly and getting over-heated on a long walk to my hostel that I stupidly booked without a clear plan for how to get to it (it WAS walkable, but not so much with my backpack in 90 degree heat) — I did it, but was feeling lightheaded the last 10 minutes of the walk and thought I might pass out and no one would find me.

I made it to the hostel… then went for a walk around the area which is quite remote and there was nothing to do. I saw a fairly nice view, then had a panic attack because there was an earthquake in the Philippines and I worried it would trigger a tsunami (spoiler alert: it didn’t.) I walked back to the hostel a different route and saw some more of the island but couldn’t enjoy it because I was worried I was getting myself lost. I wasn’t. I got back to the hostel… back to my room with six beds for five other woman/girls that’s completely empty right now (which I don’t mind that much) and into my bed where earlier I saw a centipede crawling next to me that may be venomous.

But the trip itself isn’t really that bad… it’s nice to see new places… to experience new things… and so far nothing major has gone wrong except my credit card being stolen and having to put a stop on some very strange expenses. What’s worse is knowing that no matter how long I put getting back to the real world, it’s still there, waiting for me, laughing at me, ready to slam into me like a wall of bricks. My job prospects are not looking that great… I’m rather unemployable right now and I don’t know where to start. I have no references from former employers, I have no experience outside of experience in what I’m not actually good at, and I’m  getting myself all sorts of depressed reading job ad after job ad that I know I can’t even get an interview for — the jobs I have gotten offers for in the past were all off somehow… they were clearly roles that no one else half way decent wanted… the roles themselves were impossible to succeed in, which is why I’m the perfect person to take them and try really hard to do amazing things which works for a while until I burn out and can’t maintain the level of work and then fail. Because I don’t know how to manage or delegate or organize or do anything that is required of anyone in a job. Even if I can get it together and do these things, who will say I can in a reference call?

I probably shouldn’t think about the job thing until October… with the exception of applying for some “stretch” jobs and hope that they’ll call me knowing they won’t. I can take three months to not worry about this… before worrying about it a lot. It’s hard to not think about it, though, knowing that I’m screwed. I mean, I can live off savings for a while (esp if I stop spending at my current “travel and splurge as if I’m getting a job in October” rate) but… this can’t last forever. I feel so ridiculously depressed and hopeless… I wonder why I even bother trying at this point.

What If I’m Not Good at Anything?

I’m not sure if it talents talent or natural ability to project manage and get shit done, but that seems to be one trait that can’t be learned (if you’re horrible at it) and the most important in any job. The few people who can get away with not being the most organized and being poor at communication are the rare idiot savants, those who are respected for their creative contributions despite other clear shortcomings.

We aren’t born to work, outside of hunting and gathering and building shelter so we don’t die, so all of these career tests and what you should be when you grow up aren’t telling the total truth — that we’re trying to identify some value-added contribution that we can do consistently well enough from post graduation through retirement. “Consistently well enough” isn’t an easy undertaking for anyone for 45 years. Continue reading