Tag Archives: motherhood

The Cost of Childcare: Year 1

As our “being pregnant-ness” sinks in, hubs and I are starting to discuss childcare – you know, keeping our child alive when we’re at work. My husband plans to be going back to school during our kid’s first year of life, being in class from early morning and not getting home until after 7:30pm. I’ll be working 8-7. We definitely need a plan for baby watching.

At the moment, I plan to take 12 weeks off from work. I believe 4 weeks of that will be fully paid, and another 8 weeks will be covered in some part by short term disability. I’m still not sure how that works. But then once those 12 weeks are up, I’m back to work.

My hope is that I can work from home for two days a week, which some people do currently anyway. It will certainly be challenging to work home alone for those two days while also managing a newborn (not quite sure how possible it is) but hoping my boss will be understanding should a baby scream in the background when I forget to put myself on mute in an important meeting.

That, then, leaves 3 days a week for childcare (and possibly a solution to not be alone at home for the other 2 days while I’m working.) I’m having trouble finding out how much non FT (5 days a week) daycare is, but it looks like for the 5 days a week options that’s about $2000 a month here.

I knew it was going to be expensive, but still, yikes.

My husband is considering asking his dad to help. I feel bad about that as I’d like to be self sufficient, but at this rate I’d rather we pay his dad $2,000 a month vs a random daycare facility. Then again, the daycare facility would theoretically know about child psychology and safety, whereas his dad would be grandpa watching the kid while mom and dad are at work.

Either way, I feel ill thinking about how hard we’ve tried to have a kid, and now that we’re pregnant, I have to after 4-12 weeks put my baby in a daycare with strangers for most of the day. It just doesn’t sit right with me… although I know a lot of parents do it. Maybe when the kid is 2, when they can socialize and being around other kids and playing is part of their standard day…. but at 12 weeks they don’t know what’s going on, and I want to be close to them for that first year. Maybe the first six months at least. It’s just not financially possible for us, so unless my boss gives me the green light to work from home full time (and come in for select meetings/projects as needed), we’re going to have to figure this out.

When to tell work you are pregnant…?

The start of my last menstrual period was Oct 30, 2017, which makes me 4 weeks, 5 days pregnant. Other than the cold and bloating and occasional bought of nausea (no vomiting yet, luckily), I don’t feel pregnant yet. Well, I feel different, not necessarily pregnant.

Assuming my first trimester is successful (no miscarriages), I have less than eight months until I’m sitting at home with a tiny little fragile baby on disability from work. It seems rather unfair that I can’t even warn work of the impending time off for two more months. In planning 2018, now all I can think about is how I can’t commit to projects in the fall — but I can’t actually say that or plan around this likely absence. It doesn’t help that another woman on the team is currently on maternity leave — and while everyone seems quite supportive of this — it’s clear the team is hurting without her. We don’t have redundancies and our roles are specialized, so when we leave, even for a short while, the impact is definitely felt.

Had I been with this employer for years– or even one full year — before going to on maternity leave, I’d feel a bit better about how this is going to progress. As it happened, I got pregnant the cycle that started the same week I began my new job. That means I’m giving birth at 9 months into the new gig AND not eligible for FLMA. FLMA is the federal law that requires employers (with 50 or more employees) to give you 12 weeks off (unpaid) and guarantee your job will be there when you come back. Now, I don’t foresee my boss deciding to replace me for a 12 week period of being out, especially since I have a fairly good relationship with him – but stranger things have happened in the world. At the moment, I just feel like I’m lying to him. Trying to get pregnant and the possibility of being pregnant while planning was one thing – actually being pregnant is another.

I’m not sure how to approach this. I wish my company had a very clear “this is our maternity policy page” on our intranet, but it doesn’t. There is a portal to ask questions to a rep, but that rep is likely based in India and hasn’t been able to answer any of my questions appropriately. So the next step is to actually talk to HR. Do I tell HR I’m pregnant? Do I ask in the hypothetical and let them assume? Do I wait until I’m 3 months and then deal with announcing and figuring out what the policies are?

I know we do have short-term disability coverage, paid for by the employer, which is hugely helpful as it covers 66% of pay when you’re on disability, for a few weeks. I believe I’m eligible for this regardless of my start date (and I have proof I wasn’t pregnant AT my start date, in case that’s an issue.) Then there’s the California disability coverage, which is 55% of your paycheck, up to a certain amount that is not 55% of my paycheck, but it’s still something. I’m unclear if I can have both of these at the same time (or if I should.) Then, I believe my company offers 4 weeks paid for leave… but I may be making that up. I can’t find where I saw that in writing.

The other concerning thing about my company (and many companies these days) is that we have “unlimited vacation.” That sounds great and all, but what it really means is that I have no ability to save up / accrue PTO to take off in addition to any paid leave I get. I’m planning on taking minimal – if any – time off before having my kid (unless I have to) and hoping my one trip to a family wedding (now in my third trimester, yikes) will be a week I can work remote. But – how do I make the case that I haven’t taken any time off to date so I should be eligible for X days/weeks. I always assumed I’d just accrue the time and take it as needed once I give birth. But that doesn’t work with this unlimited vacation concept. I really don’t understand how with unlimited vacation as a policy a company is allowed to cap your paid time off anyway, since it’s “unlimited,” but when it comes to maternity leave they have a law that lets them work around it. Nothing against my company in particular — this is just an issue with the “unlimited vacation” that’s so popular these days, that I loathe.

