"I will kill you, kill myself and kill the baby or go back to work."
I uttered those words to my husband in 2003 when on maternity leave with my first child. You see, I grew up with a stay-at-home mom. You know the type, the one that did everything for me and my sister and told us that we could "be whatever we wanted to be." I did just that. I went to school, became a CPA, got my MBA from Harvard, and landed a job with Toys "R" Us in a fast track management program. Then I had a baby. On day three, I told my husband that I could never leave my baby with anyone and I was going to quit my job. On day 30, I turned course and told him, "I will kill you, kill myself and kill the baby or go back to work."
And so back to work I went. Work was part of my identity and something I did not only for the money but because I actually enjoyed it. Many people talk about needing to go for a run to reenergize. For me, I reenergize by working. I need to do it for my sanity... strange I know, but true. But after returning to work, I realized that there was something else getting in the way of my sanity. It was the day care calling me several times (or more!) a month to tell me that my son was sick, and I had to come get him. I felt torn between choosing to be a good professional or a good mom. And like many of the hundreds of thousands of job seekers I work with at Mom Corps, I knew that I needed to leave the traditional workforce.
In Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In, she states that 43 percent of highly qualified women with children are leaving careers or off-ramping for a period of time. That's almost half of highly qualified women! We can discuss some of the reasons why people might hypothesize why this happens:
1. These women are typically married to well-qualified men that make enough money so that they don't "need" to work.
2. They were in extreme jobs in the first place that are very difficult to continue when they have a family.
3. The U.S. has a horrible maternity leave policy making it an easy time to step out of the workforce. (According to data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) the U.S. government support for working parents remains very limited. In fact, they are ranked 38th out of 38 nations compared)
In my case, none of these applied. I needed to work for my sanity if nothing else. My employer was very understanding and accommodating when it came to my role as a mother and gave me reduced work hours. My employer also had a very generous maternity leave policy which made it more difficult to leave the company at the time. For me it was none of these factors, the transition to being a working mother was just plain hard.
What's your story?