Tag Archives: work

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.

Depression Is…

I write here, anonymously, because adolescent angst is no longer all the rage when you’re 33. For those of you who regularly read my blog, I apologize for the negative tone it has taken as of late. I just use this as a place to anonymously document my life in all its bitter glory. Life isn’t really all that bad, so I ought to just shut up entirely about these thoughts and feelings that come into my head. But without having this venue to share, I might just explode – or implode.

Thank god I’m so terrified of death because killing myself is such a remarkably attractive option right now. I know it’s a long term solution to a short-term problem and I’m not going to do it. But nothing else makes sense right now. Honestly, when I think of all the possibilities in the world there is no positive outcome in sight. I’m tired, exhausted even, of my overthinking, of my overeating, of my failure to do my jobs well which might be  due to the fact I am lacking in abilities or skill or training or maybe I’m just horrible at consistency or perhaps I’m flat out dumb, at least in terms of real-world job skills. Continue reading

Imposter Syndrome vs. Not Being Good Enough vs. Figuring Shit Out

Most days, I feel lost and hopeless. In between those days, there are moments where I get into Csikszentmihalyi-esque “flow” and I see, through all the mess of the dark-thorned forest, a clearing at the end of the tunnel – a life where I can be GOOD at my job on a consistent basis, get paid well for it, and afford a decent life in one of the most expensive places to live in the world.

I write this from one of my favorite gourmet supermarkets. Walking down the carefully-organized aisles filled with perfectly stacked imports and local delicacies, I acknowledge that this is a life I have to fight for, tooth and nail, mostly on my own. With my husband going back to school for teaching he’ll be in the $45k-$50k salary range starting out, so it’s up to me to make the life I want – to be able to afford a house in the Bay Area (or a nice enough rental in a safe neighborhood) for my future family to live in. Some days, in between the gloom and doom of telling myself I’m on the verge of getting fired and that my boss hates me, I think – damn it, maybe I actually know what I’m doing. Maybe I deserve my salary (or at least, I deserve it as much as the next person would have asked for it) – and I CAN DO THIS. 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.

 

It’s a Man’s World

Isn’t it ironic that as I sit here at a city Starbucks pondering my gender than  the context of my recurring professional setbacks I noticed that “It’s a Man’s World” was playing on the speaker system? Well, it is. Here I am, for the thousand billionth time, at a point of failure. I’ve done a lot of good work, but it’s never enough. I’ve also made a lot of mistakes. But it still feels like there is something more than just making mistakes that gets me where I seem to always end up.

My office has public calendars and I wasn’t calendar stalking but happened upon an interview occurring with someone who clearly is in the running for either my new boss or my replacement (I can’t figure out which.) That someone is an old dude. Maybe he’s great. His resume certainly is impressive. Maybe he is what the company needs. But I also see an unfortunate trend in my life – I accept roles where no one can succeed and then when it finally is possible for someone to come and be successful (and the role is more desirable) I get replaced with someone who is a lot more charismatic and better at faking being good at things or maybe is actually good at things – I am not sure if it matters. What matters is I can’t fake it. I’m honest to a fault and then some. It doesn’t fly in business. Well, it flies me out of every single job I have.

I’m learning a lot. I’m the kind of person who likes to really understand what I’m doing before I do it. I enjoy systems thinking and understanding the architecture of a broader infrastructure and envisioning ways to fix what isn’t working. I’m not so good at actually getting things done – which is enough of a reason for a company to kick me out – though when I am being productive I’m probably much more productive than most other people might be. I’m a poster child for ADHD though now a woman and no one in real life has the patience to put up with my occasional bouts of extreme productivity paired with stilted outputs due to anxiety, depression and distractedness, in no particular order.

I’ve been writing a lot about gender biases and I do wonder if bits and pieces of my situation happen to be caused by my being female versus male. It’s a catch 22 and all – am I doing bad work because I’m anxious caused by the way I’m treated due to my gender or am I treated the way I am because I’m anxious and doing bad work in a way that’s embarrassingly and stereotypically “female,” whatever that means. The ADHD is real and it doesn’t help. At best I’m seen as a creative savant who is hopeless when it comes to maintaining usefulness in business. At worst I’m characterized as a hot mess that can’t even motivate herself to be lukewarm.

