Within the past five years, my perspective on work has shifted. Previously, I was dedicated to building my career and advancing professionally. However, my outlook changed when the pandemic struck. My job was important, but I didn’t define my self-worth by it. That realization drastically altered when I got laid off while eight months pregnant.
Experiencing Job Loss During Pregnancy
A mere two weeks before my scheduled maternity leave, I was summoned to a group Zoom meeting with my colleagues. On that morning, several group Zoom meetings were scheduled to inform almost half of the company about their layoffs. As I listened to the HR discussion about minimal severance, I couldn’t help but worry, “What are my next steps?”
Although we had anticipated this turn of events, the actual statement that it was my last day came as a profound shock. I had been eagerly counting down to my maternity leave, looking forward to embracing the most significant role I would ever play – Mother. I was prepared to step back and adapt to the life of a new parent, leaving my job behind for a while. I assumed I could return to it whenever I was ready. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
Alteration in Work Perspective Post Layoff
As someone who previously didn’t consider my job as a crucial aspect of my life, I’m ashamed to admit how I reacted to being laid off. Despite still having roles as a daughter, wife, friend, and soon-to-be mother, the absence of a job made me feel invisible. While there’s nothing wrong with parents who elect to stay at home and nurture their children, that wasn’t my intention. It seemed like the world was progressing around me while I stayed stagnant. I felt like a mere observer rather than an active participant, and it deeply affected me.
Impact on Self-Esteem
I had idealized my response to being let go. Until that point, I had been fortunate to have job security. Additionally, I’m fortunate to have a spouse with a stable job. Nevertheless, the desire to work persisted. When it did occur to me, I didn’t bounce back swiftly as I had envisioned. The late pregnancy discomforts made it challenging to take care of myself. What should have been a joyous time turned stressful. The weight of not contributing to our household income kept me awake at night, and I spent entire days applying for every suitable job. Taking a break made me feel guilty and inadequate.
Feeling of Isolation
I have continuously excelled in my career and felt confident in my abilities, but my inbox was inundated with automated rejection emails. There were minimal interviews, and some hiring managers either ignored me or informed me I was unsuitable despite my matching experience. I felt like I was losing my sanity. I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. I was astounded by the number of pregnant women and women who had recently given birth, both acquaintances and strangers, sharing their layoff experiences on LinkedIn — some of them even during active labor.
Motherhood: A New Perspective and Purpose
When my daughter was born, she transformed my life. Suddenly, my thoughts weren’t consumed with job applications and cover letters; they were engrossed in understanding this new little human. I had someone who relied on me once again, and this time it felt significantly more important than preparing for a CEO meeting. Following her arrival and our adjustment to being a family of three, I craved the opposite of what I was pursuing so fervently: not having a job. I wanted to stay home with her for as long as possible, but the lack of alternative opportunities left me feeling guilty and inadequate. It was always present in my mind and grew with each new achievement my daughter made. I now had a sense of all-encompassing purpose as a mother, yet a part of me still felt adrift. I detested it.
It’s been 10 months since my layoff, and although I have secured employment again, uncertainties persist. However, I have found a greater peace with this uncertainty. Layoffs continue to occur regularly, emphasizing that not even a full-time job guarantees security. Over time, having my daughter has helped me recognize my worth and potential. Now, my value is much more inclined towards who I am beyond my professional life — and I truly believe in it.
Do I still desire and require employment to sustain my family amidst the ever-increasing living costs in the U.S.? Yes. However, when asked, “What do you do?”, I respond: I’m a mother, friend, wife, daughter, and much more. My job? That comes second.