Don’t leave before you leave.

Cryptic title huh! But I have been thinking back to a Ted talk by Sheryl Sanders (COO Facebook) about why there a too few women leaders in the workforce.  If you haven’t watched it, it’s interesting; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18uDutylDa4. Most of what Sheryl says I can’t connect with as our worlds are very different.  However, there is one part of her talk I have been battling with for 3 years now.   Sheryl explains how women who are just starting to think about having a baby will pull back from opportunities at work due to the thought they won’t be able to work and have a baby.  She calls this ‘Leaving before you leave’.

If I rewind 3 years, I’d not only left but I was considering not working!  First I took a job that was well below my skill level and pay level as I thought this would be a nice entry into working in a foreign country where I wasn’t sure about culture and work.  2 weeks in I realized this job wasn’t for me but I reasoned it was a flexible role and really a ‘no brainier’ I could just go through the motions whilst planning holidays and babies.

2 months in I received a promotion based on skill and this caused a stir as it was generally accepted that experience in the company would get you a promotion.  I didn’t listen to the alarm bells and I put up with the toxic environment with a deal I would work 4 days a week.  I became pregnant and my extra day off was generally spent traveling to hospitals for scans, CVS sampling, seeing the genetic counselor, terminations and post surgical checkups.   This happened three times in 2 years.

Was I happy to have a no brain job during this period? Hell no!   I searched twice for a job and was even offered a new role but turned it down due to the fact I was 4 weeks pregnant.  I then decided I wanted to do IVF with PGD and as the law won’t allow us to do it in the Netherlands (despite 3 terminations) I was forced to go to Spain and pay for it.  This required me to go back to work for 5 days to save money.

I busied myself with the day to day work but was bored shitless.  There are rarely opportunities for a better role in the company I am in without moving country, to Geneva or the mothership in Atlanta.  My workplace is 90% women who work 3-4 days a week as the flexibility in the Netherlands is accepted as the norm and I strongly hoped that I would be one of those part time mums soon.  On average 5 women are pregnant in my office each year.  So when I’m trying to deal with yet another medical termination I am faced with pregnant bellies and mothers talking about their kids all day.  It is worse when I am pregnant at the same time as the other women in my work  and then they carry their pregnancy through to the end whilst I am trying to to deal with the loss.

Fast forward three years, I am pregnant for the 5th time.  I am still in the same job and I am facing the same decisions as the other times.  I desperately need a new job but I have the familiar voice in my head saying, ‘Stay, this job has no stress and you will get 4 months maternity leave’.

I’m leaving before I leave.  Is this smart or stupid?

The other option is I take a 6 month contract role in a new company.  I won’t get maternity leave but the pay for 6 months is the same as 10 in my current job.

If it is smart or stupid I don’t know yet, but one thing I have learnt, I’m sure as hell not going to turn down any opportunities even if I’m pregnant.

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