What’s even harder is being in management. I really do enjoy managing employees from the sense of coaching them and helping them grow however I can. It’s just the day-to-day smalltalk that is so draining. I think back to bosses who would always put on a smile and ask how things are going even if they didn’t really care because that’s just how they knew how to be great managers – and although some of them faked it better than others, it worked. I find myself struggling to so much as say hi and bye to my team each day. I know it’s so dumb – as I can envision myself with a big smile asking them about their weekend plans, but then whenever I try I end up feeling so drained just by the effort to come across personal without being too personal. Friendly, but not a friend. Boss-like, but also cool boss, but also someone who has her shit together, despite clearly not having her shit together.

The long and short of it is that I can keep doing this to myself over and over again… for, oh, I don’t know how long… or I need to find a completely different path. I know I’ve said this before a zillion times but now I actually believe it. I mean, I went from making $90k six years ago to nearly $200k today and that’s helpful in terms of my bank account but only feels like an accomplishment in deceit. A good friend of mine – now long-time colleague – has suggested that I take a job that doesn’t pay quite so much in order to provide a little less stress – and less having my bosses constantly calculating if my ROI is worth my cost and then being so passive aggressive about earlier negotiations.

I’ve been rather aggressive when it comes to negotiating because as a woman all we’re told is that we get paid less and we should ask for more. Ok, I did it… and I still have no idea if a man of my “level” would have asked for even more or less, but I felt good about pushing and I had two offers at this rate (actually the other one was for even more) which made me feel justified in accepting one of them. However, getting a salary offer and having that salary not haunt you for the entirety of your tenure with a company – especially if that company is a small business and your boss knows that every dollar spent limits his changes of success and wealth – is probably worth more than $10k or even $20k more a year after tax.

There are two paths here that are the easiest, and then many others which will be much harder and more scary. I stay on the path I’m on, and with my newly-gained experience try my best to stay in this role as long as possible and then when I need to (which may unfortunately be sooner than later) I interview like crazy and try to convince someone that I’m great and negotiate strongly again and walk away with a similar salary and another six months of attempting to do my best without that actually being anywhere near good enough. OR – I find a job that’s maybe lower level by a bit – maybe at a bigger company (though it’s really hard to get hired at a bigger company when you mostly have smaller company experience) and take a salary of anywhere from $120k-$140k (which isn’t bad by any means but it’s a massive pay cut) and then just see if I can maintain that job.

Or I just take another path entirely. Open my own small business. Go back to school for design. Return to my earlier profession as a journalist. Write a novel. Or a yawn-inducing memoir. Learn about shooting film. Move to the middle of nowhere and take college art classes until I’m credentialed to teach. Make a living selling crafts on Etsy. “Come out” as the author of this blog and make a name for myself as this depressed, anxious 30-something who is so remarkably spoiled that despite her disability the only response she gets from the universe is a series of eye rolls and “woe is you’s.”

It’s just at this point where I am at my wit’s end. I can’t even talk to my fiancé about this anymore because he doesn’t like hearing about how I’m failing over and over again. I don’t blame him. He also doesn’t work in business, so he can’t really relate. And he knows a lot of it is my depression and a lot of it is me being lazy but I swear that due to this constant ridiculous anxiety that just builds and builds and builds.

And it’s all fine and well to fall over on my face as many times as necessary to get through life / build a nest egg … but not if I have kids (which I want to do and have to do soon if I want my own.) And so I feel like I’m running straight for a brick wall that someone told me is made of styrofoam but we all know damn well it’s just made out of actual very fucking hard brick. I know I can’t keep running straight ahead, but the older I get, the faster my momentum, and the harder to slow down, the more impossible to stop and turn away from the inevitable outcome of shattering into a million pieces.

