Ellen and her son enjoying a sunny afternoon during a trip to visit family in Oxford.
"Soon after my son was born, I found myself struggling. I thought I just wasn't doing a good job as a mother," admits Ellen W., a software engineering recruiting manager at Facebook. "My husband and I wanted a baby, and we were thrilled when he was born. I knew I was lucky that my journey to motherhood was easy. But five months postpartum, I was having suicidal thoughts."
Ellen started looking for people on Instagram who were experiencing the same, and found other new moms who were expressing similar feelings. "I realized I needed help," she remembers. "If I hadn't found this community of other women when I did, I wouldn’t have known I needed to take action. Once I did, I was in a much better place.”
Ellen joined Facebook during the spring of 2020, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. She says, “Being part of a company that supports people becoming parents and offers benefits to team members facing mental health struggles means so much to me. There’s a big culture of empathy and vulnerability here. People, including leaders, talk openly about the challenges of parenthood. Initially, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be open with my teammates about my experience with postpartum depression. But the more I open up, and the more I share, the more accepted and supported I feel.”
She adds, “I recently hired someone who will be working on Instagram Stories. I told the candidate that they will be working on something that really does have a positive impact on so many people.”
Saskia and her daughter Imogen enjoying time together.
Finding a support system
Saskia W. learned she was pregnant three months after she moved from London to the United States. "I was terrified," recalls Saskia, now a program manager on Facebook's Hardware Engineering team. "It was a rough delivery. I had an emergency c-section, and my daughter had therapeutic hypothermia to avoid cerebral palsy." After both Saskia and her daughter had been in the hospital for weeks, the newborn had severe developmental delays that required weekly meetings with consultants to manage. "She seemed so fragile when we brought her home," remembers Saskia. To care for her daughter, Saskia took some time away from her career. "During this time, I felt a lot of guilt and wondered whether I was doing enough, or the right things. I felt like I wasn't a good mother," she shares.
After taking 18 months off from her career, Saskia was initially surprised that Facebook wanted to interview her. But she now realizes that she brings a unique perspective to her role because of her experience as a mother to a child with developmental challenges.
“Facebook has been so supportive. I was able to see a therapist, and they identified me as having post-traumatic stress disorder. It made a lot of sense. And while working from home has had its challenges during the pandemic, it’s also helped me ease back into work and adjust to being a working mom. My daughter has speech and physical therapy appointments throughout the week, and I appreciate the flexibility Facebook provides. I might start early and pause in the middle of the day, and no one ever questions it,” Saskia says.
Finding community at Facebook has also helped Saskia navigate the unique challenges of being a working mom during the pandemic. “I’m very lucky I started the same week as another mom. We have similar roles, but in different parts of the business. She’s been an incredible support system and someone I can vent to about anything.”
Neha and her daughters practicing their posing in front of an art display.
For Neha M., a partner manager for the Government, Politics & Non-Profits team, the shift to remote work was a big adjustment. “I never thought that I’d be working from home, so when the pandemic hit, I didn’t know how I’d cope,” she explains. “Because I had just started at Facebook five months before, I was especially mindful about how I was showing up for my team and organization each day. It was so tough at first! I have two kids under the age of five, and I was learning how to navigate online schooling while balancing my responsibilities and working full-time. I felt like I was working a double shift—my first role at work, and another at home. It took a couple months before I realized that it was not sustainable.”
Neha says that Facebook’s COVID leave policies and benefits provided her much-needed support during this challenging time. “Special COVID-19 emergency leaves were created and I had more flexibility in my schedule. I was able to block time off to spend with my kids and pick work back up later in the evening.”
For Neha, finding balance between parenting and managing a career has been important. “In Indian households, housework is still considered a woman's domain. Children with working mothers grow up watching their moms juggle a plethora of activities, and they begin to understand how stressful it can be to manage so many things at a time. Knowing my kids will learn the value of balance brings me great joy.”