Before having children was something that demanded my attention, I had a clearly defined career path that I intended to follow. If you asked me where I saw myself in five years’ time, my answer was ready. I wanted to be higher on the career ladder and working toward being a director of HR in the company I worked at.
But one morning, my outlook on life began to shift. Call it my biological clock ticking if you must. Suddenly, I began to see myself as something more than a wife and manager. I wanted to be a mother. My husband was delighted, and we started trying to fall pregnant right away.
It took a few months before I skipped my period. I was so excited that I went out to the pharmacy during my lunch hour to buy a pregnancy test. There was no way I could wait until I got home that evening. In the cubicle of a 15th-floor bathroom, the test was positive. It was the most fantastic feeling in the world.
I wanted to burst out into the office and announce my news to everyone, but something held me back. I’m not saying there was discrimination in my workplace, but there was a lot of stereotyping. Male executives would complain about ‘losing’ female employees to motherhood.
These women still worked there, but they cut down on their hours, and their priorities changed. They were often passed over for promotion, deemed unreliable because of their commitment to their children. Would my male colleagues and bosses think the same thing about me?
Since I worked in the HR department, I would spend a lot of time using the company’s learning management software. I’d always be passionate about employee learning and training. I no longer found it as fascinating as I once had.
As the wave of nausea and exhaustion of the first trimester washed over me, I became more conscious of my health. Where I would once have skipped lunch hour to keep working, I began making use of it to rest and ready myself for the afternoon.
I started eating healthier food and working more regular hours. Soon, people noticed these changes, although I had yet to tell any of them that I was pregnant.
The cat was out of the bag after a colleague found me throwing up in the bathroom. I was relieved but worried about people’s reactions. I was pleasantly surprised by how many people congratulated me and seemed genuinely pleased for me.
The first kick
The first time I felt my baby kick, I was sitting in what felt like an endless staff meeting. These meetings, which I had once looked forward to, no longer held the same value for me. I was starting to dread them.
That kick changed my perspective on life. I realized that I was now a part of something much bigger. The responsibility of motherhood would be greater than anything I’d ever had to do at work. My career ambitions faded into the background as my dreams of motherhood intensified. Nothing would ever be the same again.
The end of the line
The day I went on maternity leave, I knew deep down that I’d never go back to work at that company. It would not be fair on me, my baby, or the company. I owed the organization my undivided attention if I wanted to achieve my career goals.
I knew I’d never be able to accomplish that after having my child. Some women get it right, but I knew that I was not one of them. It was time to make a change.