When You Made It and You Haven’t Gotten Anywhere

This week, I’ve been reading a slew of posts about how women make less money than men, and why.  Mostly, the argument against this being an issue goes, that women tend to work less than men one they have kids, and they also and generally less competitive so of course they don’t make as much money. In every single job negotiation I feel the weight of this on my shoulder, and try my best to negotiate. I have no idea what a man would do in the same situation with my experience, but since my first couple of jobs when I took the starting salary with no negotiation at all, I’ve tried to ask for a little more, and I’ve gotten more ballsy over time. It helps now that I now have competition offers, and I seem to be fairly good at interviewing these days.

On paper, I sound qualified for a very particular type of role and particular type of company. I’m not sure at all how life has sculpted itself to this specific career path, but it has, and I’m locked and loaded into it, full speed ahead until retirement to gain more responsibility, earn more wages, and look back on a very successful professional career. It hit me this week that I’m nearly making $200k (which, even for one of the highest cost of living areas, is one of those numbers that I thought would never be possible — ten years ago I was making $20k.)

Yet as I look ahead to potentially having children / starting a family, I realize that if I have an opportunity to leave this profession and move into something that is more flexible and personally fulfilling, I would. As much as I like money, and as much as I’ve been driven by this random “$500k in networth before I have kids” goal for the entirety of my 20s and early 30s, I just can’t see myself, 10 years from now, in this same type of role. I don’t want to be a vice president or C-level executive. Even though the pay would be great, I have no desire to be that person. I could potentially figure out how to fake who I am enough to get there… given my success getting this far, I have to believe that someone out there would want to offer me such an opportunity one day.  And I feel very guilty, that as a woman — as a woman who has an actual chance of getting to the top – I don’t want it.

As I sprint full speed ahead towards my mid 30s and the next phase of my life, I wonder what to do about it. I’m so busy these days with just trying to do my job and do it well and planning my wedding that I don’t have a ton of time to ponder what’s next (which is probably a good thing.) But, as my rent has increased this year by $2040 for the year, and the cost of living in this area shows no signs of refraining its hockey-stick growth, I know that at some point soon, I either need to commit to this career or come up with an exit strategy. I’m leaning towards the exit.

I don’t want to “not work.” I LOVE working. I love collaborating with a team to create new products. I wish I could be a ux designer or product lead. I’ve said that now for 12 years. I’ve failed to make any progress in that direction. I tried to study for the GRE and even booked a test slot and then didn’t go because I hadn’t studied enough. I couldn’t focus. I gave up. I got a better job. I made more money. It became less fiscally responsible to go back to school anyway. I got older. I passed that age when people go to grad school into the age when some people do but they’re much older their classmates. I entered the age where you take online classes or executive programs but only in rare cases do you go back to school for an entirely new career. Sure, people do it, and I may eventually as well, but I’m really getting older now — not old, per se, but old in the sense of I have a career. I have a good career. I manage a department, small as it is, I’m still in a high-level role, and there is so much good in my life that I kick myself every time I want to start over.

At this point, I’m committed to another year or two in my current job. If I do get pregnant then that will certainly be an opportunity to think through what’s next. Of course, if I get pregnant, it will be even harder to change careers. If I opt to apply to grad school for 2017 I’ll be 33 when I start, and I may want to put having kids on hold, which means I likely won’t have kids, which is, at this point, out of the question unless nature says I can’t (also a possibility.) In any case, there has to be some major changes in the next 2-3 years of my life, which will likely include moving to another state, or at the least, finding another career path and opting for lower pay and a lower quality of life here. I know this isn’t something I can maintain. It will be hard to say goodbye to the near-$200k salary, but I know if I figure out how to do something I’m really passionate about, maybe I can get back there over time. Or maybe I can just make less money and live somewhere more affordable. Either way, there are options, and I’ll always feel guilty as a woman for throwing away a successful career, but I have to. I have to rethink my entire life, my goals, and the directed outcomes. I do finally feel ready for a change.

What’s Making Successful American Women Feel Sick?

