Tag Archives: parenting

And the Depression Fog Rolls In… How to Cope?

I want to be an organized, has-her-shit-together mom for my son. But let’s face it, just because I managed to squeeze a 7lb human out with relatively minimal complications doesn’t mean I suddenly am I sane, stable individual. Spoiler alert: I’m not.

I’m sitting in my one bedroom apartment living room watching my son finally in a good mood, on his back, in the little empty carpeting in the room, cooing and laughing, looking at… something? It’s nearly 7pm and I don’t know where the day went. We did a lot of me not sleeping as he snacked on my breasts and slept on me. When I tried to put him down for a nap in his pack & play he, as always, freaked out. I put a pacifier in his mouth and he spit it out, then started fussing, then started screaming. And repeat.

Exhaustion has new meaning with a newborn. I’m so grateful that I bailed on my plan to go back to work after 6 weeks and with my depression was able to get a disability extension (something I didn’t want to have to do, but I give up) and I have an extra eight weeks, plus another six that will be semi paid that is usable next year, and six weeks unpaid if I want them. The amount of stress I’ve dealt with just managing the guilt and logistics of orchestrating my maternity leave has been immense. I still don’t know how I’m going to go back to work, and then take my 6-12 weeks off throughout the next couple of months. While those weeks are “job protected,” the time in between them is not… which means my company could decide to let me go before I get to use this time off. I hope they don’t, but every single day I will be extra paranoid that I have to prove my worth and then some to maintain my employment…

That’s not good because I already feel like I don’t know what the heck I’m doing, as always. I mean, I am in a better spot in this job than others I’ve had before… but I’m by no means in the clear. I’m scared, and much more scared now that I have a kid. We have a cushion and all, but I need to work. I need to work full time for a long time to afford being a mom. And while I WANT to work, I also want to see my child grow up. I don’t have a choice either way. It’s challenging to hang out with other moms who are changing their minds about going back to work and deciding to quit their jobs and stay home. I don’t want to do that, but then again, part of me does. I can’t, and so that makes it an easy decision for me. But being that I can’t, I also can’t lose my job. And my husband get so annoyed at me when I constantly say I’m going to get fired–and I know that’s not the most productive thing to tell myself, but I just feel so lost and hopeless. I’m almost 35 and I haven’t the faintest idea how to do my job well. Fortunately my boss seems to like me, but that can change at the drop of a hat. If I make her look bad, even by accident, even if I try my best, why would she like me anymore?

Being this exhausted is not ideal for returning to a job that I don’t know how to do. I’ll just hang in as long as I can… which may be months and may be years… and try to save as much as possible. But I’m on a whole different wavelength of reality than my husband right now, which isn’t good. He earns $85k a year without benefits, and I’m making somewhere between $170k and $300k, and I carry the family benefits as well. If he lost his job, it wouldn’t be great, but we could survive. If I lose my job, that’s another story.

The stress was added to this week when I found out it’s unlikely I can qualify for term life insurance because of my history of depression. That’s plenty to be depressed about. I’m not sure how much life insurance I should get, but I was thinking a $3M policy… $150k for my son’s college, plus 30 years at $300k of salary. I could probably do less than that, but it doesn’t matter since I can’t qualify. I’m screwed because I tell my doctor that I occasionally think about killing myself. How am I supposed to get help if I can’t tell my doctor things like this when they ask me? Thank goodness we have a ban against refusing healthcare for pre-existing conditions these days (though who knows if that will last) but life insurance has no such rules. I feel like such a failure for my son and my family.

Meanwhile, I don’t know how to get into a routine of being a mom. I want to give my son a good childhood, I want to engage him and help him develop, and right now I’m not working and my husband is, so that’s really on me. But we barely sleep at night… I’m lucky if I get 4-6 hours of non-consistent sleep which isn’t even good sleep because of my son’s grunting and whimpering. It’s getting. little better but it’s still not good, and it won’t be for a long time. How on earth will I be able to be a great employee on this little sleep? I’m already daydreaming about the catnaps I’ll take in my office parking lot at lunch after pumping.

