I quit my job on Tuesday. I decided to take a year off and stay home with my growing new baby. I have projects I want to get done, a house to streamline, children to nurture, and 2 LLCs to run and grow. Life is about to get interesting.
Here’s the post-mortem on the decision process:
- On my last performance evaluation conversation with my boss I expressed my ambition to lead a team. We had a plan to turn a certain area of our team into its own department. I would come back from maternity leave and train an army of project managers, and I’d be their director.
- I said to my mother: “My commute is terrible; I should just quit and find a part-time job close to home. But if I get director, that would be reason enough for me to stay.”
- By the time I left, the plan had changed. The area we were considering was now just a role, not a department. It would report to a middle manager, not to C-suite. The contractor I hired to do my job during leave would no longer eventually become my employee, but we’d find something else for them to do when I got back.
- 8 weeks into my leave, I got a call from the middle manager telling me that my area was now off the table, and asked me if I wouldn’t mind fixing the Release Management process (which I had already done my first 6 months with one of the engineering teams). This is a job I could do with one hand tied behind my back. I said yes, fine, whatever. I expressed that if this was the biggest problem the company needed to solve, then yes, I could do it.
My reaction to this:
- This took the air out of me. My ambitions were shattered and now I was basically starting over from square 1. No leadership prospects, just doing the same thing over and over again (plus the long commute). But hey, the business must do what the business must do. It has nothing to do with me, it just happened to not work out for me.
- This new lack of interest was the KEY to my decision. Once my job was not important, other priorities took its place. There’s only so many times I can write the sentence “Streamlined SDLC process” on my resume.
- While on leave I decided to just forget about my job for a while and treat it as if I was coming to a new company, in a new unknown role, and see how it goes.
And then, the baby came:
- By the time the baby came, I had completely deprioritized work in my mind. I would focus my maternity leave on my house and my family.
- Once the baby was priority #1, my non-descript non-ambition-fulfilling job was not critical enough to keep my interest over this human being.
The thought process:
- Now that my job wasn’t so important, I was going to try to spend as much time at home as possible.
- On the first Monday back, I spoke with the middle manager and asked them if I could turn my job into part-time, or work from home, or both. To my surprise, they said YES to both.
- I thought about it all week. I found out more about my new job so I could learn what the expectations were and how to do it right. Still, my mind kept going back to things I needed to get done at home. My job was a clear priority #2.
- If my job is priority #2, and that’s what I’m doing 90% of my time, I’m setting myself up for a pretty crappy time during my son’s early years (which I will never get back)
- About a month before coming back, my husband had suggested I took a year off. I did not believe this was financially possible, and I felt it was an attack at my career just for being a woman.
- After the first week back, I took a dive into our finances. It would be tight, and we would be eating from our savings for a while… but it WAS possible. Now, could my ego take the hit?
- Truth was that I COULD take a year off, and go back to EXACTLY THE SAME JOB I was being offered at my company ANYWHERE else (even closer to home). There was absolutely no downside to my career to take a year off.
- Decision made.
What I learned that I didn’t know before:
- I wouldn’t have made this decision if the next step for my career was around the corner. I would have come back as a manager, proud and happy to be working again and doing something that I have worked very hard for. I wanted to work MORE, to have MORE responsibility, not less.
- I do believe that the lack of an HR department in my company meant that I was prey to people’s biases about women, maternity leave, and how likely I would be to not come back to work at all. “She might not come back, so don’t bank on her,” which has the effect of “Don’t bank on her, and she won’t want to come back.” It’s a self fulfilling prophecy.
- Yes, women leave the workplace because they CHOOSE to take care of family. But if the industry actually was set up to elevate talent and take professional development of women seriously, they would have made sure to keep my attention. I spoke with my former boss and he said if he had known, he would have given me a larger role coming back. Having lived through this and being there in conversations with him last year, I KNOW that wouldn’t have entered anybody’s mind. Hindsight is 20/20.
I learned a lot through this. I actually got to live through what that “choice” actually entails. Companies CAN do more, but they have to actually take women’s professional development seriously if they are to keep them around. Women are strong, smart and do have options out there. We are not just grateful for having a job. Those days are long gone.