If only I were Oprah I could really make a Maternity Leave Book Club happen. Actually, if I were Oprah I wouldn’t waste time with a book club. I’d pay people to write books about me and then have William Shatner read them back to me while trained pandas massage my feet. (Jealousy is a form of flattery right? I got no beef with Oprah).
As I hear from working women about their trials and tribulations of pregnancy and maternity leave, one of the hot topics is always “when/how to tell your boss you’re pregnant”. There is so much fear and concern about how the manager will respond.
I have a theory that most of the fear about telling the boss comes from myths and legends, but I could be wrong (I hope I am). I actually think that in most cases the manager is willing to work with you as best they know how. That’s the deal, most don’t know how so the whole thing gets awkward and clunky.
So, here’s where you come in… I need your stories. What REALLY happened when you told your boss you were pregnant? Comment here with your story and please share this with the other working women you know who would have a story to share.
Thanks! Let’s get those comments rolling in.
A recent study by Karen Christopher, an associate professor of Women’s/Gender Studies and Sociology at the University of Louisville, showed that the working women who were surveyed would work even if they didn’t have to.
I’d be interested to hear from other working moms to see if they agree with the study’s findings.
Take a look at the summary of the study and weigh in.
This weekend my son and I went to visit my grandparents – Richard and Liz (aka Paw Paw Richard and Maw Maw Bebo) – in Lake Charles, Louisiana. They had celebrated their 85th (Richard) and 82nd (Liz) birthdays earlier in the week and it was wonderful to spend some quality time with them.
I had some good chats with my grandmother and I shared about the blog and how I’m hoping to support moms who are struggling with the juggle of work and home. I can’t ever remember my grandmother not working. As a matter of fact she takes pride in the fact that she still maintains a separate “business account” for the sewing she does for family and friends. I asked her about her experiences as a working mother and here’s how the general conversation went.
Me: So Maw Maw, was it hard for you to work and also have four kids at home?
Liz: It was a lot to manage but back then we had help at home and we had wonderful women who would come to the house to be with the kids and keep the house in order.
I just read a great post on NYTimes.com about how one mom achieves more balance (and efficiency) by starting work later and leaving for home earlier. You may say, “Wow, where do I find that fantasy job?” or “Does she also commute to work on a unicorn?” As unrealistic as it may seem, there are moms (and dads) out there who actually work a reduced work schedule. It doesn’t happen for everyone but I do have to say that it will never happen for you if you don’t ask.
My son was four when I finally worked up the courage to let someone know that I’d like to reduce my hours to spend more time at home. The proposition of him starting kindergarten and not being to pick him up from school and help with homework was really getting me down. Luckily for me, on my new manager’s first day she asked about my career goals. I figured it was now or never so I blurted out, “I’d like to reduce my hours.” It seemed so bold and gutsy and it played in slow motion over and over in my head after I walked out of her office. Had I just committed career suicide?
I’ve heard countless stories of women, who when faced with the prospect of starting a family, became overcome with fear that having a baby would ruin their careers. Not doubt, you too know of a family member or friend who stalled out at work because they were struggling with the juggle between work and home. You may even know some employees who, even when knocking it out of the park with work performance, couldn’t move forward in their company because of their manager’s antiquated views of work life balance.
We are so lucky to be in today’s mom/work world. Although there are great strides yet to be taken in terms of policies, benefits and treatment of women workers, there are new options out there that can give you hope. One example of a innovative outlet for those seeking more workplace flexibility is Mom Corps.
Meghan Casserly writes a great blog called Girl Friday at Forbes.com. A recent post highlights the struggles that women have in advancing their careers, especially in light of the specialized advice they receive. Learnings from the Catalyst study The Myth of the Ideal Worker show that although women engage in activities like mentoring, networking and actually asking for what they want, they still do not receive promotional opportunities on par with their male peers.
It’s actually quite depressing to hear. It’s like saying I went on a diet, I did more exercise than the other guy, I even took some crazy weight loss pills that made me grow a beard and I’m STILL 10 pounds overweight and he lost 20 without doing a thing! Here’s my spin…It’s depressing if you want exactly what the other guy has.
I’ve talked to a few women who fear that their pregnancy or new mother status will reflect poorly on their manager’s and coworkers’ views of their performance. In general I see it coming up as a concern when a women perceives that people are treating her differently because she’s pregnant or is a new mom.