I’m not quite sure what to make of all this. My boss knows I’m 34 and he even brought up how great this company is when it comes to having a family in the interview process, in an effort to recruit me. Maybe he didn’t mean “get pregnant immediately” but that’s the way it happened. At this age, I really can’t afford to wait for the right time, especially with my infertility issues. Even now, there’s a high risk of miscarriage and there’s nothing I can do about it. We may be back to the drawing board – or we may be buying a drawing board… for a toddler in two years.

I don’t do well with unknowns.

When to Start Planning for Baby and… How to Handle at Work?

With an embarrassing number of HPTs (home pregnancy tests) scattered about my bathroom, all with faint or not-so-faint double lines, this whole “I’m actually pregnant” thing is starting to feel more and more real. I’m still super early… which means miscarriage is quite possible, but the double lines now 16 days after my trigger shot means either I have a ridiculously slow metabolism or I’m at least somewhat pregnant.

For better or worse, my husband and I haven’t seriously considered life after having kids — because, with infertility and all the unknowns of if we could have kids, we didn’t want to get our hopes up. I mean, we discussed it a bit —

  • Can we manage to raise a child in our 1 bedroom rent controlled apartment until the kid is 2? Yes. Um. We think so. 
  • Will we raise our children with any specific religion? No. I’m Jewish and he’s Christian (both super non religious) but we love our holidays so we’ll each focus on the cultural traditions and not much else.  Father has agreed that kids will be “Jew-ish” by the nature of Jewish law (mom is Jewish, so are the kids.) But hubby isn’t giving up Christmas or Easter – I’ll just have to amp up the excitement I felt as a kid around Purim. 🙂

  • Will we send our kid to daycare? Well, we haven’t discussed this too much yet… his father lives nearby and we think he’ll be quite helpful in babysitting when asked as he’s retired and basically sits around all day (and he does like little kids, luckily.) Husband’s mother lives in a horrible mess of a house with cat droppings everywhere — while she can put together a super fun and creative holiday game for kids, we’ve agreed our future children will not be stepping foot in that house and that grandma is not allowed to watch them without us around / in the other room. My parents live far away, and my mom has made it clear that she thinks it’s so horrible how all of these parents these days are having so much help from their parents… so I’m not asking her for anything other than family pictures when we visit.

Ok, so… that leaves a zillion other things to figure out in eight months. I’m admittedly terrified. I’ll be almost 35 when I have my first kid now (assuming this bean sticks) and that’s as good of a time as any. But, really, how the fuck are we going to make this work?

Husband won’t discuss until my blood tests come back positive. I get it. He doesn’t want to get his hopes up either. But I’m freaking out here. In a good way. And also in a not so good way.

I just started my new job a month ago… which, yes, means I got pregnant (theoretically) basically the week I started working. This means I won’t be eligible for FLMA (unpaid 12 weeks off with guarantee to return to work) and who knows if my company will offer me their minimal maternity benefits given I’ll have to take leave so soon after starting. I’m mildly concerned, to say the least.

My company, from what I’ve read in the very limited literature on maternity benefits, says that they offer 4 weeks of paid time off. I’d love to save up vacation time to use but since the company offers “Unlimited Vacation Time” (my favorite bullshit new-age benefits policy that screws over employees), there is no way to save up time… other than not taking ANY vacation before I give birth (or, only a week before I am due?) and try to make the case that I am using vacation days. But how many can I take as part of this “unlimited” vacation policy? I’m planning to estimate based on the informal conversation I had with my boss before joining… ~15 days are acceptable to take off per year as part of this policy… so if I don’t take any for 9 months, that’s a little over 7 days of PTO I’m entitled to (yes, a whopping extra week of maternity leave, if they’ll agree to this.)

Now, the good thing about my job is that I could potentially do it from home at that point. There are people on my team who work remotely, and it seems to be an acceptable work setup for the company. It’s part of the reason I took the job. The actual work I’m responsible for can also mostly be done remotely (although I prefer face time with the team.) So, my current vision for how this plays out is that I have a very health to-term pregnancy, work until a few days before my due date, give birth on my due date or earlier, and then after the 4 weeks off (if my company gives that to me) I start working full time again but remotely.

That’s all nice and dandy in thought… but, is it really doable? I’m not a young mother at this point… since I’ll be nearly 35 while giving birth… and at this point with my infertility treatments I’m not ruling out a multiple birth. So many things could make this so much more complicated and what do I do?

I believe I do have disability benefits (short term) for 66% of my salary after the 4 weeks, for a few more weeks – maybe that covers some more time off. I’m not sure if I’m eligible for them after 9 months at the company… (at least I can prove I got pregnant AFTER starting and after my benefits would have kicked in.) I’d like to ask someone about this but… it’s not ideal to announce anything or ask HR anything until you’re 12 weeks along, so, perhaps I’ll wait.

I’m also concerned about first trimester “morning” sickness. I’ve already been nauseous on and off and it’s supposed to be too early to feel this way (though some boards say with multiples you can feel this earlier – uh oh.) I’m fairly sensitive to just about everything, so I’m unclear how I am going to keep this a secret even through my first trimester anyway.

