When people ask about our family and how we moved so quickly from meeting to pregnancy, I like to tell people that I was in a long term common law relationship prior to Trent and that children were never a consideration. That I was career driven, and never saw myself with kids before Trent. This is not entirely true.
I did want children, but the relationship was never quite at a place where a conversation about children seemed appropriate. Instead, I endorsed the addition of a puppy to our family, and later after the relationship ended added another pup..
Before Valdy, I was working in a dream of a job in Fort Saskatchewan. I had trouble walking away from the job at the end of the day and on days off. I cared deeply about the projects I worked on and the people I worked with. Trent and I were in agreement, if we were going to consider starting a family, I needed to find another job. I need to be home, occasionally, before midnight, and needed to have reliable days off.
I interviewed for a job in St Albert on a Friday, found out I was pregnant on the Sunday, and was offered a position on the Monday. I was excited and devastated. I felt I was betraying my new employer before I even walked into the office for the first time. I remember disclosing my pregnancy to the HR representative that phoned to offer me the position, and indicating that if I was going to make the work environment too challenging, or was going to be judged for the pregnancy, that I needed to know (whether it was appropriate for me to be told this, or not).
I opted for a short maternity leave (initially 3.5 months, including the 2 weeks prior to my son’s arrival). I added an additional 2 weeks to my leave when I found myself struggling with serious health problems.
My entire leave was plagued with guilt, fear, and anxiety.
Had I established my place in the organization before leaving? Would my work be missed? Had I documented my work well enough for someone to continue to pursue the projects I had initiated? Would I be penalized in the future when I looked to advance?
Trent and I were comfortable with staying a family of 3.
After my return to work, I continued to find it challenging to balance work and home. Frequently finding myself staying late to finesse a document, or spend some time researching options for a member of my team.
I remember at a managers’ breakfast a respected manager in my organization commented that he never stays late at work, ever. That if a project can’t be done in work hours, it can’t be done. In fact, he wondered about how inefficient a manager is if they are staying late frequently. This challenged my view of commitment and value within a workplace, although didn’t change my work habits.
I think one always wants to be the employee people can’t live without; or the individual that when an opportunity for advancement comes up, everyone thinks “oh ____ will definitely get that…” or “_____, you should totally apply for that!” I aspire to have a director or general manager role in a municipal organization; so I find myself reflecting on the choices I make now, and how they may impact the opportunities that I pursue in the future, frequently.
During this last pregnancy I read a lot of books and articles about women finding corporate success while raising a family. I found it disconcerting how many articles are about women being penalized in the workplace for taking time off for maternity leave, focusing on family, or challenging overtime paradigms. Men and women are judged differently, whether intentional or not.
I had begun reading articles about family planning and the workplace in hopes of alleviating the anxiety that had plagued me leading up to and during my first maternity leave. Unfortunately, with this leave the guilt has increased, although I cannot pinpoint exactly why: Perhaps, it’s the anything but reassuring perspective of many of the articles I read; or the fact that I was with the organization longer, so now there were even more projects to attempt to document; maybe it’s that I was very vocal about our plans for only one awesome child; or…?
With Valdy, when my husband took paternity leave he was a hero; when I took a short maternity leave I was an ogre. When I opted to plan for an 8 month maternity leave for this pregnancy, I had a conversation with an individual that disclosed that although they were glad for the happy news in my life, it wasn’t really fair how it would impact them.
As a women I want to have it all. Career. Love. Family.
As a women with a chronic illness, I find I’m often trapped in the pick two triangle. ie. Quick, Cheap, Good.
As a women who hasn’t quite figured out where I fall in the corporate food chain; I want success at home and work, but haven’t figured out how this is best achieved. I’m working on that.
What I do know. I will work, hard, on any project put before me. At home or at work. If I’ve decided a project is worth using my limited energy store, or battling through pain and exhaustion for, it’s going to get 100% of me.
In my ideal world my workplace would know I have a chronic illness, but would see no signs of it, my children would have memories of mom having fun and loving them no matter what, and my husband would never feel like he only ever gets the gross leftovers. Most of the time, I think, I nail the first two, and I’m working on the third. Now, to shed this guilt, and embrace the empowerment of being a woman, and being capable of being life into the world AND being a corporate power house!