I was laid off during my maternity leave—this is what I learned

Toss in a global pandemic, first-time motherhood and you have a cocktail for a lost identity.

I was laid off during my maternity leave—this is what I learned

I lost my job.

It's the first time I have ever been laid off and when I heard the words "we are letting you go," my body froze. Somehow, a layoff implies a degree of blindness but this felt more personal, more emotional than my postpartum mind could process. We hung up the phone and I sat at my kitchen counter silently. My body didn't move for several minutes, almost physically rejecting the brief words it just heard.

I was 75% of the way through my maternity leave and the thought of not returning to work was beyond comprehension. As my body and mind started to reconnect, I wondered, "Could this be a good thing?"

Losing a job is never an easy experience, toss in a global pandemic, first-time motherhood and you have a cocktail for a lost identity.

Am I a working mother, something I always assumed I would be?

Am I a stay-at-home mom, a role postpartum has taught me I may not be able to handle?

Or am I something in-between, such as an unemployed working mom, trying to find an employer who understands I don't have childcare during a global pandemic?

These were all questions racing through my head that were not easy answers.



As I started to process the reality of being laid off, I straddled between denial and anger for several days. I had been at my company for six years and seen it grow from a 30-person start-up to a 300-person global brand. It felt like home or at least, my work home. As the company had grown up over the years, so had I. Yet no change was as profound as becoming a mother and I was beyond excited to return to a familiar place as a better version of myself. It was hard to grapple that a place that had been my professional home for so long was not allowing me the opportunity to return.

It was important that I didn't wallow in these feelings. I told myself that the past was the past and out of my control. Instead, I promised to practice gratitude and quickly found a memory that grounded me.

The day I was let go was the one-year anniversary of when I started the fertility treatment that got us pregnant. Conceiving was not easy for my husband and me. If I had to choose, I would easily pick 2020 and being laid off with our son rather than 2019 and going through IVF. Infertility has nothing on losing a job—a thought that has kept things in perspective, especially when the world is going through so much.

As the days went on, I felt fine and even upbeat. I would think to myself "what an amazing time to dream, be creative, there is so much opportunity for disruption and change right now." Yet, slowly my sleep started getting worse. At night, my son would wake up and while he would go back to sleep, my mind would race. I would wonder back to the day that it happened, think ahead five years and worry I didn't cherish this time with my son enough. My desire to keep things in perspective was prohibiting me from properly grieving. My mind desperately needed to process the emotions that come with experiencing a loss.

So, I did what any logical person would do.

I played Taylor Swift's, I Forgot You Existed, every night for a week (or maybe longer) while bathing my son and afterward, would hold him and dance around our family room singing.

I wrote down my emotions and asked my husband to read them and talk through it with me.

I let myself cry more than I want to admit.

I did my best to not judge what I was feeling and only share my emotions with my most inner circle.

Eventually, my mind calmed down and I started processing the next step. Updating my resume was a big confidence boost, reaching out to my network and asking about jobs reassured me that if I wanted a place in the working world, I could find one. When my son wakes up in the middle of the night, I remind myself there is nothing more important than being his mom. I know that while this virus has impacted me, there are so many bigger challenges happening in the world. My identity is still evolving, but I'm having more fun now applying to roles and imagining what life may look like down the road for our family.

To answer my question: Yes, being laid off will be a good thing, but not for the reasons I initially thought.

It is an opportunity to be more intentional about how I connect my new mom self and old professional self together. An opportunity to decide how I want to reinvent myself, what to shed and what to build upon. There is still a lot to figure out about how this will happen, but I am choosing to make it a positive transition. I'm excited about what is next, both as a mother watching my son grow every day and as a woman discerning my vocation as a whole person.

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