The other good news, however, is that I’ve worked for my boss before, and he basically told me when I interviewed that if I want to have a family it would be good to think about joining this company (vs a smaller company like ones I typically end up in.) And he’s right — even though the benefits for maternity leave aren’t Google/Apple/Facebook/Netflix-level awesome, they’re better than the nonexistent maternity policies of most startups. They at least exist. Someone on my team is actually on maternity leave right now, so when she comes back I can ask her how she managed it.

I’m mostly worried about the first year of my kid’s life. I like working, but I’m so concerned I’ll just be too exhausted to think straight. We can’t afford to live on one income (especially not my husband’s income… his is about $65k and mine is $165k (plus potential of $50k-$100k bonus, etc. annually) so, I have to work. It’s the only way we have a shot of ever being able to afford to live in more than a 1 bedroom apartment. Assuming I can get half of my bonus each year ($215k), and he starts working as a teacher for ~$50k, then as a couple we’re making $265k and… that’s enough to live in a two bedroom condo in a reasonably nice area here, plus save for the kid’s college and such. I think I want to work, but I don’t like not having a choice… in case there are complications.

…I know plenty of women DO work shortly after having a kid… but it happens that my close friends who are married with young kids are either stay at home moms or work but work from home for themselves. I don’t want to miss my child’s first moments… I know it will all go by so fast.

Meanwhile, where on earth are we going to put a crib in this apartment? We have the space — our living room is rather large and so is our bedroom for a 1br… but, either we put a crib right next to our bed in between it and my husband’s desk / office… or, we put it in the living room. The living room doesn’t have air conditioning so that’s probably a horrible idea. Especially since the baby will be due in August.

Fortunately, I’ve hit that random goal of saving over $500k before getting pregnant – so I know there’s a cushion. But I don’t want to drain that unless I really have to. My goal is still to work full time and not take much time off to have my kid(s). But who knows what the future holds. I’d like to have a path to renting or owning a home with at least two bedrooms. I’d like to have a husband who is willing to talk about this stuff before I am officially pregnant… but as he’s going back to school this spring for teaching, and will be still taking classes and working when the baby is born… I don’t know how we’re going to do this. We’ll figure it out. But I’m really looking forward to when this blood test confirms that I’m indeed pregnant so perhaps we can start planning our future together.

On Turning 34 and What This Year May Bring

I’ve been dreading this moment… but I guess it’s not that bad. Today, I’m 34 years old. As I’ve noted before — 34 is an age that’s no longer a smidgen of “still 21.” 33, somehow, as close as it is to one’s late 20s, can still have moments of play back to ripe out of college “it’s ok I’m too young to know better.” 34 – I’ve finally given in and admitted I’m a real adult.

So, what have I accomplished in these 34 years? And what did I hope to accomplish in them?

As a child, I definitely never pictured myself beyond 30, so it’s hard to say what I thought I would be like. I definitely assumed after 30 I’d have a husband and children, although I had no clear vision of exactly what that would look like. I couldn’t even imagine finding a husband, so I successfully accomplished that without understanding how or what it would look like!

In my 34 years of life, I’ve accomplished (in no particular order:)

  • Got married / found a guy who will put up with me and loves me, who I love equally back.
  • Invested/saved over $500,000
  • Been through 3 careers and… 10 jobs (which may or may not be an “accomplishment” but for the sake of my birthday I’m calling t one.)
  • Successfully moved across the country from my family and set up a life in an area where I knew very few people, and built a life for myself here.
  • Learned that living in a one bedroom apartment with two people can be an acceptable and enjoyable way of living.
  • Became closer with my sister (even though she lives on the east coast) and hope to continue making that relationship stronger.
  • Mostly gave up on trying to be a normal person and instead started accepting myself for the weirdo I am.

Now, what’s next? What does 34 hold? If my hopes and dreams and potentially accurate test are right, 34 might hold the birth of my first child. I don’t want to get my hopes up too much — but after $4000 spent on infertility treatments, it would be an absolutely lovely birthday gift to actually be pregnant this cycle. And, as of 8:30am on Friday, November 24th, this is quite possible…

I took a “trigger” shot on Nov 10 at 9pm (which is HCG – the same hormone that turns pregnancy tests positive) but it should be out of my system by now. Although I wasn’t supposed to, I’ve taken cheap-o stick pregnancy tests (not the digital ones) for the past three days, to start “testing out” my trigger — and the first test was very very light, you had to squint to see the line. By yesterday the line was definitely there. Today, it’s still light but also definitely there.

As I’ve read (too much about), there are still so many things that can go wrong at this point in a pregnancy (if it is a pregnancy.) It could be a chemical pregnancy. You could (likely) miscarry within the first few weeks. Or later (that would be awful.) There are SO MANY THINGS that can go wrong.

That said, I’m convinced I’m having twins* (haha) that will be born in August. I’m aiming for 8/8/18 since the due date, if I’m currently pregnant, would be 8/4/18 and what’s a few more days? Time to start doing those Kegels, amirite?

(*note – twins are possible since I had two mature follicles at my last ultrasound before the trigger, and given how much nausea I felt last week around supposed implementation time, it could be more than one. OR, it could be none. But, anything is possible right now.

Even though I’m still a bit of a mess, I really do feel ready to be a mother. As ready as I’ll ever be. I’m 90% done with cleaning my apartment (not just cleaning, but organizing all my crap and getting rid of things I don’t need) and I just feel like I’m at a place where I can go into mommyhood in a 1 bedroom apartment and be ok with it, especially with one kid, at least until they’re two or so. Then we’ll have to figure things out.