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Lean In. You can have it all. We’ve come so far in our society to tell ourselves this lie. Yet according to a new survey of super-successful women at Fortune 500 companies, women who are wealthy and highly educated reported to feel less healthy than those who were less successful. Despite the fact that these women were actually less likely to be overweight  and more likely to get six hours of sleep a night, they seem to judge themselves against an unattainable ideal, which makes them feel less healthy.

The Title of the Harvard Business Review Article “The More Women Earn, The Less Healthy They Feel.” It’s not that these women are actually unhealthy, just that they fail to find time to dedicate to their health, especially when it comes to finding time to see a doctor – 48% said they could not see a doctor due to workload. And women who are in high-powered roles find it challenging to find time to exercise – 25% had not participated in any kind of physical exercise in the last month.

As I’ve moved up in the work world to have more responsibility, I find it much more challenging to make time for health. I’ve never been a healthy person, so I’m not the ideal sample, but to perform my job well I should wake up at 6am or earlier and be on a 7:30 train to arrive at work, stay at work until 7 and – I should – attend after work networking events, to return home late in the evening. This is overwhelming to me and I don’t even have children or other responsibilities. I’m trying now to get exercise in by having a personal trainer come to my apartment at 6am three days a week, to make me work out for an hour. But that doesn’t work well when I’m falling asleep at midnight and I need eight hours of sleep a night to function. And my diet, albeit an improvement over what I ate in my 20s, is still hit or miss. Sometimes I’ll go to bed having not eaten enough calories for the day which leads to binge eating the next day. It’s a horrible cycle.

I would assume this is just as hard for men, so the study of women only is an interesting one. There are other reports which show that men often do less housework, especially which children, so women are often more busy due to managing both household responsibilities and work. That may be why this study about women’s health is worth an HBR article.

The other thing that isn’t mentioned, however, is that women generally have more medical concerns than men, and more medical visits required just to maintain their health. I don’t have any idea how a woman finds time to see a doctor over any fertility issues – though I guess I may have to figure that out over the next year or so. As a female executive, I think there is a larger fear that every moment out of the office, every doctor’s appointment, every hour not focused on the job, will be a huge ding against one’s record. Men don’t have to worry about that (typically.) And when the majority of senior leaders in a company are men, such topics don’t come up until you have to have awkward conversations — “I’m trying to get pregnant but I can’t get pregnant so I need to take some time to go to a doctor a few times every month.” Who wants to have that conversation with their boss?

But, beyond this, it’s sad that women in leadership roles feel so unhealthy. What is wealth and success if we don’t have our health?

 

 

Do I Choose to be Stressed?

A friend of mine, a stay-at-home mother who is married to an engineer who is likely earning over $200k a year, has told me to stop making choices that make me so stressed. I should go to a mindfulness class, she says, as this helped her resolve the majority of her own anxieties. They aren’t rich by any means for this area, but they do have a small condo that the husband’s parents purchased and they are renting the unit from them. I agree with her that I put myself in stressful situations and even when I don’t I have a tendency to stress about every little thing, but it’s hard to have a conversation with her about the stress I feel about money and the ability to live a comfortable life. I hear my mother’s voice, someone who doesn’t really want to understand money or retirement savings, but who just assumes it will all work out. And maybe it will for her. And maybe it will for me. But maybe not.

In the case of my life, I just don’t see it all magically working out. I have to make it work. And,  yes, that is stressful. I am literally making the choice between jobs that will pay over $150k and jobs that would pay $60k — and the crazy thing is it’s easier to get hired in the former right now. Those well-paid jobs come with a heaping dose of responsibility and the corresponding stress.

Here I am, one month from turning 32, and — this is the year I’ll get married and when I want to try to have children. I know having children will be challenging due to my health issues, and I also know that stress can contribute to infertility and miscarriages. I need to focus on being healthy and stress-free right now, but that’s hard to do when I am staring down these startup jobs that I’ll always feel under-qualified for and incapable of any sustained success. And just logistically these companies don’t have paid leave for maternity or anything, so I’d basically have to quit when I have a kid, if I have a kid. Which really sucks since I’m currently the breadwinner (well, at least prior to getting the axe!) I don’t know how I can make this work. It works FINE now – living in a one bedroom apartment and being ok with having to move if our rent goes up too much… but I can’t do this with kids. I mean, people DO do this with kids. But if I’m stressed now… then I can’t imagine how I’d feel then. And I don’t want to be a stressed out mother around my future children.

