I was an executive at a marketing and promotions agency. I traveled frequently between our offices and client decision makers, and was in the midst of working with four people to figure out how to downsize our multi-city staff and manage a corporate merger between agencies. I was also six months pregnant. I argued exhaustively for the employees being our greatest resources, for recognizing and encouraging natural leadership, and for the dignity of each employee's personal life outside of work.
On Friday, November 9th, 2007, I went to a routine doctor's appointment. I had been to Chicago and New York that week and had thought very little about anything but work in-between. My doctor told me that I had severe preeclampsia. I was admitted to the hospital, and stayed there for three weeks. My daughter was born at two and a half pounds, and spent two months in the hospital and six months on oxygen.
I had significant responsibilities and an important role in my company. I was supposed to be the company president in the very near future. But one day I vanished from work. I never returned, confined to a hospital bed, wondering what my employees, who I had fought so hard for, had even been told. No person with whom I had spent those months and months building, arguing, and working had even called. Being a mother in an ad agency world wasn't cool. Being a sick one was even worse. I had seen this throughout my 15-year career: When someone wanted to work less hours or on a flexible schedule, it was interpreted as them having less to offer, or becoming less valuable. And I, one of the most valuable people at my company, was being treated the same way.
In my career, I had also seen dozens of women have children and feel bad on a daily basis about the tension between their work as a professional and their job as a mother. They felt they were failing at both careers, making everyone around them miserable, and always pretending it was par for the course. I had always vowed to play a different course. I was not going to allow myself to be miserable while working so as to attempt to please people in my every waking moment. So, when my designated three months was up, with my daughter home for only two weeks and still on monitors and oxygen support, I quit my job. Not a single one of my partners or clients reached out to me. And I was extraordinarily good at my job. Every person I directly managed was complementary of me, and truly saw me as a partner in their career, but family drama is not a topic spoken at work.
I have two daughters, now five and three. My household does not enjoy my large salary or exceptional benefits. However, I personally look forward to building a career again; I was a driven person, almost always leaning in to conversations and leading the change that I believed in, while being honest, innovative and effective. Although I don't know how it will be possibile, I hope to rebuild my career without my professional commitment being questioned, and while having the flexibility to spend time with my children. Moreover, I refuse to ever feel that I am doing a poor job as both a mother and an employee, despite working my hardest.