Do you remember when you were a kid and you were told that when you grow up you’d get to make your own decisions? How many times did you hear your mom or dad say “because I’m the parent! I make the rules!”
The real reason I left Corporate America was to gain the freedom I had dreamed of since I was a kid. Having my own child gave me the courage to do something about it.
How it all began
At the age of 20, I found a job as a Sales Operator for a big company that would become the place where I started my career.
I was in the process of speeding through my Undergrad. I graduated, early, with every intention of going to law school but then reality set in. I started my 10-year journey into Corporate America.
I transitioned into a full-time role in sales, still intending on attending law school. I showed up every morning by 8:15 a.m. because my start time as at 8:30 a.m. and isn’t everyone early? We had to log hours worked down to the minute and I heard if you were 7 minutes late you lost 15 minutes of pay and got written up. Clearly, this would never be me. Don’t worry, I’m rolling my eyes at my 21-year-old self too.
They said they’d pay for me to get my MBA
Sucker punched. They said they’d pay me $26,000 to get my MBA. Law school? What’s law school?
I was not married, I had a great job with a great company and they wanted to pay me to get my masters. Now I’ve made it! I worked full-time and took night classes. It took me 3 years to finish but at 25 I was a proud owner of two college degrees and thought I’d really made something out of myself.
I was pretty content dealing with arbitrary rules because I didn’t realize life was any different. We grow up being told to listen to authority and follow the rules. I did and I got a great career for all my hard work, so I did everything correct, didn’t I?
Then I got pregnant
At 27, my husband and I fast tracked a pregnancy, as in, whooops, we’re pregnant! I really hated being pregnant. Don’t get me wrong, I love what came from being pregnant but my body seriously was not a fan. Work was a real challenge for me. All my motivation went out the door and all I could think about was why the hell (but really why the eff) am I sitting in this ugly chair for 9 hours every day when I feel this sick and tired?! Why couldn’t I nap midday and then finish my work? WHO MADE THESE STUPID RULES ANYWAYS??
This was just the tip of the iceberg because coming back to work after my maternity leave was like a slap in the face. I felt like my staples had barely been removed and here I was forced back into this ugly chair again, told to care about stupid business decisions that meant nothing to me because my boobs were throbbing and I just wanted to snuggle my freakin’ newborn.
You know what I mean, right momma?
Searching for answers
I think it’s safe to say, I grew rather bitter towards the rigidness that is Corporate America. This was just how it worked. Your value as an employee is measured by the time you spend in the chair. Employers have a false sense that they are actually getting the most for their investment by ignoring how humans are wired to work best in favor of an arbitrary control such as facetime. Time in a seat. Why is there no return to work programs for new moms? Where is a federally mandated program that gives paid maternity leave? Where is the policy that says 12 weeks is the bare minimum any new mom should be afforded to bond with their child? Why does nobody care about this?
That’s the problem, Corporate America is not yet equipped to deal with family-friendly policies. They are scared of them. Corporations don’t trust their employees enough to believe we would work harder for them if only they gave us the flexibility we need to meet all the demands in our lives. Yes, that means also considering that I have a child and no, I should not have to pretend I don’t just to prove my commitment to you!
Negotiating work from home days
Around the same time I started this blog in July 2013, I also negotiated for two work from home days. At the time, this changed my world. This simple concession by my employer meant less drive time and more evening time with my daughter. It was the only reason I didn’t completely have a breakdown. I didn’t know it at the time, but in hindsight, it’s very obvious to me that I was not coping well with being back to work.
I kept moving forward in my career and for the most part, I was pretty content with my new working mom gig. It wasn’t perfect but I was holding everything together.
I spent years defining myself by my career and my intellectual accomplishments. The idea that I would give up my career was preposterous to me. Why should I have to give it up?
Yet something kept nagging at me from a place that I tried to ignore for a long time. I was sick of following stupid rules that held no real purpose. Rules that didn’t make me a better employee or a better mother. Rules that just were because that’s how it’s always been.
Time for change
I spent 2015 seriously considering going out on my own. Self-doubt is a true enemy and it was biting me in the ass hard. I had that nagging feeling that I wasn’t good enough or smart enough to figure it out on my own and often times I went to bed feeling discouraged. There really was no way out.
Then a job opportunity landed in my lap. It wasn’t one that I sought out. My husband, who is far more extroverted than I am, was seeking a new opportunity. We worked at the same company so he was looking to stay in the same industry. As fate would have it, the company he found was in need of someone with my skills.
I was resistant to even talk about it. Change is a scary thing. I knew I craved change but the thought of following through was terrifying.
When the stars align, how can you say no? It’s time to take that leap of faith and reach for what I know is best for my family. I would finally be able to work from home full-time with a flexible schedule.
This was my farewell message on Facebook:
10 and a half years ago, I was 20 years old and walked into [company name removed] to be a sales operator. I made $9.50/hr and was on my way to law school. I was just looking for a way to pay my car payment. What started as nothing turned into something. A job turned into a career. It saw me through my 20s and the beginning of my 30s. I got my MBA, I met my husband, had a baby and bought a house. I learned some of the toughest lessons of my life in those 4 walls. I met people who just sucked. I met the most amazing people ever. I met some of my best friends. I laughed, I cried, maybe I even wanted to punch some people in the face (but guys I promise I didn’t). I took some hard falls, I pursued my dreams. I learned so much. I will forever be thankful for this opportunity. Without it, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I leave you with this: you are who you are. Not everyone is going to like or appreciate that. Stand your ground. Apologize when you’re wrong. Be humble. Be fierce. Be you. Don’t change who you are, grow who you are. I’m grateful for every experience, even the bad ones. Now it’s time to start the next chapter of my life, but I’ll always hold this one close to my heart.
I will forever be grateful for the experience I had because it shaped me into who I am today.
More Resources for Building an Online Business
Need help negotiating flexible benefits at work? Check out my article about Company Benefits Working Moms Need.