The extra good news is that my current job/company is fairly flexible with some employees working remote. That means if I can knock it out of the park for two years or so, perhaps we could move somewhere more cost effective and I can maintain the same role/salary/benefits, which would be amazing. I am, quite frankly, terrified of being able to keep my job through what will likely be the birth of my 2 children (If I can have kids) as I already struggle with my mental health challenges and I’m sure lack of sleep will make it difficult to be a high-value employee. But I’m going to do it – somehow.

I really hope this pregnancy test is accurate and not still showing my trigger shot. I got those horrible headaches and that nausea last weekend, which would have been around the time of implantation.  No implementation bleeding, but apparently that only happens in about 30% of pregnancies.

Here’s to a great “34th” year on this earth. My goals for this year are pretty simple… have one child (and keep that child alive and healthy until I’m 35), buy a couch, keep a clean home, keep my job, and hit $600k networth by (or shortly after) turning 35. I’m feeling good about my prospects, except maybe the having a kid part — but I could be pregnant right now so that could be the easiest goal to hit of them all.

Before You Get Pregnant: How to Plan For Maybe Baby

Some people get pregnant in a heartbeat. My friend was one of those people. She’s thrilled to have a child (at 35, she wanted kids, and time was no longer on her side) but she just found out her company offers 0 days paid maternity leave. The state provides some time off at 55% of her pay, at least, but she’s very concerned as having a child isn’t cheap. It’s horrible to have that surprise — a full-time job and no maternity leave.

I’m unsure yet how much to worry about my own potential pregnancy. Potential, because I’m spending thousands upon thousands of dollars on infertility treatments – and still have absolutely no idea if any of them will work. Not that anyone knows when they’re going to get pregnant – but it’s certainly hard to plan anything when it’s quite possible I’m entirely barren. Or, maybe I got pregnant last night.

Unless you work for a company that is filled with (and likely run by) women, chances are, you aren’t going to have a clear understanding of your company’s maternity leave policies until you need them. I know that I work for a company that (I think) provides four weeks of paid maternity leave — far more than most women get in this country (like my friend, who will get nothing.) If I get pregnant in the next three months, I won’t be eligible for state and federal protections in terms of keeping my job if I need to take unpaid time off. I believe I have short term disability which covers some of my income, but certainly not enough of it to provide much of an option after I have a kid – if I have a kid – I will be going back to work after four weeks… and hopefully negotiating work-frome-home with my boss. But given my current boss is hiring someone under him to be my manager at some point, I have no idea who that person will be, or if they will care to be flexible with my schedule should I need that flexibility.

Given I’ve never been pregnant before, I have no idea what I’ll want or need. I certainly imagine it would be hard to leave my tiny hypothetical baby when they are so young. And I also would assume I’ll be absolutely exhausted at that point. But – I may not have kids after all, so should all of that challenge come my way, I should be grateful.

What’s harder now is negotiating my role with my boss, as there are opportunities which require travel and I know it would hurt the company to commit to them and immediately get pregnant. Yet, I don’t want to limit my career growth just because “I may get pregnant at some point possibly but who knows if it will happen.” But one cannot have this conversation with her boss. I can’t say, well, I’d like to take on this responsibility which requires travel but my husband and I are trying to get pregnant via an infertility specialist and there is a chance that at some point in the next year I will get pregnant, but there is also a pretty big chance that I won’t.

One cannot be open like that at work. My boss has to, then, assume that I want to have kids, given I’m a married 33 year old who hasn’t had any yet – and to be fair to him, he has to plan his whole organization based on who is able to do certain tasks now and for the foreseeable future. Then again, anyone – any man – could get sick at any moment — and no one is limiting their job opportunities because they may get too sick to travel.

But that isn’t bothering me much — I’m ok at the moment to pretend like I’m going to get pregnant and play life out as such. So I likely won’t take on the responsibilities which require monthly travel — that’s probably for the better anyway since I need to be home for all of my fertility treatments (though, I could probably time them around my travel schedule as long as it wasn’t too intense.) I’m trying to get in the groove at work and really just accept and be happy with NOT seeking a promotion or career growth. My #1 objective right now, other than starting a family, is to have a role that will provide me flexibility when I have kids. That means just doing a good job with my tasks that can be completed remotely one day — proving my worth enough that I can remain gainfully employed through the first years of my child’s life, as long as there are no unexpected layoffs.

I’m trying really hard to tell myself that it’s OK to not “lean in” —  I don’t NEED to be VP soon or ever. It’s fine that former colleagues my age are already in executive roles. I don’t need to be an executive and I don’t even need to be a manger. I can be a workhorse. A producer. Someone who gets shit done and fast. Someone who people trust to create great work. Hopefully, I can actually do that – and continue to do that as a mother with a newborn.