Today, I’m trying to decide whether to do COBRA for health insurance or to purchase it on my own. Neither option is great. For $550 a month I can have a $1500 deductible plan… or I can buy my own and do something like $350 a month for a $5000 deductible. In either case, it’s just a catastrophic plan and any other health needs… like… pregnancy stuff… wouldn’t be covered (well, it would go towards that impossibly high deductible or not at all.) My fiance doesn’t have insurance through work so it’s not like I’ll be better off when married. We’ll just be paying more in tax (if we’re both working) as our big reward for tying the knot.

I know I’m fortunate to even have these problems… but the next few years of my life are legitimately terrifying. These are the years when I either become a mother OR become a woman who never has kids. Either is a major, major life-defining situation. I want kids, even though I’ll never feel ready. I don’t want to watch my 30s go by and have just let work become the only thing that matters in life. And I’m the type of person that is all or nothing — it’s so hard for me to be just enough, but not too much, especially when in the startup world the general unspoken agreement is that you should work 14 hours a day, 7 days a week (give or take.)

Becoming a contractor would be ideal – for the flexibility – but then I’ll really have to deal with the health insurance situation… I mean, after rent, health insurance, and car insurance … that’s about $1800 a month right now. I just don’t think I can – for the long term – do the consultant thing. I think, even though the stability kills my drive, I need it. I just don’t know WHAT to do. It’s not like I can bring up the whole “hey… so I may get pregnant in the next year or two… and also, I may need to take crazy hormones and take time off of work in order to get pregnant because my body doesn’t work so can I negotiate some of flexibility into this contract or you know what just go hire some woman who doesn’t want kids or who already has them at least or just someone who probably won’t have substantial medical issues trying to get pregnant.”

My friend would tell me that I shouldn’t be stressing over this. But, I guess, I would want to ask her if she’d be stressed if she didn’t have a stable place to live and a husband with such a well-paid, high-stress career. She says she doesn’t care about money but I know she likes nice things — she has good taste — and I know she says she doesn’t really care about money because that would be too stressful, but that’s because at this point, perhaps, she doesn’t have to care, or she chooses not to think about it or be involved in her financial future.

There really isn’t anyone I know who is in a similar situation either — my friends here (the female ones) are either married and stay-at-home mothers or part-time self-employed types with husbands who have high-paid tech jobs, or they’re in a situation where they’re making about the same as their significant others and will probably leave the area since their careers don’t provide the salaries needed to last here. I don’t relate to (or have any friends to people who are) powerful women who have high-paid jobs. I mean, I’m not that type, I’m just faking it… for now. I really want to just tell these companies I’m interviewing for all the reasons they shouldn’t hire me… because I’m so tired of being a good interviewer but then feeling like I just don’t know what to do or how to do it when I start – or especially after I get through the few things I know how to do… and am left with a whole bunch of “figure it out” that never goes so well when I’m in charge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Goes On and On and On…

It’s pretty damn depressing when you get to that point in life (i.e. your early 30s) where you go from thinking one day you’ll do something big (creative or otherwise) and worthy of at least a Wikipedia page – and then you look around and realize that suddenly your future greatness never happened and your life is going to be just as normal as the next person’s – at best.

Culturally, we raise our children to think they’re special. Their art project deserves to win a statewide contest and be featured in the local newspaper. Being the lead in a school play is the end-all-be-all of importance for one’s happiness and self worth. Life is about being impressive and unique. Well,  at least that’s the way my parents raised me. And I’m sure feeling the effects of it more than ever now.