Although there are thousands of scenarios, this difference of treatment can usually be traced back to a few root causes:
- Most frequently I see that managers and co-workers are concerned about offending the new mom and they get weirded out and act strange. Sometime they walk on eggshells and keep their distance so they don’t say the wrong thing. In particular I’ve seen that men who work with pregnant women can be unsure of what they can say. To the new mom, this can come off as being excluded, shut out or even shunned. I recommend that if the new mom feels comfortable, that she just break the ice and help everyone she works with ease into this transition. You’ll get it all out in the open and know for sure where you stand.
- The managers and co-workers are jerks and really are treating her differently because she’s pregnant or a new mom. Unfortunately this does happen but I wouldn’t jump to it as the first conclusion. If you are comfortable, speak with your manager about the situation. If that’s not an option, speaking confidentially with HR can help sort things out.
- Sometimes the mother’s performance really has dipped because of the physical and mental demands on her. Most managers are understanding of this temporary situation. Initiate the conversation and you may find that there are opportunities to adjust your workload or schedule to help during this time.
- And finally, there are some mothers who have checked out and unfortunately used the excuse of “I’m pregnant” or “I’m a new mom” to let their performance slide. These few moms may have ruined it for the rest of us and you want to be sure that you aren’t inadvertently becoming one of “those employees”. Ask a trusted co-worker for feedback on your performance. Meet frequently with your manager for status updates and to get a clear understanding of their expectations and whether or not you’re meeting them.
Before having a baby, I must admit that I liked traveling for work. I got to stay in nice hotels, eat in fancy restaurants, ride in town cars like a celebrity and could stay up as late as I wanted. My husband and I both traveled from time to time and we both enjoyed the change of scenery while we were away from home. I even took a trip when I was big and pregnant and felt no shame in using both the spa facilities and the pillow concierge at The Benjamin when I was in New York. (They really do have a pillow concierge – here’s their pillow menu http://www.thebenjamin.com/PillowMenu.aspx)
But then, here comes this bundle of perfection who is dependent on me for his every need. Not only has it been difficult leaving him for the day while I’m at work but I can only imagine it will be torture to be almost 1000 miles away! Going cold turkey would have been unbearable so I am so glad that my husband and I had already traveled without little one. We are blessed to have grandparents within driving distance who are retired and can keep him for extended periods. We had been to Hawaii when our son was 12 months old so surely leaving him again for just a few days wouldn’t be a problem?!? WRONG!
Here’s another two-parter. I’m trying to keep these short because as a mom, you probably have very limited time to read AND if you’re like me, you have the attention span of a gnat.
I’m not going to lie to you. Your first day back to work from maternity leave is not going to be a super awesome experience. However, you have to bite the bullet and go back at some point so what can you do to make it a little less horrible?
- Try it out first. Hopefully you’ve already got child care set up. It’s a good idea to have your child ease into it by beginning them to their caregiver a few days before your leave ends. Most kids will not be so happy that you’re leaving them there. If you talk to any caregiver they’ll tell you – your baby will eventually stop crying and you lingering around and prolonging the drama doesn’t help much. You’ll feel like a jerk either way so just leave! If you do a trial run, you’ll get some of this emotion out before you have to show up to the office. Also, having your child at childcare for a few hours will help you get ready for work: get a haircut, shop whatever clothes you need, etc. Let me remind you once again… first time leaving the baby will stink, but, I’ve yet to hear my son say to me, “Mom, remember when I was a baby and you ruined my life by leaving me with a really nice lady and a bunch of fun baby friends?”
Good news! Even if everyone at work despises you, they will like your baby. Since that is the case, your co-workers will probably want to throw you a baby shower. If they’re so happy for you and the life you’re bringing into the world, of course they will be totally respectful of your wishes and desires for baby products. Yep, not so much!
If you’re like most new moms, you logged in to babiesrus.com within minutes of seeing the plus sign on your pregnancy test. You read all the reviews and from a totally self/baby-centered perspective, clicked the check box for any and everything you’d ever need. Onesies, blankets, sheets, bottles, nursing supplies, nipple cream… Standard fare right?
Think of it this way, if your IT department would flag “nipple cream” or “butt paste” as a search in Google as inappropriate, you probably shouldn’t let your co-workers know that this is on your list of must haves. Three reasons come to mind.
When should you let your employer know that you have a baby on the way? I’m sure there are varying opinions but in general I’d say the sooner the better. Here are some reasons why:
- If you were the boss, you’d like to know. Let’s put their shoe on your ever expanding maternity foot. Fast forward one year and you’ve fallen in love with your nanny/child care provider. They’re dependable, they do an excellent job and they’d be super hard to replace. Then one day they show up and tell you that they’re taking the next three months off and you’re required to hold their job for them while they’re gone. Huh?!? You’d freak out! You don’t have a back up because they’re the only one you want and you didn’t have time to make a plan.