Social Working Careers

That wouldn’t be a problem, would it?

Exhausted and confused, we huddled together during our New Mother class, looking for some measure of control. At the very least, we could get answers to the issues at hand: “How do I establish a regular feeding schedule?” “What do I do about diaper rash?” And, the most pressing: “How do I get my baby to sleep?”

In the weeks that followed, we slowly developed confidence in our new roles. We shared tips on burping techniques, recommended breastfeeding routines, and marveled at first smiles. We celebrated when one of us managed to get a full night’s sleep and commiserated when colic had another of us up every two hours. After we graduated from the eight-week New Mother class, we decided to keep meeting. On Monday nights, we gathered, drank wine, and talked about our babies. One by one, as our maternity leaves ended, we went back to work.

After a brief leave, Grace Zales returned full-time to her litigation consulting job. Chrissie Kremer decided to pursue her dream of becoming an entrepreneur and managed to secure $2 million in venture funding for her Internet company. Monica Johnson, who had been promoted to chief financial officer at her start-up while she was on maternity leave, came to our Monday gatherings breathless from some new office excitements. After a distressingly brief two-week maternity leave, Lisa Stone raced back to her job as a TV producer for CNN.

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Others of us took a more leisurely path back to the paid work world. Tibi McCann enjoyed six months of maternity leave from her job heading a quality assurance team at a tech company before she went back to work full-time. Patricia Nakache managed to negotiate a part-time schedule at her prestigious consulting firm. Inspired by Patricia, cancer researcher Lisa McPherson arranged to work a reduced schedule at her Stanford laboratory. Laurie Gadre decided to stay home with her daughter, as did Ruth-Anne Siegel, Nancy Rosenthal, and, eventually, our dinner hostess, Sue Tachna. Each of us made a personal choice that was right for her and, collectively, we supported those choices.

In the years that followed, I watched as my friends developed their own personal work-life solution. Some remained out of the paid workforce continuing to focus on their families and contributing to their communities through active volunteerism, but the majority of us returned to paid work struggling to find some measure of balance, as if there is such a thing.

It wasn’t easy, and yet, we thrived: Now, eighteen years later, our group includes one of the few female venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, the CEO of a digital media company, a division head who leads a team of computer programmers, and a repeat CFO who has helped build a number of groundbreaking Silicon Valley start-ups. We have a scientist, an elementary school math teacher, a corporate litigation consultant, and an award-winning journalist (yep, that would be me).

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