It was a mix of short-term disability, and then official maternity leave from the company, also in combination with the fact that we don’t have a strict vacation policy, it’s just take what you need when you need it, and we also have very flexible work-from-home policies.
At a startup where women are forging the path fresh, they’re not only experiencing this thing for the first time, but they’re having to help everyone through their experience for the first time too: talking to an HR person who’s never handled maternity leave before, asking the benefits person to walk them through those EDD forms, which is so difficult. When everyone’s doing it the first time, it’s bound to be exceptionally difficult, and unfortunately there are going to be things that don’t go as planned. How do you learn from that experience and make it better?
It was very much a typical startup, with typically young males. Everybody else was all males, all of their execs, Most people weren’t married, and didn’t have kids for sure. So it was just, I guess, being in a culture where what you needed or what you did was so different from everybody else, that there wasn’t even a common term that they could understand. That was the most challenging part.
I found out I was pregnant on the weekend, Saturday or Sunday. And when I came into work that Monday, I found out that my then-boss, the SVP of Engineering, was leaving the company.
There aren’t any bad choices here. The only bad choice is for you to be a miserable parent, to not be present, to not be investing time as much as you can in your kid, or to not meet those basic needs—the biological-level needs.
One of the things I like about working for what I call a “grown-up company” is that so many people here have families, and people really understand that work is not the be-all and end-all.
I was worried about my job. I was unreasonably worried that if I took the full time — because the tech world moves so fast, and Github moves so fast — I worried that if I stayed away the whole time, when I came back I wouldn’t be any use.
All of my college roommates quit working and stayed at home, and that also was really challenging, because they of course were posting videos, and sharing photos of them doing stuff with their kids during the day. I remember feeling really oddly detached from all of them, like the things that we had in common started becoming less and less.
I did have a lot of problems with the disability plan that I had bought into, and that’s what was upsetting, because I kept thinking, “I’ve never used this plan. It was there for me just in case, and here I can’t even use it.”
It’s really important to make sure we are taking care of ourselves, and living up to the examples that we want ourselves to be, because in the end, that is for them too. They’re going to be able to see that. And that’s going to be what they base their ideas off of, of what they can do, and what kind of people they want to surround themselves with.
The older your children get, the fewer things you can really successfully outsource. You can always outsource the laundry, or driving to-and-from, but the things that require your unique value system and your opinion on how to raise your child become, to me, more and more prevalent the older the child gets.
The setting of boundaries, and the asking for what you need, and the taking care of yourself… that has to come from the employee. The company has a lot of policies, and they have things available to you, but they are never going to be the ones that insist that you strike a good balance in your life. You have to be the one that sets your boundaries and then works out how you can negotiate that with your manager and your infrastructure.