We’ve made a lot of progress regarding pregnancy in the workplace. However, even though employers are more understanding than ever, it can still be challenging to manage—especially if you’re pregnant during a career transition. Regular doctor appointments, first-trimester exhaustion, and general discomfort are all part of the deal with pregnancy, and a career transition is just one more thing to add to the mix.
While there is no perfect way to handle this unique situation, it’s not an impossible task. With the right attitude, you can still make a successful professional transition while dealing with nausea, swollen feet, and Braxton Hick's contractions. Will it be effortless? Probably not, but it will be worth it.
What is a Career Transition?
A career transition can have a lot of different looks, but any professional event or milestone involves a significant change. It could be a career pivot, a promotion, a new job, or a new job type (part-time to full-time). It’s a turning point in your career, and while these moments are usually exciting, they can also be very stressful and overwhelming. Couple that with the stress and overwhelm of pregnancy, and you’ve found yourself in one very tough situation.
Why is a career transition so hard to manage during pregnancy?
This combination is a lot for someone to take on personally, but it can also be complicated in the workplace. Here you are, trying to prove yourself in this new way while getting kicked in the ribs all day by your baby and worrying about your co-workers or higher-ups judging you for having to regularly dip out of work for doctor appointments. We’ve all heard (or lived) the horror stories of women who’ve been looked down on, or even let go from a job, simply because they were pregnant and could no longer give 100% to their work, so even if you work for the most flexible, understanding boss in the world, that nugget of fear is always there.
So, how do you handle this situation? What can you do to put your mind at ease, take care of yourself and your baby, and still thrive at work? Again, there’s no magic formula for this, but there are some best practices that can help you make the best of the situation.
Best Practices for Managing Pregnancy During a Career Transition
Keep an open line of communication.
There’s no getting around the fact that you’re going to be out of the office on a somewhat regular basis for doctor appointments, that you’re going to be dragging a little more than usual, and that you may need to take an extra day off now and then. So, instead of trying to rally through exhaustion or putting off appointments to the very last minute (or worse, skipping them entirely), just keep your boss in the loop with what’s going on. Schedule as many appointments as possible so your manager will be fully aware of what’s coming up, and when you’re not feeling 100%, tell them so they can adjust accordingly. By doing this, you’re proving that you are responsible and reliable and avoiding a crash and burn.
Set boundaries and manage expectations.
Similar to the open line of communication, it’s also important to set boundaries and manage the expectations of the people around you. Maybe under normal circumstances, if an urgent late-night email comes in, you can handle it quickly. Still, now that you’re pregnant, perhaps you’re going to bed at 7 p.m. regularly and that email will go unseen until the following day. Since you’re likely trying to demonstrate you have the chops for your new transition, it’s essential to manage the expectations of the people around you so they don’t get the wrong idea. (Is this fair? No, but it will put everyone’s minds at ease).
Again, career transitions are stressful, and pregnancy is stressful—so the two together can feel downright impossible to manage. You might find that if you’re not feeling worked up over counting baby kicks, you’re worrying about something at work. With this kind of pressure, the stress can become all-consuming, so you must find ways to fit in some self-care and reduce your stress to avoid burnout. To do your best at work and keep your growing baby healthy, you have to take care of yourself. There’s just no getting around it.
Be transparent with your team.
Being open about your situation with your boss is very important, but your teammates matter too and if you want them to support and understand you, then there needs to be some transparency with them. No, you don’t need to share your appointment schedule or the dirty details of your food aversions with them, but the only way they can support you and give you the understanding you need is if you let them in on what you’re going through. First impressions tend to last and acknowledging that you’re not at peak performance to your coworkers will only benefit you.
Advocate for flexibility.
Usually, career transitions are preceded by negotiations and discussions, so if you’re in the midst of this right now and know that you’re pregnant, then now is the time to advocate for the flexibility you’ll need as you navigate pregnancy (and into motherhood). Suppose you already have a flex schedule before officially making the transition. In that case, you’re not only set in scheduling appointments, but you can also feel a little more at ease that people won’t be judging you based on the traditional 8-5 attendance.
Know your limits (and adjust as needed).
We can’t emphasize this enough. These two major life events simultaneously can and will result in burnout if you don’t take care of yourself. While self-care is a good way to avoid this situation, it’s equally essential to understand and communicate your limits throughout pregnancy. Overdoing it can pose a risk to you and your baby’s health, plus it can also result in low-quality work that isn’t reflective of your abilities—so this is the worst-case scenario. You can avoid this situation by paying attention to your body and stress levels and pushing the brakes when you feel like you’re reaching your limits. And, frankly, no matter how great you think this transition is for you, it’s not worth risking your or your baby’s health. Period.
Remember to Celebrate
As overwhelming as it may be to have these two life events overlap. It’s also fascinating. You are having a baby and you’re making a big career move! So, even though the stress might make it challenging, don’t forget to celebrate these milestones a little bit–because they’re certainly worthy of some celebration.
Support throughout your working motherhood journey
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