I’m not complaining here because this is a choice I made, and I’m so lucky to have more time off and protected than many other women in this country. And for now I only have ONE kid to take care of… I can’t imagine what it’s like with more than one (though I’d like to have at least one more when I’m ready–and by then maybe I can do the stay at home mom thing for a year or two? Wishful thinking.)

My kid does get to stay home with my husband’s parents while I’m at work and not go off to a daycare at this young age, which would be much harder. Still, I’m missing the opportunity to be my son’s mother, or that’s how it feels. But, then again, as I glance at him now fussing on the floor, clearly over this once nice position for solitary play time, coos, and giggles, I also think how grateful I am that I will be going back to work and that this isn’t going to be my full time life. So clearly, I’m torn. I just don’t know how to do both, or even this alone, but I’m going to have to figure it out.

On Being A Mom, Financially Speaking

My son is a good kid, so far. He doesn’t sleep much at night, but we’re working on that. Despite telling myself I will not buy frivolous things for my child I have bough frivolous things for my child… mostly clothes, some toys, and a few overpriced items like a swing that he uses on occasion that last a few months. If my spending patterns in the last two months tell us anything about how much this kid is going to cost me, my whole “I will NOT spend $250,000 on my kid before he goes to college” motto might as well be thrown out the window.

At the moment, living in this one bedroom apartment makes me feel OK about spending some amount of frivolous money on my son (I mean, gosh, those 3 month old clothes on sale at Gymboree are just TOO CUTE.) And, I feel rather hopeless around being able to afford big ticket items at this point, so the $10 shirts are fun to buy. I have hand-me downs from a number of friends (benefit of being one of the last to have kids) but the styles are so, bleh. It doesn’t matter AT ALL but I want my son to look not just nice, but appropriately styled to be my (/our) son. And, $5-$10 for an outfit just seems so cheap, even it it only lasts 3 months. Hey, I’m breastfeeding so at least he’s food is free, right?

What’s most challenging is this massive fear that I will never have a stable job. No job is really stable, but I’ve been in this industry/role type for over 10 years now and I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, and that I don’t deserve my paycheck. in fact, I’m half convinced when I go back to work from maternity leave my boss will see how horrible I am in the role, wait until she’s safe from firing a “new mom” and then poof, I’m gone. I’ve gotten to the point where I think I can probably get another job, but it could take months, and who knows what it would pay. This job happens to pay a lot, especially with my bonus (if I get my bonus), but that’s temporary. How could I ever commit to a monthly mortgage payment for 30 years (!!!) when I can’t imagine holding and keeping a job for longer than 6 months at any given time?

It would be nice if my husband’s income was enough to support our family just in case  I can’t get a job… but that’s not how it is either. He makes $85k a year in consulting income, which is pennies for an area where a basic mortgage with PITI will cost us $5k-$7k a month, and that’s with a hefty downpayment. I know people do it here on “low” incomes, but certainly not as home owners. I’m somewhat ok with renting, especially in a good school district once my son is old enough to go to public school, but my husband really wants to buy. I’d rather buy–for the stability and to feel like I’ve “made it” but I don’t know, I don’t know if I have it in me to make that kind of terrifying commitment.

My networth right now is about $620k and should be closer to $700k by the end of the year, depending on stock market performance (and if I can stop myself from buying more cute things for my son.) For most people, that should be more than enough to provide comfort in financial security, at least enough to buy a house. But it feels like pocket change to me. I’m pretty sure once I get to $1M I’ll start to feel like I an afford to buy a house. That’s still what I think about my home purchase plan… but I’m worried I’ll wait to long as housing prices have already doubled in the last 10 years here and interest rates are going up. Or have I really already missed my opportunity to buy here and the smart thing to do would be to leave?

Besides buying a home, there are lots of things I want to purchase for my son over the years, including a sibling or two. 🙂 Even if I have only one kid, there’s enrichment activities (especially since the school systems do not offer arts education here), summer camps, traveling, etc. We don’t have to spend a fortune but I’d like to give him some semblance of a middle class childhood–one that I had when I grew up. And–if I can keep my current income of $170,000 a year, give or take, and we rent or find a home that is somehow cheap enough to go in on with my husband’s parents (and live with them) that our monthly payments aren’t, like $9000 a month (which I guess we could qualify for but WTF how could we spend $9000 a month on a mortgage when we take home about $10k a month after taxes. Something doesn’t add up.

