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07/25/18 | Career, Ideas, Workplace

What I Would Tell My Younger Self About Starting a Family

Since I was young, I’ve known I wanted to be a lawyer or a CEO. But I wasn’t always sure I’d be a mom. I was pretty sure it would be hard to do both.

I had big career dreams. My dad was an entrepreneur and CEO of his own company, and I spent a lot of time with him going on sales calls and working in his office. I was so impressed with how he started his own business right before I was born, and how his approach to distribution changed the dental industry. I loved going into dentists’ offices and labs with my dad and hearing him explain a way to transform and accelerate their businesses, and I knew I wanted to have an interesting career as well.

Lessons early in life about hard work and commitment led me to executive roles at companies like Electronic Arts, Chegg, Yahoo! and Adara. I’ve worked with some of the best tech teams in the world, run global businesses, and led several startups into their next phase of growth. And now, I have the honor of serving as CEO of Sittercity, the pioneer in online child care.

I was always certain about my career aspirations.

But there was one big difference between my career and my dad’s: I wasn’t sure if I could have the career I wanted and have children too!  I married a great partner and was enjoying building an interesting and rewarding work life. We discussed having children, but also talked about the inherent challenges in trying to balance it all.  We heard from our friends with kids about struggles with child care and weren’t sure we could manage both a family and careers.

 

 

I’m happy to say we made the best decision we’ve ever made and started our family. Our daughters are school-aged now, and we couldn’t be prouder of the kind, active, and smart young women they’ve become. From fun trips to the ski slopes or the beach to quiet Sundays at home doing yoga or cooking a good meal, I wouldn’t trade a second of the time I get to spend with them. So if I could talk to my younger self, I would say:

Don’t wait to have kids. Just do it!

Having a family with a partner you love is the greatest experience, and “mom” is the best title I’ll ever have. Don’t miss out on years you could be spending with your children because you’re afraid of the impact it will have on your career!

[su_pullquote align=”right”]The more we speak up about our personal and professional goals, the better conversations we’ll start about how to accommodate the needs of moms and working parents overall.[/su_pullquote]

Of course, working women still face a lot of challenges when it comes to being a mom. When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I struggled with how to tell my supervisor. I knew that pregnancy discrimination was still a concern for women across the US, and I wanted to reinforce that my pregnancy wouldn’t affect my work.

By the time I finished telling her, you’d have thought I had a life-threatening disease. I rambled, “This is really hard for me to tell you, I don’t want to take my eye off the ball, it won’t impact the business…”  

Thankfully, my boss was completely accommodating and understanding. She couldn’t have been happier for me!

When I got pregnant with my second daughter, I was interviewing for a job that I was really excited about. I called the CEO and told him I was having a baby and wanted to withdraw my candidacy. To my surprise, he said, “What are you talking about? You’re great, and we want you here for years. If you’re out for three months, that’s no problem. I have two daughters and couldn’t be more excited for you.”

From those two experiences, I learned the importance of bringing my whole self to work and surrounding myself with great leaders who value both my parent life and work life. I’m not sure what path my daughters will choose, and we talk about all the options openly—whether it’s working full- or part-time, staying home full-time, or working for some period of time and then taking a break.

There is no right path, just different choices. My girls are very proud that I’m their mom and a female CEO. I have heard them tell other girls that they don’t have to choose between being a mom and having a career, and that makes me so happy! I also tell them that being upfront with my coworkers about my desire to have kids and continue my career gave me opportunities I may not have had otherwise.

Unfortunately, not all women have the positive experience I did, and there’s a long way to go in ending workplace discrimination. But starting a family is not something to be ashamed of. The more we speak up about our personal and professional goals, the better conversations we’ll start about how to accommodate the needs of moms and working parents overall. Today’s dads want to spend as much time as possible with their kids too, from volunteering at school to coaching softball.

So how do we set working parents up for success? It starts with a supportive work environment. At Sittercity, family values are core to the child care problems we’re solving, so accommodating working parents has always been a priority. We’ve offered family-friendly policies from the get-go; our employees have the option to work from home or head out early if they’re in charge of after-school pick-up or want to catch the school play. We also have an open time-off policy, competitive benefits, and industry-leading maternal and paternal leave.

It also means fixing child care. A recent study shows that US parents are the least happy in comparison to parents from other countries. The solution? Social policies that allow parents to combine paid work with family obligations. That means providing easy access to affordable childcare on a national scale.

Yes, we still have some work to do when it comes to making life better for career-driven moms. I’m proud to be a part of the solution at Sittercity by making it easier to find sitters you love and giving our employees the freedom and flexibility to be a parent. But above all, becoming a parent and sharing life with little ones is an experience everyone should have the opportunity to have if they want it.

Elizabeth Harz

Elizabeth Harz

As CEO of Sittercity, Elizabeth Harz is leading the company on an ambitious course to improve the way child care works. Previously, she held leadership positions at Yahoo!, Electronic Arts, Chegg and CNET. As a mother of two, Elizabeth is thrilled to use her talents and experience to tackle a challenge that she lives and breathes every day.

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