I’m definitely as a turning point in my life – one where I have a choice to really stop what it is I’m doing and make a significant, strategic or haphazard change – to grasp at whatever sort of inner psyche voice is willing to talk at me to produce some form of a future that makes sense. I know the entire career I’ve somehow got myself into – while lucrative and actually quite stable if I were good at it – is not right. But then I think I’m just lazy and no career will ever be right and I just need to, you know, suck it up until I’m old enough to retire – and then I’ll be bored because I actually like working.

Things I think I’d like to do and why I haven’t done them yet…

  • Psychologist / career counselor — I enjoy helping other people plan their lives and giving advice. But I don’t know if I’d want to do that for a living, or if I should just stick to trying to be a good friend to a few select individuals who occasionally ask for advice. The amount of schooling required to switch to this career is immense and I’m so far behind now it would be challenging to make such a change, especially if I’m not 100% sure that I’d be happy in this field… which I’m not.
  • UX designer — this is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, as in 8+ years. There are many different ways into the field but I am convinced graduate school is the best way to transition at this point. I daydream about studying design but then I also worry about it being too limited — many UX designers have to basically listen to non-designer managers tell them what to do, and the entire experience is frustrating and soul-sucking. Plus, UX designers don’t only get to do the fun strategic design work, but they also have to create hundreds of pages of detailed wireframes. I’m not the best when it comes to details or sticking up for my points when someone else says I’m wrong. I worry this dream career would be more like a nightmare.
  • Teacher — I don’t think I have the patience for teaching, but I do like the idea of feeling like I’m actually doing something meaningful in my life. The reason why this is even on the list is that I really enjoy helping people, and I know if I could feel useful everyday I’d be much happier.
  • Writer — the whole journalism thing didn’t work out… getting scoops was so stressful I ended up just getting myself scoops of ice cream instead. Social anxiety also gets in the way of interviewing random people for your stories, and I never could come up with my own story ideas anyway. Writing a novel is appealing but I’m terrible at plot and dialogue, so that’s a no go. Professional blogging is a thought, but a bad thought, as I can’t even keep up with writing in this blog and I only post when I’m feeling inspired (i.e. frustrated.) I’ve received a number of offers for sponsored posts on this blog, but I don’t want to turn this into that type of a site. If anyone actually reads this blog still — well, they know that it’s not about trying to sell crap.
  • Photographer — I enjoy photography but I don’t know how to do it correctly – even though I invested in a fancy camera a few years ago. Being a photographer is a huge investment and it also means that you have to basically give up your entire life to the trade. Wedding photographers are busy all weekend every weekend, especially in the nicer months. Photojournalists travel the world and rarely see their own bed. I think I’m looking for a job in my “old age” with more flexibility, not less.
  • Film editor – I often think this would have been an idea job. I enjoy telling stories and taking stories and putting them together. But to be a film editor I’d have to first learn how to use the latest tools, then start at the very bottom, and who knows if I could ever move up. I have a friend who does editing in LA and she seems to like it but she works long hours and the pay is not good. There are so many people who want to be film editors that the agencies that do this can basically screw people over. But really, I don’t want to move to los angeles, so getting a job in film editing would be quite challenging in most other cities.
  • Character Animator — if I could learn to create animations that would be pretty cool… but I don’t think I’m talented enough to do the work that I’d actually want to do.
  • Mother — not that being a full time mother is actually possible, but I’d like to do this for a little while. Maybe by the time I get done dealing with a screaming baby 24/7 I’ll be ready to go back to the corporate world doing just about anything.

Well – those seem to be my options – or I can just stay where I am now, career-wise, and try to focus on the parts of it that I like. I’ve just concluded that I need a job which is based on projects that have a certain timeframe so there is a sense of natural momentum and also a good feeling of being DONE with something before moving on to the next thing. I’m not good at the type of job that is never, ever done (well until you quit or get fired) — even your best results are just temporary. I wish I went into film or some more creative field where you worked on projects one at a time. I need that sense of completion. After 6-12 months I start to feel restless, which isn’t healthy or positive for my current career. I need to focus and just pretend to be someone else for a while – and to figure out what it is I’m doing next – because I have about two years before my first child (knock on wood) and I need to have my shit together by then.