All of this is hypothetical, obviously, since I have no idea if I can have kids. Literally, at this moment, I could be pregnant… with a singleton or even with twins (I had two mature follicles from the Femera before the trigger shot.) We’ll know in two weeks if this cycle was successful…

I just wish my husband would talk to me about the what if we are successful part of this journey. I know it’s hard for him – to want kids and to be healthy and to have a wife that is medically broken. He is super supportive of this process and is ok if we can’t have kids, although I know he’ll be very disappointed about it. But – I want to be able to talk about planning for what if we do. I know he doesn’t want to get his hopes up… and probably figures we’ll have nine months to plan once I get a BFP. I just am so worried about it all. Even if we didn’t have all of this crazy and costly infertility stuff to deal with, having a kid is clearly no joke. I want to give my kid(s) a reasonably good life. I want to plan for the future. I want to feel like we are working as a team towards a common goal.

DH is going back to school to become a teacher this year. That’s great and all, and I’m supportive of that, but still worried. His income will drop to about $50k a year, which will definitely not be enough to support a family of three. I don’t expect him to support the entire family – and his potential teaching career will allow him more flexibility to stay at home with the “kids” while I’m at the office. It’s probably a very good plan. I need to keep my job – this job – and stay as long as possible. With my bonus and RSUs I can make up for his lost wages changing to a public service-style profession. I don’t think we can buy a house – ever – but do we really need that to be happy? I just don’t know how much a kid(s) will cost, other than – a lot. It will be a while before we go broke (I do have $500k in stocks, minus taxes) – but, that doesn’t make me feel much better about the future.

It really isn’t worth worrying yet since I still may be entire infertile. But, if I am, I want to focus more on my career now because then my career IS my baby. In any case, the next few years are going to be rough, with or without kids. I’d prefer with, and I’m hoping I have to figure this all out vs not.

Not Pregnant.

It’s that time. Time to get serious about having kids. All the tests have been run and so far we’ve found I don’t ovulate on my own and I have a minor case of hemophilia C (no big deal, mostly it’s just a gene thing.) I’m not ready to have kids (or, kid) but I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. Right now, with my “$500k before kids” goal in sight, I’m turning my attention to the most important part of a “having kids” objective: getting pregnant.

My doctor put me on metformin for my PCOS, which doesn’t fix anovulation but it can regulate cycles which potentially could increase ovulation frequency should it actually be happening ever (infertility doc explained that even women who don’t ovulate might – sometimes – ovulate. You just don’t have any idea when so it’s pretty hard to get pregnant (you have 48 hours so around this time to make a baby, and you don’t know when it is, so, you can do the math.) Continue reading

On Being a Good Mother

My feet touched one door and my head barely touched the other as I sprawled out across the backseat of my parent’s car. I was listening to the soundtack of any given trip to any given family gathering. It was a mix of 1950s rock & roll with a recurring intrusion of violent arguing in the form often in the form of my mother complaining about the direction my father would take to the freeway and my father throwing violent temper tantrums in reaction to the criticism. I don’t have many memories of specific instances in my childhood, just all of them merging into this blur of Doo Wop and screaming at various frequencies – my father’s low and unsettling, my mother’s high pitched and with the potential for dog-genocide across the entire Tri-State area.

Sometimes I close my eyes and try to remember my childhood, as I know the little girl me has died a long time ago but still I want her to come back. I want the few memories I have good or bad to live on in my mind even if all I remember are the fights and the chaos and the uncomfortable moments. I remember the waft of chlorine dancing into my lungs the second I walked into the pool cub in the summer, doing hand stands and somersaults underwater and holding my breath as long as I could. I remember going over to my grandparents for thanksgiving with our loud and boisterous family and running off to cause mischief with my next oldest cousin who managed to be even more ADHD than I was. I remember the day I brought my pile of rocks collected from my home landscaping in to show and tell in a Halloween pumpkin from McDonalds and I included the skeleton of a small fish that I ate at my Portuguese neighbor’s house and saved because I was fascinated by the bones inside of a living create as much as I was fascinated by the smoothest and shiniest of rocks. I remember being sent to the principal’s office in second grade because this other kid and I were child-flirting and he pinched me on the arm so I pinched him under the eye because I always have to one-up my competition and he immediately started bawling and I was for the first time in my life in trouble with anyone other than my father. I remember sitting embarrassed in the principal’s office and coming up with a plan to get out of my parent’s finding out. Continue reading

Babies on the Brain – Preparing for My (“Our”) Future

The majority of my friends are popping out their first children or well on their way to their second child by now. My Facebook feed, filled with folks I went to school with, mostly lesser educated yet clearly happy people, showcases families now of three or four kids. At nearly 33, I remain childless. I don’t FEEL old, yet it terms of childbearing years I’m getting up there. If I can get pregnant easily (which is unlikely) then I would have my first child before 35 – which is fine. However, I don’t want my second child to feel rushed as I know how much work having one child is, and I want time to enjoy being a mother of one before rushing on to try for my second.

Although I’ve thought a lot about the logistics of getting pregnant and childbirth before, the reality of the situation has never felt quite so pressing. Now that I’ve checked the marriage box there really is nothing holding me back from getting pregnant – except maybe an overdue international honeymoon which I was unable to take after the wedding for a variety of reasons (call me silly to put off getting pregnant until a honeymoon but I’d like to be able to enjoy this trip as much as possible and not feel sick on it, and I’d like to try regional cuisine including wine/sake depending on where we end up going.) But – I’m also at the point where I’m sincerely concerned about my ability to get pregnant and although I keep telling myself life will go on should I not be able to actually procreate, I feel like everyday we don’t try is another day I might eventually regret.

