I never really thought a lot about what my life would be like if I became a mom. I assumed that I’d get pregnant, have the baby, and eventually go back to work. It’s what most women do. I didn’t think I’d have to choose between my career and my child.
After I got pregnant, I worked right up until the designated time for my leave and then took time off, just like every other mom at my office. I planned to maximize my leave and then transition back to full-time work over the course of a few months.
And then I had my son. They laid him on my chest for the first time and my whole world shifted. This tiny little human depended on me for his mere survival. What an amazing responsibility I’d been handed!
I took my maternity leave, as planned. But when it was over, I wasn’t ready to go back full-time. We worked it out so I could work part-time. Yet even that had to come to an end. My employer wanted me back in the office full-time. I desperately searched for another job in a different department, one that would allow me to continue to work part-time. I found nothing. I wasn’t ready to leave my son five days a week. Some women are ready to go back to the office, but I wasn’t one of them.
And I had to make a decision that very few men are forced to make in the workplace: work full-time, or quit. There was no middle ground for me. And while other women -- and men -- at work were sympathetic, they couldn’t do anything to help me.
Why are we still forcing women to make these decisions? Why couldn’t I have both? My office actually offers benefits to part-time workers, which is why I so desperately wanted to find that part-time position. But there weren’t any open jobs that fit the criteria. So I quit. But that doesn’t mean I still don’t feel a little forced out.
There have been other choices: Go to a conference? Take the kid? I had to give up more than one business trip because I couldn’t leave my infant. Men don’t have to choose between breastfeeding and travel. And they certainly don’t take a baby with them. I was lucky enough to go to BlogHer, which is extremely mom- and baby-friendly. Childcare! Sessions where babies are welcome! That’s the only conference I know of that goes to such lengths of accommodation. So we have to choose again: our career or our child.
We’ve made many inroads in making things more equal for men and women in the workplace, but we still have a long way to go. I’ve found an alternate career that does accommodate my many roles: wife, mother, writer, woman. It won’t make me choose between my career or my family. I can have both. But not all parents are so lucky. I keep hoping for a time when all industries, all jobs are more flexible for women, regardless of whether they have children.