I received my W-2 back earlier this month and almost threw up when I opened it. That tiny piece of paper was proof that I had just ended the worst financial year I had in five years since starting my position at my current company while simultaneously adding another hungry (and expensive) mouth to our family.
I don’t know why I didn’t see it coming. It was the second year in a row I had taken a maternity leave, and this time, I took the full amount allotted to me by FMLA- sixteen weeks. All unpaid. To further add salt to the wound, I work mainly on commission as an event and wedding planner- booking and coordinating events that sometimes don’t happen for 12-24months. Brides like to book a long time in advance, and I had two years in a row that I missed out on prime wedding booking season, demolishing not only my current sales but future sales as well. If I don’t go on another maternity leave, I might, might get back to where I was in 2012 before I went on maternity leave the first time somewhere by the end of 2016. Yep- four years. It’s going to take me four years to make up for the two maternity leaves I went on. I know my employer is feeling it too- the more money I make, the more money my company makes, and if I’m not increasing my sales, neither is my company… We’ve both taken a loss with my decision to start a family. I’m an over achiever and it kills me when I don’t meet or exceed my goals. What drives me even more nuts is that I am quickly becoming less and less of a valuable asset to our team.
I am forever thankful for having a job in the first place- and one that I actually really like! I enjoy who I work for, the colleagues who I work with and the job that I do on a daily basis. Furthermore, I am immensely grateful for my insurance plan that is offered through my company. I’ve seen the astronomical bills from my children’s stay in the NICU and I can’t even wrap my head around what we would do if we had to pay for that out of pocket. All that said, as I reviewed my W-2, I couldn’t help but feel like I was being punished just a little bit for starting a family.
Times have changed. For many families, it is not financially possible for one parent to work while the other one stays home with the kids. This has nothing to do with the particular company I work for… it has to do with the sad state of affairs regarding raising a family in America today. I honestly don’t know what the answer is. I am not 100% sure it is fair to ask that employers pay for maternity leave, and yet, I feel like a maternity leave is 100% necessary. The only thing I am sure of is that the system is broken. For us, starting a family and having a baby was a choice and I know a number of women who have had to choose between furthering their career and raising a family. I hate that it seems like it is all or nothing. For many women, the line has been clearly drawn in the sand- you cannot have both a flourishing and successful career and a family without compromising one or the other.
I had high hopes when I was in younger. I’ve seen the glass ceiling and there isn’t a bone in my body that doesn’t want to shatter that thing to pieces. I’m just not sure I ever will. According to this Forbes article less than 5% of the top companies have women CEOs and only slightly more than 10% of their list of world billionaires are women. If you ask me, those statistics suck. The bottom line though, is that something changes inside of you when you have children. As soon as I had a baby and saw that tiny little face looking up at me, I couldn’t imagine spending anything less than all of my time devoted to him.
Let’s not get overboard here- I’ve seen glimpses of what a stay at home mom goes through on my two brief stints of maternity leave, and I am not cut out for that. I honestly have no idea how you stay at home moms do it, because you must have an enormous amount of patience- certainly way more than I do. I don’t want to be a SAHM, even if I could afford it. I do, however, want it all. I want to spend all the time with my children that I can, while successfully managing a successful career, and not compromise on either. Is that too much to ask? I’m scared to admit that I think it might be.
So, what’s the answer? Will you see my name on the list of 40 Most Successful Under 40? Probably not, but I’m going to keep trying. I’m going to keep fighting the fight. I’m going to answer those work emails after the kids go to sleep. I’m going to get up overnight when they cry out for me. I’m going to put my all into everything that I’m presently working on- at home and for my job. And going to try to stay alive doing it, because I want it all- and I’m going to make that happen one day.