Before you say I’m being ridiculous, let me remind you at the ripe young age of 15 my gynecologist told me that my irregular periods were not to be of concern (and did not mention PCOS) but that as long as I have my kids before 30 I’ll be fine. That comments haunts me to this day. I am terrified that because I didn’t heed her advice, I’ll blame myself when we are stuck in cycles of IVF, I’m taking dozens of unpaid leave days from work and ultimately losing my job because I’m massively depressed over all of the emotional drama that goes along with infertility treatments and getting used to failures and picking back up and trying again and watching our bank accounts drain at what amounts to playing fertility roulette.

Mr. HECC is the type that doesn’t worry about the future. Generally, this is a good thing. He lives in the moment and I admire that. He doesn’t really have plans and while he wants kids he isn’t getting himself into a tizzy over how hard it might be for us to make them. He figures we’ll deal with it when it’s time to deal with it and if we can’t have any then we might adopt. I’m not sure about adoption (I have very mixed feelings about it and that’s something I won’t think about until I really have to) – but in the mean time I feel like this is pretty important and there are so many things that effect my ability to get pregnant and be pregnant and have children that require proper planning for a what may amount to a non-occurance and in this case I think I’m in the right to be a bit concerned about what this future of ours looks like which may or may not include offspring.

Work isn’t exactly stable right now. My company has no written maternity leave policy and because they have under 50 people they have no legal requirements to provide time off. Basically, how they treat maternity leave would depend on how much they want to keep me around. They can’t fire me if I get pregnant, but they certainly can make it not the easiest to stay. And, honestly, with the amount of responsibility I have I can’t say I’d be the best employee with such distractions. I’d never admit that to my employer, as that might set all of women back hundreds of years, but it’s kind of an unspoken truth – especially in the case for someone like myself with very clear mental illness who has already proven herself incapable of handling personal stressors and maintaining quality, consistent work at all times. The thing is – I WANT to have a few good years of focusing on work with no distractions. Even if I am uncertain of my career, I do like doing good work. I have been so distracted with the wedding (which was just a frivolous, inconsequential life event beyond actually getting married) that I can’t imagine what I’ll be like when I’m rushing off to IVF treatments (should they be needed) and waiting to see if one of them happen to take. Even just trying to get pregnant the good old fashioned way can be extremely stressful – as can be the potential of miscarriage, which is, according to some reports, 30% to 50% more likely in women with PCOS.

The amount of emotional stress that will go into getting and staying pregnant with my condition is above and beyond the normal challenges faced by pregnant women who work. Two of my good friends had horrible first trimesters where they were constantly nauseous and sick, and if such illness struck me I honestly don’t know what I’d do with having to work and not having time off to take. I’m already in a not-so-great situation in my current company where my company isn’t sold on my value, but if I leave and go to another company it would be even harder to ask for time off should I need it to deal with infertility treatments or standard morning sickness. Larger companies are probably better overall in handling the challenges that come with getting pregnant (in most startups I’ve worked for the majority of employees are men and the women in the company are typically younger / not of childbearing age. Executives are rarely female and if they are they are often childfree by choice. My last company was the exception with one highly-valued exec who was pregnant and had a child – and she barely took any time off to do so.) I dislike that at this point in my career not only am I trying to sort out my career but I also really do need to think about how this will effect my ability to have a child and remain gainfully employed. As I’ve noted many times before, I make more than double what my husband makes, so I really can’t stop working. I don’t want to stop working either – but I am worried about the sheer biological and emotional challenges which I cannot avoid once I start trying to get pregnant.

As is, I have about 15 PTO days per year (no “sick” days) – which is actually really good for a US company – and I’ve used nearly all of the ones I’ve accumulated so far on getting married. If I do take the extended honeymoon I’ve dreamed of since forever (Mr. HECC and I have never traveled internationally together in our 10+ years of dating), then I’ll wipe out the remainder of my PTO once I have enough to actually leave for two weeks. It will take seven months with absolutely no days off (no sick days, no vacation) to collect enough time off to actually take a two week vacation. Unfortunately I’m taking a day this July for a funeral so that means my accrual of days starts in August. That means it won’t be until March that I can take the time off to travel for a real honeymoon (well I can maybe negotiate some unpaid days earlier but I’d prefer not to lose income – the amount it costs me to miss a day of work isn’t worth it.) Meanwhile, I have friend’s weddings which require travel and I’d like to take some PTO for them this fall, but I can’t because I want to save up for the trip…

The bigger problem is that once I do take a honeymoon I’ll be left with zero PTO days just when it’s important for me to start immediately trying to have a child. It’s an easy conversation to tell your (male) boss you are pregnant, but highly uncomfortable to discuss how you are trying and have PCOS and need to go see multiple doctors and you don’t know exactly what the process is going to look like or how long it will take or if you can get pregnant but you are going to try really hard and you need some time to go to the doctor and you don’t know how much and you just used up all your PTO on your vacation but besides the fact you want to stay at your job and keep your job you also need your health benefits so you HAVE to stay at your job…

And as this is all so soon, I feel like I should be thinking about it and planning. It’s not just typical HECC anxiety/neuroticism, it is my life, my career, my income, my stability, and my future. I can just wait and deal with it as it comes, but I see exactly how this plays out and it isn’t pretty.

