Women and Their Managers Struggle with the “Big News”

Suz O’Donnell

Women are having children later in their careers and therefore have more responsibility on their plates when they start a family.  For those that want to maintain a fruitful career, they need to do a little extra work to make sure everyone at work (including their boss, employees, customers, and peers) know they are coming back as strong as ever.  

While every good manager puts on a happy face and genuinely congratulates the woman on her big news, they also secretly struggle with concerns about whether she will return after having the baby, if she’ll want to go part time, how this will impact team performance, and whether they need to begin recruiting now to backfill part or all of her work.  These are real concerns that affect team engagement, effectiveness, and morale.   

To help both the women planning families and the managers of these women cope better with these situations, check out these resources:  

  • Women planning families:  If you are planning a family and want to make sure your career trajectory stays on track, you should apply the advice in The Career-Family Formula™:  Three Steps Female Leaders Must Take When Planning a Family.  In this eBook, Suz O’Donnell, President and Lead Coach of Thrivatize LLC, shares tangible advice for ensuring everyone around you knows you are coming back to work after you have your baby and that you want to maintain an amazing career while your family grows.  She also offers additional resources on her website PowerfulWomenPlanningFamilies.com.  
  • Managers, Human Resources, and Diversity Officers:  Even in the most supportive environments, unconscious bias can make a pregnant woman feel like her career trajectory is at risk.  The more you can do to prevent these feelings, the more likely she is to come back feeling that you support her ongoing career development and success.  Check out Suz Graf O’Donnell, President and Lead Coach of Thrivatize LLC’s whitepaper The Overlooked Opportunity To Retain More Women In Leadership.  This whitepaper includes an engaging story of what can go wrong when well-meaning managers aren’t certain about the career desires of their employees who are planning a family.  It also highlights team performance risks and costs savings that you can address by properly preparing your female leaders for this big change in their lives.  You can find additional resources or contact information regarding this hot topic at PowerfulWomenPlanningFamilies.com.  

   

Negotiate for a Better Maternity Leave

IMaternity-Leave-Proposalt’s no secret that maternity leave benefits in the US are lacking.  You know it’s bad when our own President fronts us out.  To quote him directly, “the United States is the only developed country in the world without paid maternity leave.”  But, we can’t let that get us down because bringing a child into this world is one of, it not THE most rewarding and important thing we can do to in our lifetimes.

The good news is that even when you think the deck is stacked against you and you’re concerned that you won’t get a fair shake when you ask for maternity leave, there are experts out there who have successfully helped women to not only get a fair maternity leave but also a great maternity leave.  Today I would like to introduce you to an expert in this area, Pat Katepoo.

Pat has been a work options advisor since 1993 and her website Work Options has been online since 1997. Thousands of busy professionals have found answers and relief through her services.  Pat says, “Women aren’t socialized to negotiate and so they are less inclined than men to ask for what they need or want. And research shows that often women fail to see their options or even think to ask for them.   So maybe you don’t know what you don’t know.”  Pat can help you see your options and ask for them.

Whether you choose her do-it-yourself guides or her personal services by phone you get practical help negotiating various work options to make your life calmer and easier. Options such as job flexibility, a fabulous pay raise, and more maternity leave and other time off.

Please take a few moments right now to visit Pat at WorkOptions by clicking any of the links in this post.  I really think she’s the best in this subject area and definitely the most experienced.  I always keep a link to her site on the side of my blog posts because I think her services are so valuable to working women.  I’m an affiliate for Pat’s tools and resources so each purchase you make drops a few coins in the bucket to fund The Maternity Leave Coach, so “thank you” in advance.

