The One Thing You Need To Know If You're Worried What Having A Baby Will Do To Your Career

By
Share
Ad failed to load

The pitiful state of family leave policies in the U.S. would have any working mom worried. Without guaranteed paid leave and, for companies with fewer than 50 employees, zero workplace accommodations required for nursing mothers, trying to maintain your career momentum once you have a kid is a considerable drain on financial, emotional and basic human resources. With barely any available subsidized childcare for working families, so many women opt out of their career because the economics don’t make sense when you’re working 40+ hours a week and most of that pay goes to someone to watch your child (not to mention that childcare workers are shockingly underpaid).

When I took maternity leave after the birth of my first baby, I didn’t realize it was never again going to be business as usual. I thought I could compartmentalize work and life, dedicating as much time as always to my job in TV production, and then simply giving up a few of the hours I spent socializing and working out in the evening to accommodate taking care of my baby. I mean, that’s what “working mother” life looked like from the outside. But once I was in it, the distinction between work and life was never clear.

Ad failed to load

I’m at work, and daycare calls: She’s bumped her head (but she’s OK); I’m nursing her before bed, and responding to emails on my phone; I jostle for office refrigerator real estate for my pumped milk; I squeeze in self-maintenance appointments during lunch hours because I feel too guilty missing any more time away from my kid just to get a haircut; I take red-eyes on business trips to minimize time spent away from my daughter during her waking hours; I bond with the other working moms at the office as we exchange droopy-eyed nods in the hallways.

I returned to my job 12 weeks after giving birth to my second child, on the dot. With two children, I doubled down on trying to have control — two nap schedules, two feeding schedules, two sets of daycare teachers — all while working full-time. I kept lists and notes and reminders and alarms. I had a work phone and a personal phone, plus office and apartment landlines. One person, two email addresses, four phone numbers. I thought all of this made me bulletproof as a mother and an employee; I could be reached by work at home, and at work my children’s caregivers could always find me. I was available, to everyone, 24/7 and isn’t that the pinnacle of what it means to be a working parent? Isn’t that having it all?

No, because when working parents make everything a priority, everybody loses.

Ad failed to load

Being a mom taught me the most valuable career lesson: to ruthlessly prioritize.

I can’t be all things to all people. So I have learned to assess the complicated world we live in, where work and life are enmeshed, and pay attention to those things that matter in the moment. There will be other moments, where other things will matter. It shifts, constantly.

The truth is, there is no work-life balance. That revelation is a relief.
Ad failed to load

We can stop trying to keep even footing in both our personal and professional spheres; we can favor one over the other at times. I can’t go on all my kids’ school trips, but I go on at least one a year for each of them. I opted for a position with more creative work that I love, than one that provided a higher salary and title, because I’d rather show my kids what I made, than how I managed others to make it. I don’t apologize to my kids for going to work, because my career fulfills a part of me they never can. And I never apologize for leaving early for parent-teacher conferences, though I do put coverage in place when I need to be out of the office.

The one thing you need to know if you’re worried what having a baby will do to your career, is that it will make you even better at your job.
Ad failed to load

No, seriously. Hear me out.

My prioritizing skills have improved, now that I have little humans who want, and deserve, my attention. I put time limits on how long I spend on tasks. Breastfeeding taught me that (anything longer than 45 minutes was going to be futile anyway). Likewise, keeping my sentences short, maintaining eye contact and speaking calmly (you know, like how you talk to a child) are parenting skills that have helped my workplace communication.

Typical work culture still reflects the outdated model of a male employee having a stay-at-home partner to tend to the needs and schedules of the kids they both made. One parent represented “work,” the other, “life.” But that world doesn’t exist any more. More moms — and dads — than ever are toggling between those two arenas. The more we are upfront about this to our bosses, the better the chances we have of changing work culture. The more our employers see how efficiently parents are at their jobs, so that we can have lives outside of them, the more they will help to build a fluid work environment. Everyone wins.

Ad failed to load

If you're worried about what having a kid will do to your career, the best thing you can do for yourself is work on expanding your idea of what a working life looks like. Don’t be afraid that a kid will slow your career down — but also don't be married to the idea of any part of your life looking a certain way. Motherhood is an asset, not a detriment, to professional life. More companies are recognizing that, thanks to working parents like us.

Images: blanketboat/Instagram; Courtesy of Liza Wyles(2)

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

7 Things A Mom Really Means When She Says She Doesn't Want Anything On Mother's Day

Every year my family asks me what I want for Mother's Day, and every single year I tell them the same thing: Nothing. So, by now, they know that when I say "nothing" I absolutely do not mean "nothing." In fact, there are more than a few things a mom …
By Candace Ganger

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

Here's How To Introduce Your Pet To Your Baby & Make Everything As Calm As Possible

Our home, which we lovingly refer to as “the funny farm,” is filled with four-legged family members. We have two crazy beagles and two cat jerks, and boy are they loved and spoiled. (As they should be.) But we are now finally having a baby of our own…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Here's The Right Birth Method For You, According To Your Zodiac Sign

If you're pregnant, you've probably given childbirth some serious thought. Some moms-to-be prepare a meticulous birth plan, while others are comfortable just going with the flow. And me? Well, I made a plan... but that plan was useless when faced wit…
By Steph Montgomery

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills
)}