Pregnancy at Work: The Good; The Bad and The Ugly
I love running our maternity workshops and my favourite stage has to be the first one – helping employees navigate pregnancy at work, especially if it’s the first baby. It’s a time filled with hope and excitement; with a sense of starting a new and unknown journey. It’s also a time of uncertainty, change ….. and probably nausea.
Pregnancy At Work: The Good
During the introductions at the beginning of a workshop, we talk about all the good things about being pregnant at work. Once we have joked about the fact that this question is much harder to answer than identifying the negative bits of pregnancy at work, the group generally moves on. One of the best parts is that relationships with managers or other senior members of staff very often improve and deepen and become more personal. This is particularly the case in relationships with older fathers (and often senior managers) in the workplace – a common ground is now shared. Grab this opportunity to build stakeholder relationships whilst you can!!
A considerable amount of personal reflection and learning can occur at this stage (and indeed continues into parenthood). Parents-to-be are mostly keen to read up any piece of advice they can in order to prepare for the change. Networking at this stage with those who are experiencing the same thing is perfect! You may well discover the parent network that you never knew existed.
Pregnancy At Work: The Bad
The commute to work nearly always makes it to the top of the ‘bad list’. Packed trains, tubes and buses, long journeys, coupled with early starts does nothing to help alleviate the sickness and fatigue, which is actually the number one ‘bad’ thing about being pregnant at work.
Also at the top of the list is the realisation that, now you are pregnant, you do actually have to SLOW DOWN at work. Driven, professional women find this particularly difficult. After all, we have conditioned ourselves to over-achieve and meet expectations. Admitting you are unable to continue to work late nights/travel/attend 3 networking evenings a week etc because of feeling unwell, stressed or exhausted has probably never hit our radar before now! That’s because you are effectively asking for support – which can be seen as a weakness in the harsh corporate world if handled incorrectly.
Pregnancy At Work: The Ugly
Relationships inevitably alter during any period of change, and preparing to spend up to a year away from the team will mean you need to work harder before you leave and on your return to keep key relationships strong. Those preparing for maternity leave report they are treated ‘differently.’ Whether this is down to an over-helpful line manager ‘relieving’ you of workload during your final weeks at work, or your team holding meetings without you to discuss a project which will come to life during your maternity leave; these things can make you feel less valued.
We often develop a self-imposed pressure of wanting to ‘carry on as normal’ and ‘prove’ that being pregnant is not an issue. Telling your manager when you are leaving and that you are planning on taking the full year off on maternity leave often make us feel positively guilty! Sometimes our response to this is not to talk about our impending departure to team members and our managers – which doesn’t help our case as it will be of much more value to the team if we effectively plan our handover and departure.
…and the best…
Experiencing pregnancy at work will give you a new perspective on work and on life. Yes, it’s important to reach your deadlines and achieve your objectives. But for now it’s more important that you look after you and your baby’s health. This renewed sense of perspective will continue on your return to work too – knowing that your baby is safe and well will be more important to you than spending valuable energy on agonising over a difficult conversation you may have had on any particular day at work.
Finally, be prepared to do a lot of the preparation for maternity leave yourself – read the policies and plan your leave and return carefully. A Citymothers survey last year revealed that: ‘only 12.5% said their employer had taken a proactive role in supporting their maternity transition.’
For more help on managing pregnancy at work, contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Helen Letchfield