Planning a family is a big decision for both the Mum and Dad, but for the woman it means a major career shift – be it for just the 12 months of maternity leave or forever if you decide not to come back. Even if you do decide to go back to work, part time or full time, you will always have another 24/7 around the clock job to do.
When you take into account that women who are pregnant and working full time are usually travelling up to 10 hours per week, as well as undertaking 10 to 15 hours of housework per week all whilst growing a baby, which it’s said is like running a marathon everyday, you can understand that the career shift doesn’t just start once your maternity leave commences – it’s a big shift and struggle immediately.
Whilst some women aren’t affected by fatigue, morning sickness, back ache or constant trips to the bathroom, most get these symptoms and many more, making work/life balance difficult – mostly because you aren’t 100% at work and you don’t have a life anymore!
It’s very difficult once these symptoms start to still feel like a professional in the workplace. Other than the fact that your corporate attire doesn’t fit anymore and you quickly go from feeling smart to drab from lack of options (seriously retailers – you need to get into this market!!), your colleagues perception of you shifts, already assuming you are unwell and tired, and my perception is that they feel like you have already switched off, or even worse (in my opinion) that you now have ‘pregnancy brain.’
I have really struggled with having a perception from colleagues that I’m not as switched on or as valuable a resource as I was, because I’m a mummy to be.
Pregnancy brain renders you ‘useless’. Your work isn’t reliable because you have a baby on your mind. I feel that it is so difficult for women to stray away from this perception. I find myself checking things three times more than I usually did, and I find it difficult to not contact people to ask them if they could also check my work – using pregnancy brain as an excuse because I’m second guessing myself.
There has been research done on ‘pregnancy brain’ and this has shown that although pregnancy does not change a woman’s brain, it does make women feel less sharp. My question on this is how much of this is based on what the woman is feeling, and how much of it is based on this assumption from colleagues that you have it and there constant reminders to you that you have momnesia now so can’t be trusted!?
I am so confident in my working style, efficiency and processes to know that I’m not missing things and I have everything covered, and yet I am paranoid of a colleague telling me I did something wrong because of ‘pregnancy brain.’ How do I make my colleagues believe that pregnancy brain hasn’t affected me, and maintain the professional image I have strived to achieve for so many years? How do I maintain the reputation I had before, without the immediate stereotype that clouded my work environment the moment I announced I was expecting?
I have taken a number of steps through my pregnancy to ensure I am still working efficiently when I’m at work. If I’m not feeling well, then I have not come to work. I don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interests – especially my baby’s – for me to push myself to the limit. Unfortunately I have suffered from regular migraines whilst I’ve been pregnant, but I’ve ensured I’ve stayed away from the office when I look unwell and feel horrible, taking a sick leave day but still ensuring I log on during the day to close out any important or urgent requests. I have not missed a deadline due to being ill.
I have a fantastic employer that has given me the ability to work from home whilst I am not required in the office, and for a few months, this has been once a week. I can’t stress how much of a difference it makes to your energy and efficiency by removing the daily commute from your schedule once every now and then.
I have ensured there are procedures in place for my role from the moment I stepped into the role. I am not having to worry about developing a massive handover process to the person taking on my role whilst I am on maternity leave, as well as doing my day job.
I have re-assessed the way I do things, looking for efficiencies to save me time. This means I do have the time to double check my work and I’m not rushed. There is nothing worse than rushing a travel itinerary for my manager and forgetting to book his accommodation and not having the time to check it. Look at the basic things you do and speak to your Manager if you think these things are ‘nice to have’ as opposed to ‘necessity’.
I don’t think I will ever be able to change the views of others that pregnancy brain is alive and kicking the minute you conceive, but I know I will never make that assumption to new Mum’s ever again!
**I would also like to note that I in no way think that I am going to be the efficient, capable person I was the moment the baby arrives – and maybe that’s why I’m holding onto the perception that I am able and competent until the very last second!**
How have you felt working full time once you fell pregnant, and have you been offended by ‘baby brain’ remarks? What have you done to remain focused, efficient and professional in the workplace?