Well, I feel all sorts of shitty… knowing I’ll probably never make enough money (*consistently, for the next 30 years*) to give my son the life I want to give him. We’re saving now on daycare since my husband is working PT from home and his parents are helping out (which is great) but I still want him to experience preschool at some point in the next few years. If I can keep this job I may be able to make over $300k for this year and the next 3 years. That’s amazing. I don’t want to count on it, but it will be nice. After tax, it’s still not a lot… it would be great if I make $300k a year for the next 30 years of my life, but let’s be real… that’s not happening.

…A big chunk of that income is in options which happen to have increased in value a lot–but they can also decrease in value before I get them and after my options are all acquired, I won’t have any worth that much. I’ll be back to my $170 salary… or less, if I need to find another job (although I made $200k at my last job, when I was interviewing this time around offers were more in the $150k range at startups–where I’m more likely to get hired.) If my husband made $150k and I made $150k, we’d be doing ok… I feel like one can live on $300k joint here, and even on $150k should one partner lose their job for a while. But… $250k, and, $80k (should I lose my job) is not doable. Better yet, we’d both be making $250k consistently… but he hasn’t asked for a raise in years and refuses to take on any other clients (now at least it makes sense since he’s taking care of our son during the day)… and I, well, I’m not moving up at work ever. My title and likely pay is already inflated. I’m just trying to stay where I am and not rock the boat.

I’m scared. Scared, but not too scared, as long as we are renting a one bedroom for $2450 a month. No matter what happens, I feel like we can afford that. We can afford that on his $85,000 self employment income. We can afford that on a job I can find for $100k if I lose other jobs. But any more than that? Even renting a two bedroom for $3200+… I just, don’t feel ready for that. I don’t think I ever will.

Things I’m Looking Forward To… Almost 11 Weeks Pregnant

This isn’t the life I imagined, but let’s be real, I didn’t have the ability to imagine much of a life at all. At 34, I’m constantly perplexed but how I got here, and so fast. I’m suddenly an old mom, especially an old first-time mom. Not quite a 40-year-old mom, but old enough that I’m bewildered by the majority of women in my Facebook group who are in their teens and twenties who are having a child, often their second or third. I ask myself briefly, did I wait too long for this?

But then, I’m grateful for having the time in my life to get somewhat settled. I haven’t made as much progress in my mental health as I would have liked — I still have panic attacks, still suffer with depression, still am too sensitive to every stimuli and fail to think rationally in any situation requiring at outcome for myself. If this doesn’t make me sound like someone who is set to be nominated for future mom of the year, I know I’m not going to be a perfect mom. Maybe in my 20s I would have wanted to be. Today, I know better. Continue reading

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May the Force Be With You: Bringing a Child into this World

It has taken 34 years, but I’ve finally – almost – accepted that my parents will never be the loving, empathetic, caring people that I’ve always assume parental types should be. Like any human, they are flawed, but unlike many humans, they are extraordinarily self-centered,  giving only financially as a means to feel powerful and in control. Continue reading

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. 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

Who can afford to have kids?

Now that I’m getting around to this whole phase of my life where I will be trying to get pregnant (soon), the actual cost of kids is rolling towards me like a giant boulder chasing after Indiana Jones. Kids. Are. Damn. Expletive. Expensive.

Mr. HECC and myself are in a very good financial state compared to most people our age. We have $0 in college loans thanks to our parents covering our undergraduate tuition in full (I don’t know how we’ll be able to give the same gift to our future children) and we don’t have any other debt. We own our cars (which we bought used) outright and while our rent is not super cheap, we can afford to pay it on one income should one of us lose a job at some point – at least for a little while. And, together, we have about $450k saved up. For newlyweds in our early 30s, we’re doing ok.

