Being a working parent is its own kind of adventure, but many families don’t spend as much time thinking about what sort of new challenges might arise in the time leading up to that point. It can be hard to anticipate what working during pregnancy will be like before it happens, which is why one of the best ways to prepare is to ask moms who have been there.
Talking to people about your pregnancy
It isn’t always easy to tell how the different people in your life are going to react to your pregnancy, and there are probably different people in your professional life who will need to know at different times.
One Ovia mom, who worked in a K-8 school when she was expecting, started by talking to the head of the school when she was 16 weeks along, but waited to tell her students until she was experiencing some of the more obvious physical changes that come along with pregnancy. She described that conversation as the “awkward flipside” of working in an environment where many other young women who had babies fairly regularly worked – the trade-off came when she had to tell a room of 13-year-olds that she was pregnant.
Other Ovia parents had different experiences – one mom waited until almost five months into her pregnancy to talk to her boss, who she described as an “old school boss,” and someone who didn’t know anything about her options for working through pregnancy.
Depending on where you work, your boss’s reaction may just be a small part of what you have to deal with. One new mom who works in customer service talked about the way customers always felt like they had a right to share their opinions about her pregnancy. “The reality is that even well-meaning people who don’t mean to do anything annoying can be sometimes rude, and you just have to expect that.”
Prepare for leave
One Ovia mom talked about the importance of proactively figuring out who will be taking care of the tasks you usually do while you’re gone. She also cautioned new moms to remember that there will probably be plenty of parts of your work that you’ll find exactly the way you left them when you come back.
Preparing for parenting
One of the benefits of pregnancy is that you can use this time to set up certain details of postpartum life so you’re prepared for when your baby comes – one new mom told Ovia that by the time she was eight months pregnant, her childcare plans were already set up, since choosing childcare was one of the things that was most important to her to have settled before her baby was born.
Another Ovia mom went into more of the specifics of preparing for childcare during pregnancy. “Take time to do research on childcare options and schedule visits before you give birth so you can see if you like the daycare,” she advised. “Know that it will be hard to go back no matter how much you love your job, and give yourself a few weeks to be emotional. Also know that most kids thrive!”
When it comes to preparation both for maternity leave and for handling childcare once she returned to work, an Ovia mom who was working in academia at the time talked about how one of the most important elements for her was just to have a clear vision of her leave – since there wasn’t a very established path for how she should handle early parenthood in her workplace, she knew she’d have to be her own advocate and come up with her own plan.
One Ovia mom talked about the importance of talking about the accommodations she was going to need during pregnancy and when coming back from maternity leave. Speaking up about what she would need, she said, was where her confidence began, but getting a positive response back from her employer was just as important. “Knowing that your employer is willing to work with you is confidence-building,” she said.
“Your openness with respect to what you’re dealing with in personal life shows commitment to your employer, that you are aware of obligations for work.”
However, as always, it’s important to be aware of the specific environment of your job. Another Ovia mother cautioned other new parents to make sure they get confirmation from their bosses about any accommodations they’ve been offered in writing – email in particular, she said, can be great for this.
Keep an open mind
The truth is, there’s no way to know what parenthood, or working parenthood, is going to be like for you until it happens. “It’s important to set your expectations, to not have everything figured out right away, and to sort of see how you’re adapting to motherhood,” said one Ovia mom. “It’s a different experience for everyone, and you can have an idea of what you’ll be like as a working mother, but be open to changing after your return to work.”