Career & Finance

I Was Laid Off at 8 Months Pregnant—What It Taught Me About Work and Motherhood

Source: Canva
Source: Canva

If you asked me within the last five years if I’m someone who works to live or lives to work, I would have firmly told you that I am someone who works to live. After relentlessly hustling for the majority of my 20s and early 30s to build my career and climb the ladder, my priorities began to shift once the pandemic hit. I quickly realized that my job was not my life. I enjoyed it, but never tied it to my self-worth—that is until I was laid off when I was eight months pregnant.

Getting Laid Off While Pregnant

Two weeks before my approved maternity leave was set to start, I was called into a group Zoom meeting with my team. This was, as I later found out, just one of many group Zoom meetings scheduled that morning to lay off almost half the company. I rubbed my very pregnant belly as I listened to HR talk about minimal severance. “What am I going to do now?” was my first thought.

We all had a feeling this was coming, but hearing the words that this would be my last day was still such a shock. Before this happened, I had been counting down the days until my maternity leave. I was about to take on the most important title I would ever hold, Mom, and I couldn’t wait to slow down and adjust to life as a new parent. And because my job has always been just that, a job, I was ready to leave it behind for a while. It would be there waiting for me when I was ready to come back, right? Wrong.

Being Laid Off Shifted How I Felt About Work

As someone who didn’t feel my job was an important aspect of my life, I’m ashamed to admit how I reacted to being laid off. After being the go-to person at my company for many important decisions, I suddenly had nowhere to go and nobody that needed anything from me. Despite still being a daughter, wife, friend, and soon-to-be mother, without a job to go to every day, I felt like I didn’t exist. And while there is nothing wrong with parents who choose (or are forced to choose) to stay home and raise their kids (that is truly a full-time job!), that wasn’t my plan. It felt like the world was moving on and functioning all around me while I was standing still. I was now just a spectator instead of an active participant, and it gutted me.

It Affected My Self-Worth

I’d romanticized how I would react if I was ever let go. Up until that point, I’d been incredibly lucky not to be affected by layoffs over the years. I’m also extremely fortunate to have a spouse with a steady job. Still, I needed and wanted to work. And if it ever were to happen to me, surely I would bounce back in no time. I would apply to another job and get hired very quickly! Maybe I would even take a few weeks off! It would be no big deal. A well-deserved break, even. 

That is not at all what happened. As sleeping and moving around were getting more difficult as the pains of late pregnancy set in, I didn’t take care of myself. What should have been one of the most joyous times in my life turned into one of the most stressful. The weight of my family suddenly not having my contribution to our household income kept me awake at night, and I spent all day applying to every job I was qualified for. When I would take a break, I felt guilty and like I wasn’t doing enough.

And I Wasn’t Alone

I’ve always excelled in my career and been confident in my abilities, but now my inbox was full of automated rejection letters. I hardly had any interviews, with some hiring managers ghosting me or telling me I wasn’t the right fit despite my experience aligning perfectly. I felt like I was losing my mind. And I wasn’t the only one. I couldn’t believe how many LinkedIn posts I saw from pregnant women and women who had just given birth and also laid off, both former colleagues of mine and total strangers—some while in active labor.

Source: ColorJoy Stock

Becoming a Mother Gave Me a New Perspective and Purpose

And then my daughter was born. She crashed into my life on St. Patrick’s Day of all days. The corners of my brain, once consumed by job applications and cover letter writing, were now overwhelmed with getting to know this new little person. I suddenly had someone who needed me again, and this time it felt much more meaningful than putting together a deck for a meeting with the CEO.

Once she arrived and we found our new rhythm as a family of three, I embraced the exact opposite of what I had been trying so hard to get: not having a job. I wanted to be at home with her for as long as possible, but still felt a nagging guilt and a sense of failure that I didn’t have another opportunity lined up. It was always there in the back of my mind, growing bigger again with each new milestone my daughter hit. I was now a mom with a newfound purpose that felt all-consuming and self-assuring, but a part of me still felt lost. I hated that.

Moving Forward

It’s been 10 months since my layoff, and while I am working again, things are still uncertain. The difference now is that I’m much more at peace with that. Layoffs still seem to be happening every day, which further proves not even a full-time job is secure anymore. But having my daughter has, over time, helped me realize my worth and potential. This time, that worth is weighted much more toward who I am outside of my career—and now I actually believe it. 

Do I still want and need to work in order for my family to afford the increasingly astronomical costs to live in the U.S.? Yes. But now when someone asks me, “What do you do?” I tell them: I’m a mom, friend, wife, daughter, and so much more. And my job? That’s secondary.

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