In 2008, after the birth of my 1st son, I thought I was having an existential crisis. I ghosted my friends and family. I threw myself into an unhealthy exercise routine. I wasn’t satisfied at work anymore. I wanted more. And to get more, I basically blew up a great job.
I was definitely ‘coached out.’
I wish I could say this was a singular experience. It was not. Many years later, when I had my 3rd son, I did not want to return from maternity leave. I was freelancing as a fractional integrator and I took a lot of liberties when I returned. Some days looked like arriving, staring at the wall, pumping (and crying) in my car in the alley, returning to more staring and then leaving when I couldn’t take it anymore.
Suffice it to say my contribution to the organization went way down and I was ‘below the line.’
One Monday, I found myself begging my husband not leave for a work trip to Dallas. I just couldn’t handle it all. I was honestly afraid of myself.
So instead of going to work on Tuesday, I booked a flight for myself and my 3 month old to accompany my husband to Dallas. I sat in the hotel room all day, nursing and sleeping. I could not ‘people’ anymore. My husband later told me that he was afraid to leave me behind.
A few days later I was asked to end my work contract….immediately.
I’m not proud of being fired. I deserved it. I was not holding up my end of the bargain.
But I am even less proud of completely ignoring every textbook sign of postpartum depression.
With each child, I took shorter and shorter leaves. I carried on as if nothing significant had happened.
I failed. I cried. I failed more. Each time I eventually asked my doctor for meds. But every time, it was terribly late in the game.
I did not know how to ask for help.
Having done this a few times and learning each time, I am able to see when others are struggling. It is much easier to help others. This isn’t ideal but it’s reality. I am a helper.
It is a gift when I get to coach new parents. I get to help them enjoy their families a little more by stepping up their leadership skills before they take leave.
This does not mean ‘doing’ more. I cannot say that enough. It means stepping out of the weeds and taking a strategic, long term approach to how they accept help.
Parental leave can, and should be, a win-win for everyone.
Sometimes we need a little coaching to see the path.
When organizations provide coaching to leaders, things like this come up. I am proud to say that I’ve helped people achieve great things when quitting may have looked like the only option.
There’s much to learn about leading well when our lives feel so big and complex. There is no blueprint. We must create our lives in symphony with our work and passions.
This is our mission- helping others to live and leadWell.