“Family always comes first.”
That was the response from my manager when I emailed asking for a couple of hours off on a Tuesday afternoon to attend a meeting for one of my daughters. I breathed a sigh of relief. Even though I knew that would be the answer, it still helped to see it in writing. You’re probably thinking, “Of course, who wouldn’t respond that way?”
The trouble is when you care for someone with a chronic illness, you start to wonder whether you’re making these requests too frequently. There always seems to be something to manage that has to be done during traditional working hours. It’s really easy to worry that every hour out of the office will set you back years in your career or that your peers will feel you’re not pulling your weight or that your manager really doesn’t mean what they say. Or really any other unreasonable worry that feels very reasonable when you’re in the thick of things.
I know this feeling well. My husband, Rob, and I and our two beautiful, smart daughters, Felicia (11) and Natalie (2), look like a typical family from the outside. What you can’t see, though, is that Natalie is autistic and also has a life-shortening disease called cystic fibrosis. While managing appointments, prescriptions, schedules and daily treatments along with leading Gartner’s internal communications team can be overwhelming, I’m truly fortunate to work at a place that helps me manage my responsibilities as a mom, wife, caregiver and employee. And, on good days and bad, I’m confident knowing that Gartner is supporting my family and me every step of the way.
When I started working at Gartner, I tiptoed around Natalie’s cystic fibrosis diagnosis. I hesitated sharing it because I didn’t want to seem like I was asking for help or needed special treatment. When I finally shared that part of my life with my manager at the time, I knew I had landed in the right place at Gartner. Her first question was how she could support me so that I could continue contributing at work while feeling like I was doing all I needed to do at home for Natalie. She wanted to learn more about cystic fibrosis and the hope that my family has for a life-changing drug.
A few months into working at Gartner, we learned that Natalie is also autistic and along came many more evaluations, appointments and treatments. Each time, I’ve been met with nothing but support and concern from my Gartner family. My team always wishes me luck before Natalie’s bimonthly cystic fibrosis appointments – a three hour marathon with six or seven providers – and checks in to see how both of my kids are doing. They’re quick to jump in and cover a meeting or offer other help so that I can be available when my kids need me. And, in the last several months during the pandemic, they’ve been gracious when Felicia drops in on our meetings to say hello and share what’s going on in her world.
I could continue on about ways in which I have felt supported by the Gartner team in whatever may be going on in my personal life. But, I’ll sum it all up by saying that Gartner is truly committed to providing an environment where all people can thrive. I feel so fortunate to work for an organization where I feel valued for the contributions I make and where family really does come first.
Learn more about our commitment to fostering a diverse, inclusive workplace here.