Unemployment: The New Balance

Can Women Have It All? An Extended Maternity Leave AND a Career?

"You have a lot of breadth.”

I practically feel the spit of my manager’s words as she stresses breadth. I instantly hate this word because of the sinking feeling that accompanies it. I know what’s coming.

I am sitting at a small round table facing my manager in a room I’ve nicknamed the Cave. There are no windows in this eight by eight meeting room, and there’s a constant buzz and flutter of the fluorescent light above. The furniture is a cast of leftovers from other departments – a forest green swivel chair that has a slight dip to one side, a scratchy maroon chair that no one can ever adjust properly, and a tiny computer desk that has a metal bar where your knees should be. How ironic I’m going down in this shit-hole.

“Your mat leave replacement has more depth, but she lacks breadth,” she continues. “You’ve worked in so many areas of this department and have such a great skill set,” she rambles on. She’s spinning this, but she forgets I know spin. As the public relations specialist, it’s my job to create spin. Her slightly shaky voice tells me she knows this isn’t cool. “So because of this, we’ve decided your replacement will remain in the public relations role and you and your skills would be an excellent fit for a new position in the fundraising department”. A burning sensation starts at the tip of my nose and spreads over my face.

Just six short weeks prior, I had returned to my job of seven years after a year-long maternity leave. It was my second maternity leave, so I knew the drill. I had gone out the week before and spent an obscene amount of money on a new wardrobe. I was keen to get back into the adult world and talk consolidations and mergers instead of constipation and mushed carrots. I kick myself for not keeping in touch with the office more, going back earlier, or expressing my career desires more often. Instead, I was at home up to my armpits in dirty diapers. As the old adage goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.” It’s then I know that I won’t be back.

I go back to my desk and discreetly clean it out taking only the possessions that will fit into my purse. I snicker and think how I wished I had an oversized diaper bag now. Later, when others find out the news, they call me to appear concerned and find out the truth. The truth is, I want to rant, I was fucked over because I took the time to care for my newborn child. Of course, the confidentiality agreement I’ve signed prevents me from saying this, so instead I make up lies about how it’s all for the best. The truth is, I want to shout and warn another expecting co-worker not to stay away too long for fear that you may also be replaced.

Oprah was once quoted as saying, “women can have it all, just not at the same time.” Funny thing is, I hate Oprah, but now that I’m unemployed, I find it incredibly difficult to avoid watching her show. (I’ve also discovered that you can miss 15 years of Young and the Restless and after one week of watching be fully up to speed.)

Maternity leave is complicated. I felt the pull of motherhood. I enjoyed the fun moments of being at home with the kids and watching them firsthand as they learned new things. But I also felt twinges of guilt from wanting to be back in the office. It was hard for me to find a balance and I came to realize I could never be a full-time stay at home mother. As much as I love my children, I require the sensibility and sanity of work to get me through this life in one piece.

Now I struggle to find a new balance. My kids are in daycare still, so I can’t claim myself as a stay-at-home mom. The others would recognize me as an imposter right away. I don’t have a paying job, so I’m no longer a working mom. I’m in limbo.

For now, until I figure out the path of life ahead, I like to think of myself as a lady of leisure.


This is a story I’ve chosen to write anonymously. Not out of any fear of ridicule or possible confrontation from different minded readers, though that may come. But out of respect for our son...how mortified he would be if he or his friends were to find this story about him online! I mean, we’re fairly certain each and every one of his guy friends was immediately told, oh-so-nonchalantly, that he now has the goods. But having Mom write about the whole thing online for the world to see? Not cool.