If infertility taught me one thing, it was that it is perfectly possible to be both happy for someone whilst being utterly jealous of them at the same time. It happened often – a friend or even an acquaintance would share their joyous news of their pregnancy or arrival of their newborn baby. Of course, I was happy for them, but part of me was sad and jealous. Sad for myself and our infertility situation, and jealous at the same time that I couldn’t have what they have. Of course I would never have said it to their faces that I was jealous or sad at their news. But I sure felt it. Happiness always won in the end, because I knew very well that every single conception is a wonder in itself and the great joy it would bring to them in the end. And in the midst of infertility I learned to be OK with those confusing feelings, it turns out it is pretty normal.
It’s been a long time since I felt that way, happiness and jealousy at the same time. But I recognized it immediately when it happened to me once again. You see, I wrote a post about happiness is…..a while ago. Everything on that list made me greatly and truly happy, but there was something on that list that also made me sad and jealous. Chris getting promoted to director at work. I was insanely jealous, and still am to be honest. It’s not often I am jealous of Chris! And he knew it as well. He told me he was nervous about telling me and how I would react. My instant and natural reaction was happiness, but it didn’t take long to make me think about me. I know selfish. Because Chris deserves the attention for his awesomeness and hard work he put in to get that promotion.
However, it made me think about the sacrifices I have made to my career progression to bring a child into this world. Now, my sacrifices have been somewhat limited compared to some women I have met who have stopped working, or been trapped into changing careers because of infertility. My sacrifices are not as great. And indeed, my sacrifice is not uncommon when it comes to taking maternity leave. But it’s the combination of both that do make it worthy of consideration in a different light.
What did I sacrifice? I’m not sure what would be different if I either didn’t go through infertility, or have a baby, but here are my thoughts on where I have sacrificed my career development.
- I couldn’t take on all the projects I could have otherwise done if it hadn’t been for infertility treatments and pregnancy.
- I couldn’t always travel to the places I needed to, someone else did for me or the opportunity was lost.
- I needed stability in my work to ensure that I could face the infertility treatments, so I didn’t always take on the work I would ordinarily have done before.
- I had two interviews that I really did not do my best at, because I was distracted.
- I have been out of work for almost 7 months, but it was probably actually longer than that because of course I had to wrap up and handover work before going on maternity leave, so I checked out earlier than that.
- My brain wasn’t at its best in my third trimester, and probably not my in my first either because of my heightened awareness to the risk of potential loss of pregnancy.
Pregnancy on the face of it doesn’t stop career progression, it just delays it a little bit. I’d do that any day to have my daughter, of course, that goes without saying. But that doesn’t stop it being a fact, and I’m not the only woman, others face similar. Some women take a whole year off work, some take several years off work to care for their children. What about child number two or three? It’s just the way it is. If we were in the UK, perhaps Chris would have taken parental leave instead and I would have gone back to work earlier? Who knows. Would it have slowed down Chris’s opportunity for promotion if he went on parental leave? By how much, if at all? I have no doubt we would like to think it would have ZERO impact on that potential, but by not being physically at work progression stalls. I have often read that it is at this point in life where the bias for a man and woman with a family becomes more apparent, where a man having a family is seen as a positive, and woman with a family is seen as a negative. I personally haven’t experienced this myself, but it makes you wonder.
But I also fought to maintain my career progression. I decided to keep doing my executive development programme despite being pregnant and on maternity leave rather than postpone it. I made sure I still went on transatlantic work trips even in my third trimester. So, it’s not like I abandoned all effort in my career development.
I’m not saying that if I hadn’t gone through infertility treatment and got pregnant that I would be promoted by now, far from it! But rather, if I had have been at my best during this period, then it is unlikely I would be jealous of Chris’s promotion. Isn’t that an odd thing?