Still, the cost of having children almost seems prohibitively expensive. I’ve been reading a lot of forums where they detail the cost of the basics – childcare, food, some activities, et al, and it adds up fast. Apparently pre-school around here costs about $2k a month or more ($24k a year.) Ouch. No wonder many of my friends ended up choosing to leave work, at least temporarily, to raise their kids as stay-at-home moms or part-time workers.

Since my income is much higher than Mr. HECC (and currently I’m the only one with work-provided insurance) it looks like if anyone ends up staying home to take care of our hypothetical future children, it will be him. I think I’m ok with that, but I also know he isn’t the “take care of the house” type so I’ll still have to at least be the main cleaner (which isn’t my forte.) He’ll cook so at least we have that covered. I’d be the full time worker, house cleaner and financial lead of our household. I’m pretty sure that my stress levels – which aren’t that low right now – will be through the roof should I have kids. The numbers just don’t make sense.

Clearly, lots of people have kids. Lots of people with a lot more debt than we do have kids. Lots of people who will never be able to take a vacation or enjoy a night out have kids. People have kids. Or they don’t. But it’s rare that a couple really analyzes the cost of children and then decides to have them because it’s a smart financial decision. It costs about $250k to raise a kid BEFORE college costs are involved. So it’s about $500k just to raise a kid if you’re going to pay for their undergraduate education, give or take $100k. Mr. HECC rolls his eyes at those figures – he grew up in a pretty modest household and their family trips were going camping in national parks and he never owned new clothes, so he doesn’t have the same kind of expectations that I do for our children. That said, I also now acknowledge that the amount of new toys I had as a child was ridiculous and I didn’t need to spend thousands of dollars on trendy clothes each year at the mall. There’s definitely somewhere in between our childhoods that we can settle on. No matter what, it’s going to be very expensive.

I feel that I’m now on the edge of this cliff looking at the abyss of a very frugal life, and back at my life so far where, despite ups and downs in my career, I’ve had quite a few luxuries and still have been able to save a substantial amount. I think about the “DINK” lifestyle – dual income, no kids – and wonder if maybe that’s the way to go. I don’t have that long to decide… if I want kids, I have to have them soon. It may come to having to spend tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments to have a kid, which adds to the cost of actually having them.

I’m not complaining about the costs, just trying to be realistic with if this makes any sense, or if I should stop and think a lot harder on whether or not it makes sense to have kids given my inability to keep a stable job and my husband’s lack of motivation to increase his earning potential. We’re both doing quite fine without children, but with kids – even one kid – things will change. And it’s not something you can take back once you have them, so you better be damn sure you want them before you do.

I AM sure I want kids, however. I want two children and Mr. HECC and I have already named them. I don’t know if I can have them, and I’m not quite sure yet if I’d be devastated if I’m unable to have kids, but I know that if I can have them I want them. It makes absolutely no sense yet that’s pretty much all I can think about these days. I don’t have any fairytales about having kids being easy either. I see my friend’s kids and they are all pains in the asses, even the ones that are relatively calm and charming. But – I have so much love in me it’s bursting at the seams, and I’m tired of living life for work. I want to live life for family and build a strong and stable and hopefully happy family and lots of memories before I kick the bucket.

So then the question becomes WHEN to have kids. I’ll be 33 this fall, which is old in baby-making years, especially for a first child when your goal is to have two – it’s very unlikely at this point I’ll have my first kid before I’m 34. I’ve always wanted to have my second by 36. I like the idea of having two kids close in age but at the same time having kids that close together is really, really, really hard – especially if the woman is the primary breadwinner of the household. I just don’t know how it all works. No matter how I picture it, everything breaks down. Either I quit my job, we move somewhere more cheaper, or both, and, still, that doesn’t help matters much. My savings that I’ve worked so hard to acquire slowly gets depleted until we’re in debt and can’t dig ourselves out. We have one medical emergency after another and we can’t afford good medical care and we end up on food stamps and we can’t help our children with their own issues so they end up in a vicious cycle of poverty.

Ok, so this is an exaggeration of what could happen, but I don’t see how anyone affords kids!?!

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.