Last Day of Work...

Friday, August 22, 2008

I've worked at the same IT company for 12+ years! I never thought I would stay anywhere for so long. I still remember when I went to Cambridge for my interview--they asked me what I saw myself doing 10 years from then, and what my goals where. I replied, "I don't know. I always just worked somewhere as long as I like it, then when I don't like it anymore, I find something else." Since James was going to grad school, I told them I expected to work there four years.

I did stay there four years, but when it came time to move, I didn't end up leaving the company. My hiring manager, Peter, had a fit when he found out I was planning to accept a job at MasterCard and he found me an internal job in St Louis. I remember having a phone interview, but I also remember the manager, Jacques, telling me he was going to hire me (during the interview!), so it was really a formality. I also remember Jacques asking would I working from home, as St Louis only had a mobility center?

For the past 8 years, I've been a mobile employee--the greatest blessing for a working mom, but a curse of its own making. I could fold laundry during team meetings and load the dishwasher while talking with a coworker. I could change a diaper between instant message chats. I could cook dinner and not sign off while I waited for someone in Asia to start their day and get updates from them. The flexibility to work at all hours sometimes meant I was finishing up work at 2 am. Our house is so small that the living room sofa has been my office, which meant that my Thinkpad would beckon me to log on and check email when I came home from the movies, or just before going to bed, which would crept into an extra hour or two online. My work-life balance was out of whack, and I was largely to blame. I would lie awake at night, unable to shut off work. I drew a line with the Blackberry; I couldn't avoid my cell phone and laptop so I knew with the Blackberry things would only be worse.

As my girls got older, they started to resent my job, particularly business trips. They learned about my telephone and headset and that it was useless to try and talk to me if I was typing or on the phone. They asked why other mommies watched their children at gymnastics and ballet lessons while they had a nanny and later attended full-day preschool, and I didn't have a good answer for them. I tried to explain how some other mommies have to work in an office all day, and they are lucky to have a mom that gets to be home with them (when she isn't leaving on an airplane to go on business trips). I don't think they felt very lucky.

When we learned that James was hired at SIUC last April, I knew this move and the resulting changes in our lifestyle over the next year would be too much for me to juggle with the load I already carry. The thought of leaving my 12 years of seniority (and the 5 weeks off each year) was daunting. I realistically need only 1 or 2 years off, and I don't want to start over here, or anywhere, but I thought I'd have to quit anyway. I was wrong.

I learned that my company has a personal leave of absence option. Several of my friends explained the process to me, and encouraged me to take this option. Basically, I take a period of unpaid time off from work, then when it's time to come back, I look for a new job inside the company and continue where I left off. I get to keep my email address and my intranet access, so I don't have to be completely out of the industry and anyone hiring me gets the benefits of an internal hire, rather than having to get approval to hire outside the company. I even get my health benefits while I'm out.

I explained to my kids about my not working after we move, and Doodle's response was "Then why are we going to kindergarten? We can just stay home with you!"

Fast forward to the title of this post. This was the big, last day before I take a week of vacation (yeah right--packing to move is NOT vacation), and slip off into the sunset. I thought about just going on leave without any announcement--so much easier than explaining why I'm leaving. I put a little post on our internal team blog, and then decided I should at least write a semi-personal "so long", just to my closer work friends so they don't wonder what's up when they get an out-of-office response to their emails. I started thinking of who needs a notice, and 63 names later, sent out the post. I'm sure I managed to forget someone.

Today has been a very emotional day--so many positive wishes from friends and coworkers. I even cried a little. This is a big, scary step for me, but I know it's the right decision, and I'm so grateful to have this option. I can take a year to be a good mom/wife and get my family in a good place. Plus, I'll have the luxury of taking the time to figure out what I really want to be when I "grow up", rather than just taking the next open position or flitting to the next project because I can do it. Then I'll come back a much happier, and productive employee.


MJ/Mom/GrammaJ said...

I am so glad you made this announcment. What a bitter sweet day for you. I sure hope you enjoy your time off and the fun of settling into your new large home. I know it is also stressful but will be exciting as well. Best wishes to all.

khepworth said...

Enjoy your time off! What a blessing to be able to come back to your job when life has settled.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Congrats on this, I sure it was a tough decision to make! L just gave me the scoop - I didn't know since I'm no longer in the IBM loop :) So, we are almost neighbors now huh?

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