Whether you call it work-life balance, integration, career architecture or job crafting – having a baby and a successful career takes deliberate action and planning. Unfortunately, the data tells us that career women who have kids will more than likely experience a negative impact on their careers (whether in earning potential, promotion opportunity or unconscious bias). But there are actions that you can take to off-set that potential damage and prevent hitting the maternal wall.
Tell your boss first. This is wonderful, exciting news but be respectful and follow the proper channels of communication. This will start your journey towards maternity leave on the right foot.
Have a plan when you tell your boss. Do you want to work as long as you can up until the due date (if possible)? Do you plan on coming back (at this point)? What do you think the best backfill strategy is for your role – a temp assignment, spread out the work, a stretch opportunity for someone you’re developing? It is never too early to start thinking about this and creating a plan.
Do you still want to be considered for that big project? Tell your boss. Don’t let assumptions run rampant by being passive or not specific about how you want to work while you’re pregnant & a new mom. Want to take a step off the promotion track and just focus on knocking your current role out of the park – great, say that too. Remember, the majority of the time, assumptions lead to negative outcomes.
Take care of yourself.
You are no good to anyone else, especially that little, growing baby if you don’t take this time to focus on eating right, rest, exercise and managing stress. Oh, and by the way – don’t feel guilty about making this a priority. Period. End of story.
Be a role model.
You’re being watched, whether you know it or not. Friends, colleagues, young women in your organization, social circles and networks are observing how you manage this life event. Remember, you can’t be what you can’t see, so be open and transparent, help others and share what works and what doesn’t. If your company doesn’t have a women’s development network or working moms group, start one!
This list is the beginning of a complex, multi-faceted experience that women around the world go through every day. Having a baby while still excelling in your career is possible but not by accident. Be deliberate through this process and be aware that it can create life long penalties if mishandled.