 

What You Wanted To Know – Doctor Appointments

pregnant-doctorToday when I looked at what search keywords are being used to find The Maternity Leave Coach it was very clear what’s on expectant mother’s minds… taking time off of work for doctor’s appointments. So, you ask and I deliver.  Here are some Q&A that will hopefully answer some burning questions.  AND… while you’re here be sure to check out the new Maternity Leave Prep Kit that will bring everything you need to know about preparing for maternity leave into one handy guide.  $9.99 is a small price to pay for the stress-relief of getting a plan in place.  Look to the right of the page to order your copy today.

Q. Can I use FMLA leave during my pregnancy or only after the birth of my child?

A. Yes. Employees can use FMLA leave during their pregnancy or after the birth of their child. Under the regulations, a mother can use 12 weeks of FMLA leave for the birth of a child, for prenatal care and incapacity related to pregnancy, and for her own serious health condition following the birth of a child. A father can use FMLA leave for the birth of a child and to care for his spouse who is incapacitated (due to pregnancy or child birth).

Read moreWhat You Wanted To Know – Doctor Appointments

The Evils of Extended Maternity Leave

I just read an article by Kay Hymowitz on Time.com about how extended maternity leave may put women at a disadvantage in the workplace.  I’m not mad at Ms. Hymowitz because she’s just reporting the facts but I am left with a little bit of a “meh, I could have told you that” reaction.

Do I wish that an employee – male or female – could take a year off of work without having the negative side effects mentioned in the article?  We’ll yes, it’d be great if I was gone for the next twelve months and my skills didn’t get rusty, my social networks stayed fresh, I’d be able to come back with the same or higher pay and that my longer term career potential wasn’t affected.  But I believe it’s a little unrealistic to think that one or more of those wouldn’t be affected by my choice to exit the workplace for a while.

Let’s flip the script a bit.  Let’s say Joe in the cubicle next to you made a decision to serve in the military.  His time away from work to serve his country is protected by law.  Would you expect him to be sent on required training for a year and then think he’d come right back to work without missing a beat?  Might he have forgotten a bit about the company’s complex accounting system, could the advocates he had previously in the organization moved on without him, could that affect his rate of pay increases for the next few years while he caught up?  It’s highly likely one or more of these things would happen.  Even though that stinks, we’d support him through this transition back to the workplace and respect his service to our country.

I believe that sustaining the human race through pro-creation is also a noble cause.  And here’s the upside that I think we forget.  Why did I take the time off in the first place?  TO HAVE A BABY!  That trumps a few bucks more an hour, don’t you think?

I’m afraid that people (ok, specifically business leaders and policymakers) in the U.S. read about extended leaves in other parts of the world and say “See, our twelve week maternity leave policies are better than other countries because we get a woman back to work sooner, therefore improving her chances of getting back on the career track more quickly.”  Uh, ok.  Lame.

So, all that to say, I will still advocate for improvements in maternity leave offerings around the world and I hope you join with me in that work.  Check out my other blog posts that show just how far behind we are in the U.S. in regard to our offer for working mothers-to-be.  Then write a letter or change a diaper.

When to Tell the Boss…Again

I just visited Corporette.com and they’ve recently written a post about when you should announce your pregnancy at work.

The comments are great and I’d recommend you take a read to get a good understanding of all the ins and outs that other women have faced when deciding when to share their news.

Personally, I still side with the “earlier the better” camp because I just like to have the air clear.  But I completely understand if anyone else lands in a different spot.

P.S.  While you’re at Corporette.com check out this great post on wearing button down shirts.  If you are a mom who is bursting at the seams, you’ll definitely appreciate their advice!

Why Women Don’t Return After Maternity Leave

Helen Letchfieldco-founder of Parenting for Professionals Ltd in the UK, which enables companies to support new and existing parents at work through coaching,  wrote a great article at TrainingJournal.com  about the reasons why women leave the workforce after maternity leave.   Here’s a bit of what Helen had to say:

Returning to work after maternity leave is one of the biggest changes a female employee will ever have to make.  Yet in many organisations, this life-changing event remains unsupported.  Very typically, women returners struggle in silence, not wanting to appear ‘needy’ by asking for help.