My current plan is to stay at my job at least until December and then maybe take a few weeks unpaid between starting a new job, ideally at a larger company that has a maternity leave policy and that supports pregnant mothers. I don’t know if I can get a job at one of these companies, but at this point in my life that is probably the most important benefit I can seek out (other than good health insurance.) If I was thriving in the startup world I’d fight harder to stay, but my successes are few and far between, and I think life is point me towards some kind of change. Mr. HECC may go back to school for teaching in a year, and with that I hope he’ll have a stable (albeit low-paid) job which enables him to maintain a level of happiness and take care of our “who knows if they will ever happen” children while I continue to do whatever it is I end up doing professionally. While I don’t see how we can afford to stay living in this area, his plan is to have his mother live on the same property we do and help with the down payment (my thoughts on that are for another post at another time.) In any case, life is complicated as always. I am happy to be married, but thought I’d be a bit more stable in other aspects of life by now. It will certainly be an interesting ride over the next few years of adulthood. I think the only thing I know is that I want kids, so I somehow need to manage a life around making that happen… even if financially it isn’t the smartest and logistically it isn’t the easiest.

 

How to pick a job when you want to have a child…

In California, if you qualify for paid family leave (PFL) you can receive up to six weeks’ worth of wages at a reduced level. You are eligible for about 55% of our average weekly income during this base period. The maximum weekly benefit is $1067. Both parents, as well as same sex domestic partners, can qualify for this leave.

Also the FMLA (family medical leave act) says that you can take 12 weeks of unpaid time and you have to be offered the same job or a similar role when you come back.

That’s a great benefit to living in the state of California. But there’s a catch – your company must employ at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius in order to qualify for both of these.

When deciding on a job opportunity, I don’t want my potential future childbearing situation to be part of the decision. Maybe that’s naive, but I don’t even know if I can have a child or how long it will take to do so. I might get pregnant the second I start trying or it can take many, many years – and by that time I could have been employed at a smaller company with great success.

Granted, my story reaps of privilege – my income level makes it possible to save (if I continue to rent an apartment anyway) and be able to have gaps in employment without resorting to food stamps. That said, I am a woman who is looking at two job opportunities and I know one will have to give me six weeks off with 55% of my income if I do have a kid at some point while working there, whereas I’d be shit-out-of-luck at the other.

Every – Single – Article I’ve read about negotiating for maternity leave before you’re even pregnant agrees: DON’T.

In short, they say wait until you get pregnant and then deal with it.

While smaller companies aren’t focused on parental leave policies, larger companies in Silicon Valley are making inroads for maternity and paternity leave.

Let’s remember that the U.S. is the only developed country in the world that does not require some kind of paid leave for new mothers. According to the Department of Labor, only 12 percent of private-sector workers have access to it.

In Silicon Valley, small startups offer nothing (or, at best, it’s a case-by-case basis that you can’t predict) while larger tech companies offer significant improvements to enhance their culture, talent acquisition and retention.

Facebook gives 4 months PTO, Google gives 18 paid weeks for moms and 12 for dads, and plenty other well-known firms are coming out at supporters of new parents (Adobe and Netflix have gotten some good PR buzz lately from their policies, certainly helping their recruiting efforts of top talent. Netflix, with it’s buzz-worthy ‘unlimited time off’ policy for paternity leave, is only offering it for the company’s highly-competitive streaming division – which isn’t getting as much buzz but important to point out.)

To be fair to a small startup, losing one employee for a substantial amount of time can be a much bigger challenge when they cannot be replaced temporarily. And life is a balancing act where you’re never fully balanced. You have to make hard choices and sometimes that means giving up a job opportunity for more stability and parental leave or just sucking it up and dealing with losing your job should you need to take a significant amount of time to recover from childbirth and bond with your new child. That’s life, right?

But when you look at the lack of women in tech startups, you should ask yourself if that has something to do with the fact that dudes are running the show and not thinking about what would attract female talent. In a survey of 101 women in Silicon Valley, 61% said they wouldn’t work for a startup or tech company that didn’t have a maternity policy. That pretty much means 61% of women wouldn’t work for a Series A or B startup for this reason alone.

Of 97 tech companies polled, one-quarter offered less than a month of paid leave for new mothers.

One CEO talked to 716 women who left the tech industry about their reason for leaving. Women who successfully negotiated unpaid time off at smaller companies were still expected to work, albeit remotely. I saw this first-hand when a very senior-level executive at my last startup went through her own pregnancy. She’s a rockstar and can hold it together with a lot of competing priorities, but I know she was working at least for part of her maternity leave, and probably a lot more than I even know. And the company was very flexible with her because everyone would agree she’s irreplaceable (or it would be just very challenging to replace her and not worth pushing her out.) What about everyone else who can be replaced?

Of those 716 women surveyed, 465 are not working today. 251 are employed in non-tech jobs and 45 are running their own companies. 625 of those women say they have no plan to return to tech.

And we wonder why there are so few women in tech leadership roles. You can say it’s a choice – and to some extent, it is. But a man doesn’t have to make the choice. A man doesn’t have his body taken over by a child for nine months, and then have to feed that child from his body for many months after that. And as long as startup CEOs don’t acknowledge the need for parental leave, or deal with it on a case-by-case, depends how much we like you basis, women in tech – esp in senior leadership roles – will be few and far between.

