Being pregnant takes a lot out of you. After all, you are growing another human being. So it’s a good thing women are masters at multitasking, especially when juggling work and pregnancy requires you to manage a lot of added responsibilities.
What it’s like to work while pregnant
Working while pregnant has become increasingly popular. In fact, a report from the Pew Research Center shows that a higher percentage of women are working longer into their pregnancy.
Like many women, I worked right up until the delivery of my first child. And while some of the discomforts of pregnancy made working a bit difficult at times, I experienced a fairly uncomplicated nine months which allowed me to work for as long as I wanted.
Danyell Laughlin, a teacher, and mother of twin boys, found herself on bedrest during her third trimester. Prior to leaving work, she dealt with severe morning sickness (or all day sickness in her case), fatigue, and discomfort from being on her feet all day. Being released from her job was a blessing in disguise, and one she felt was supported by her boss.
Making pregnancy work for you
As the founder of Maven Women, an ethical fashion start-up, Rebecca Ballard often used herself as a “fit model” in her work. However, early on in her pregnancy, she discovered that a growing body was not a good fit for average size clothing.
But instead of feeling frustrated about her ever-changing role (and body), Ballard decided to use her pregnancy to her advantage and created a maternity and postpartum dress with great breastfeeding functionality. A definite win-win and a clear example of a woman’s ability to multitask!
Taking it in your stride
Being pregnant can often feel like a full-time job. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or unsure about how to handle the issues you’ll face at the office, here are a few tips that will help ease the stress and make this period of your life a bit easier.
Let people know
Wondering if your pregnancy might slow down your career is a common concern. Most women feel anxious, stressed, and unsure about this phase of their life. That’s why it’s important to let your boss and co-workers know that you are pregnant—especially if you're experiencing morning sickness, fatigue, or a high-risk pregnancy.
Be realistic about what you can do
Being pregnant can affect the way you approach your work, that's why it's important to scale things back. This is not the time to take on extra duties or volunteer to host the company party. And on days when you’re not feeling your best, it’s okay to be honest with your team and ask for help.
Plan your departure date, but remain flexible
Work backward from your due date and create a calendar that allows for any surprises (like a baby that decides to come early). A few weeks before your due date, make a list of all the tasks you need to accomplish, and then schedule a time to meet with your boss and any co-workers who may be stepping in for you. You will feel a lot better when the baby arrives if you have planned and prepared for your departure at work.
Squeezing in appointments
Be prepared to go to the doctor - a lot! If you can, schedule appointments for before or after work and avoid lunch hour. You need that break to rest, recover, and recharge for the rest of the day. If you find that your appointments are intruding on your workday, keep a log of the time away, so you have documentation of why you were absent.
Make a plan for self-care
Morning sickness, fatigue, fluctuating hormones, and a growing body can all cause you added stress at work. That’s why it’s important to plan 'mini-breaks' throughout your day to eat, move (or rest), and hydrate. Present a schedule to your boss so they know you will be making adjustments to your day, but that you will remain on top of your work.
Working while on maternity leave
To work or not to work…that is the dilemma many new mums face as they begin their maternity leave.
For some, the idea of not responding to emails or getting updates from a boss or co-workers can cause a lot of anxiety, while others are more than happy to unplug and leave work behind. Ultimately, how you manage your time while on maternity leave is up to you.
As a business owner, Ballard knows all too well that no two maternity leaves look the same. In her case, taking a traditional maternity leave was not an option. In fact, she was working while in labor, in the hospital after delivery, and the week she returned from an emergency caesarean section.
Fortunately, her husband was able to take four months of leave and help out wherever needed.
Heading back to the office
Returning to your job will likely produce a whole range of emotions ranging from guilt and sadness to excitement and fear. As reality sets in and you begin to wonder how a baby is going to impact your career, it’s important to accept that work and life will be different for a while.
Balancing work, home, doctor’s appointments, and anything else that comes your way will, at times, challenge your ability to give 100 percent — and that’s okay. Reach out to other working parents for tips and advice. Having a community of people who are going through (or have gone) through the same thing will help
Ballard says she is asked often about balancing work after maternity leave and she reminds new mums that prioritization, time management, and being able to speedily reach completion that is “good enough” become core daily acts. “Having less time for ‘work’ can also mean a happier and more balanced life and let you see entrepreneurship as the marathon it is, rather than the sprint that will surely lead to burnout,” she says.
“I honestly love being a working parent and embrace finding my balancing act,” Ballard says of her choice to remain a full-time working mum. She says her best advice is to embrace your work self and your family self as two sides of the same coin which complement and inform each other, but require a different type of approach each day.