Read moreWhy Women Don’t Return After Maternity Leave

The Four Rules of Maternity Leave

Julie Steinberg wrote a nice article that encapsulated the four rules you need to remember about your maternity leave.  I’ve linked to the article at the end of this post.  I wanted to expand a bit on her rules and ask you all if you’d add any more rules to the list.

1.  Start the conversation early

I was glad to see that the women Julie referred to in the article recommended letting managers know sooner than later.   The 12 week mark seems to be a good time to let people know.  You’d want to share the news sooner if you are having an especially tough time with morning sickness or you are high risk and may need accommodations during your pregnancy.  

Read moreThe Four Rules of Maternity Leave

Doctor Visits and Work – Planning for Pregnancy Care

“Will my boss let me off to go to my doctor’s appointments?” is a common question that I’ve heard from women newly pregnant who are actively involved in the workforce. If you consider that most pregnant women have between ten and 15 prenatal visits over the course of nine months, it’s understandable that this would be a concern.

To answer the question of whether or not your employer will let you off of work, I’ll answer with the “spirit” and then the” letter” of the law. From a “spirit” perspective, most employers will be understanding and as long as you aren’t pulling a fast one with your appointments, they will be accommodating. They will allow for the time off either from sick time allocation through FMLA or if you prefer, from your vacation allotment.

Read moreDoctor Visits and Work – Planning for Pregnancy Care

Plan the Work and Work the Plan – Maternity Leave Planning

So what’s your plan?  If you answer stops at “have a baby” then you’ve got a little bit of thinkin’ to do!  As mind-consuming and stressful as it is for parents-to-be to consider how in the heck they’re going to care for this precious little one, considerations about work can fall to the wayside.  If you’re currently employed and soon to be taking maternity leave, you should know that as happy as your boss and co-workers may be for you, they’re also concerned about how all the work is going to get done.

Read morePlan the Work and Work the Plan – Maternity Leave Planning

Your License to Ill – Pregnant Woman’s Right to Morning Sickness

Don’t Mess With My Zofran

The words “morning sickness” conjure up so many things for me.  Had a documentary film crew been following me through the first 5 months of my pregnancy they would have had several opportunities to achieve cinematic greatness as they chronicled my plight.  To start, there was this overwhelming smell of cigarette smoke everywhere I went and my resulting disgust that those close to me must surely be sneaking some cigs when I’m not looking.  How dare they lead a secret, unhealthy lifestyle without checking with me?!  Come to find out, that was actually the first weak signal that I was pregnant and it wasn’t cigarette smoke but an intense ability to sniff out mold and mildew in any location.  Go figure.  Sorry Steve for all the finger wagging that you endured even though you had never smoked in your life!

Read moreYour License to Ill – Pregnant Woman’s Right to Morning Sickness

Working Through Mommy Brain

My pals at LiberatingWorkingMoms recently wrote about “mommy brain” and it sparked some reflection on my part about how my pregnancy and now everlasting mommy brain has impacted my work. Overall, it’s been a good thing if you don’t count the really stupid stuff I’ve done.

If you want to get all scientific about it, there is a great book by Katherine Ellison called The Mommy Brain that makes the argument that women can actually get smarter as a result of having children. So I guess the Octomom is a genius?!?

Read moreWorking Through Mommy Brain

Maternity Leave Book Club – Good Reads Before You Return to Work

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).

Read moreMaternity Leave Book Club – Good Reads Before You Return to Work

What Did Your Boss Really Say? True Stories of Telling Them You’re Pregnant

Tell Boss You're PregnantAs 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.

Are You Experienced? Weigh in on your maternity leave journey

Hey working moms.  Yeah, you.  I’m really interested to hear about your experiences before, during, and after your maternity leave.  I’ve set up a survey just for you.  Visit and tell me as little or as much as you’d like.

http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/WEB22E8V7VDB5S

Thanks for your support!