The Surprising Reason I Walked Away From A Career At Google

Illustrated by Jenny Kramer.
By Jennifer Joseph

Recently, there has been a ton of career advice aimed at young women and each piece contradicts the last one.

Lean in, lean out, you can have it all, you can’t have it at all.

I’ve read advice from women that says work and life are inherently intertwined, and I’ve read advice that says you should separate things and be 100% in the moment of whatever you’re doing. It’s nearly impossible to know what the right path is, and I suspect that every individual is different.

So, you may not relate to my reasons for leaving Google. But you might.

I am frequently asked how I got a job at Google. I am just as frequently asked why I left. With regard to the former, people want to know if there is some guaranteed secret to being offered a position. I honestly don’t know the trick to getting hired by the legendary company. I followed a boss through three different companies, and we ultimately ended up at Google so my experience was different than most — but, side lesson? Make yourself indispensible and maintain good, solid relationships with people.

I left Google for a few reasons, none of which had to do with the company itself. Fresh out of college, I always envisioned myself climbing a corporate ladder, but that vision changed as I got older. The idea of working for myself, of having more freedom and flexibility, became increasingly appealing.

That said, I still had no plans to leave my job when my husband and I decided to have our first child. I didn’t think staying at home with my son would be enough to make me happy and worried that, if I wasn’t happy, he wouldn’t be either. I told my boss and co-workers that I had every intent to return following my maternity leave and started looking at childcare options.

Anyone with children knows how expensive childcare is. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where high engineering salaries and lots of young couples having children has driven up demand. Great nannies are expensive and hard to come by. Waitlists for the best day care centers can be hundreds of names long. We recognized that it would actually be more affordable for me to stay at home, rather than go back to work. But my job has always been a substantial part of my identity and the idea of giving that up was scary.

"I wasn’t happy and didn’t feel like I was a good employee, good mom, or a good wife."

I ruled out day care after a few horror stories from friends about children being ignored unless they absolutely needed a bottle or fresh diaper. I realized that my little boy, who loves being outdoors, snuggling during storytime, and being sung to, wouldn’t get what he most enjoyed and needed there.

So, I justified the expensive cost of a nanny and started hunting for the best one I could find. She started two weeks before I went back to work to give my son time to adjust. Although I convinced myself that it would be the best for both him and myself, the idea of leaving him with a stranger absolutely broke my heart.

Related: 6 Successful Tips To Nail The Work-From-Home Mom Thing

In the meantime, I spoke with my boss and found out that I would be going back to a similar — though not the same — position. The idea of tackling a new role with different people was a bit daunting with everything else happening in my life. I had a strong desire to quietly slide back into the job I had done for over three years. It was familiar and I was good at it, but unfortunately, I wasn’t given that option.

I was initially excited about going off to work but quickly realized that the situation wasn’t good for anyone. My husband has a long and stressful commute and travels frequently for his job. I dashed to and from my job at the last possible minute so as not to incur more overtime with our nanny than absolutely necessary. I tried to spend as much time with my son as possible, but it amounted to barely two hours a day. He went from being a happy baby and great sleeper to rarely cracking a smile and waking up every few hours to make sure that we hadn’t left him again.

It wasn’t just him. My husband and I were exhausted. His commute was tiring anyway, and Jack’s new sleep schedule of waking up every few hours meant that no one was getting much rest. Weekends were crammed with laundry, cleaning, and grocery shopping although neither of us had time to cook. In an attempt to spend more time with Jack, we avoided the kitchen and ate a lot of pizza and burritos.

"The idea of working for myself, of having more freedom and flexibility, became increasingly appealing."

I had loved my previous position and felt that returning to it was worth the time I would give up with Jack, but the new role wasn’t the right fit for me. I inquired about changing teams and positions, but when I heard how much work would go into that, I realized that my heart just wasn’t in it. I no longer saw myself climbing a corporate ladder. When I looked to the future, I saw myself maybe working in the corporate world for another few years and then venturing out on my own to pursue one of the ideas that frequently had me scribbling and brainstorming in notebooks.

I can’t say that something specific made me change my mind. I think the culmination of so much stress and change finally hit me hard enough to make me look at my husband one day and declare that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I wasn’t happy and didn’t feel like I was a good employee, good mom, or a good wife. The balance of things wasn’t right for me. I told him that I needed time to myself each week where I could work on projects. He agreed to take over more on the weekends so I would feel like I could work on some of my ideas.

I left my job three weeks later.

I am four months in and I can safely say that this is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. There are days when Jack is cranky and we anxiously await his dad’s arrival home from work. But there are also days when I’m sitting in the sun eating my lunch while my baby boy coos at the squirrels and the birds and I realize that these lovely quiet moments with him won’t last forever. If I were at my traditional 8-5 job, I would be missing them.

While my personal time is minimal, I love what I am working on and try hard to maximize that time to the fullest. While Google was a great company to work for, and I will always value the experience, it was time to move on to the next chapter of my life, which includes the balance that works best for me as a wife, mother, and professional.

Next: The Inside Scoop On Finding A Job That Let's You Work Remotely

More from Work & Money


R29 Original Series