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day: Being Thankful for an Imperfect Mother

Now that I’m 31 and of age to be a mother, I acknowledge that age doesn’t actually poof make you mature enough to be a good mother. Mother’s are just little girls that grew up and made little creatures that they have to take care of – who then go on to become mothers (or fathers) more often than not before they have their own shit together.

I must be thankful that my mother was not a drug addict or alcoholic. She was not a thief, sex trafficker or Russian spy. For all this, I am grateful.

When I see a bunch of my friends post pictures of their mothers on mom’s day and say “thanks to my best friend” I have to wonder what it’s like to have that kind of figure in your life. Don’t get me wrong – my mom and I talk all the time. But we talk at each other. Not to each other. And, without a nurturing bone in her body, she never once was the type of mother who was “there” for me when I needed it most.

My mother embarrassed me time and again in my life in terms of oversharing my “accomplishments,” trials and tribulations to anyone who might be willing to listen – but the worst of it came from how she, along with my father, completely warped my world view and sense of self. I was trained from a young age that all that matters is being brag-worthy. That I’m inherently special and worthy of praise. Yet any shortcoming, any slight imperfection, was not something that I could work on and fix. It was just ignored. Replaced with some story of grandiosity which fueled my oft confused ego.

I’m grateful that despite my mother’s unyielding self-self-absorbtion, she doesn’t have an evil bone in her body. Her acts are just frustrating, inconvenient at best and nails-on-chalkboard annoying at worst. In the most meaningful moments of life, her only though is if she and the others posing around her look good in a photograph. She is just entirely void of the ability to empathize with others. Her own growth was stunted by her narcissistic mother, who is evil and selfish. My mother is selfish but not in the same way. She’ll put her needs above others but she won’t be angry at said others if their needs end up coming first. Her entire life since age 18 has been in an abusive relationship with my father. She’s never cried. Not even behind closed doors. Her emotions seem to have been stunted as a small child, and were never recovered.

There are worse mothers out there. Ones that go out of their way to use their own children. Ones who push their children to do things that they wouldn’t want to do otherwise. Even when I came out as bisexual she cringed but didn’t kick me out of the house (she hoped it was a phase.) And, in terms of being present versus not in my life, my mother was always there – I’m not sure if she was always there for me, but she was always there. Involved in the school PTA, all of my teachers and administrators knew her well. Everyone in the school knew my mother. Her entire identity, at least once I was born, was created by the accomplishments of her children. Without a sense of self, there became an impossible pressure on her kids to be special enough.

My mother did not teach me about love. My mother stayed when my father screamed and threw ice water in her face or when he grabbed her arm and threw her across the room. For all the effort my mother put into outside appearances in terms of dressing nicely and wearing makeup, she didn’t worry about my father’s repeated humiliation of her in public. After being out of the work force for so many years, she was too afraid to get divorced and have to return to the employed life. She enjoyed her life of shopping and lounging by the pool in the long summers and actively involved in her children’s schooling. She saw her own child getting beaten with a belt and said nothing, even though she knew this wasn’t right. She let her young child start to abuse her, because her child learned this was the only way to stop her chronic nagging. She was a victim, still is a victim, and was incapable of escaping the borderline personality disorder eggshells she walked on throughout her life – first with her own mother, and then her hot-tempered, violent husband.

I feel sorry for my mother. Sorry that she will always be incapable of having her own life. Sorry that she does not have the emotional depth to have a fulfilling adult relationship. Sorry that happiness in her life is defined by buying more and more things, even though she’s never actually happy. The normal state for her is anxious, constantly panicking about what needs to be done, yet never accomplishing much at all.

My great worry is that if I do have kids one day, I won’t be able to be a good mother. I know I will try to be more nurturing and caring, more there for them when they need it and out of the way when they don’t. I’d love to be the type of mother who one day, when my children are all grown up, is referred to as a close friend and confidant. I want to be a strong figure, with a satisfying career and sense of personal accomplishment, to show one example of a successful life and ideal, loving relationship.

And all the while I wonder who I’d be today if I was born to one of those mothers who – maybe is strict – but who knows what it means to love and care for her own children – to, outside of financial means, put her children’s needs ahead of her own, especially when they are young and most vulnerable. All of the crazy in my mind – the constant panicking – the inability to get things done without someone telling me I’m absolutely awful, and having to prove them otherwise – my recurring failure to lead a stable, normal life – or to stand up for myself when I should instead of burst into tears – is something that is so ingrained in me, I can’t shake it off. So much of that is due to my mother. My father had quite the influence as well, but since it’s mom’s day I’m writing about the female component of my parental pair specifically.

So as much as I miss my mother, I’m glad that I moved to the other side of the country. It makes me sad that as the years go by there will less and less time I can spend with her. It’s terribly upsetting that if I do have kids, she will barely ever see them – even though I imagine she’d be a better grandmother than parent, especially if my father isn’t around to scream and make for anxiety-ridden situations. I wish I could flip a switch and suddenly she’d know how to feel – how to care – how to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around her. I know that sounds awfully silly coming from someone such as myself who is also so self absorbed. But at least I have some awareness of the fact that this world isn’t all about me – or my future children – or my life. I’m just a speck in the infinite universe. I’m lucky and unlucky all at the same time, but more lucky than not all things considered. While some of what I have has been earned, most has been obtained through chance.

She would never be able to grasp that. She just doesn’t care about other people – or herself. She is driven by a relentless, all-encompassing need to have stories to tell about others who would want no part in the tale.