Planning your pregnancy for career success

by Dec 6, 2016

The main considerations when planning your pregnancy

planning your pregnancy

For any woman finding out you are pregnant is usually (although not always) one of the most wondrous discoveries you can make.  At the same time as coming to terms and processing this news, your body will begin to change. You may feel emotionally and hormonally overloaded, tired, nauseous and overwhelmed.  Planning your pregnancy will probably be furthest from your mind.  These symptoms do pass for most women. With a combination of excitement and trepidation, there will be many thoughts going through your head. But here are some of the most important practical considerations that need to be factored in for your career when planning your pregnancy and maternity leave.

Here’s 8 things to consider when planning your pregnancy:

 1. Understand the maternity leave policy of your organisation

[Tweet “You can get unstuck early on if you fail to plan your pregnancy correctly.”] Many women don’t inform themselves of the maternity leave policies and the communication protocols in their organisations or even their wider legal position. Look in your employee handbook, on the company web site or the web site for any public service body for your jurisdiction. There can be significant differences from one organisation to another and between geographies. It would generally be expected that you inform your immediate superior and/or the HR function, normally in writing. Initially you will only be able to give an estimate of the timeframe involved until your due date is confirmed.

2. The announcement

Most women don’t want to go public until after the 12th week, when it is generally assumed that the pregnancy is well established and you will have received the all clear from the doctor. The relationship you have with your boss will determine how this news will be received. [Tweet “The most important aspect is to show commitment to your career”] and your role now, as well as in the future.
Tara an in-house lawyer based in Edinburgh, Scotland said
“I was so sick in the early weeks that I had no choice but to tell my boss. He was concerned I had some serious life-threatening illness.”
Consider how and when you're going to announce your pregnancy

Consider how and when you’re going to announce your pregnancy

3. Do you need flex?

This will depend on the work that you do. But today when the average commute is a minimum of 45 minutes, then it can be the getting to and from work rather than the actual work itself which is gruelling.  Travelling can become extremely burdensome especially in the third trimester as you negotiate crowded public transport or spend large periods in traffic jams with a growing bump. If your organisation doesn’t offer flex or remote working see if this can be arranged.

 4. Create a plan

It’s important to be part of the cover strategy.  If you are serious about your career you will indicate that you intend to return to work. Make sure you are involved in the process to find a replacement or arrange cover. You have the right to change your mind later about your return. Some women do decide to become full-time mums, but this is a luxury that many cannot afford today. If you are running a team you should have succession plans in place. If you don’t, now is a good time to start making them.

5. Establish communication lines

 In some countries employers are not allowed to contact employees while on maternity leave. Nor do you want to be caught up in business minutiae while “topping and tailing” your new-born. If you are a senior employee, particularly in an operational role, you will set guidelines with your direct reports regarding how you want to be contacted, the timing and frequency of the contact and for which issues. There is a fine balance in letting everyone know you’re there in the background  and taking care of yourself and your baby. Make sure that line is clear to everyone involved in the process.
Set clear boundaries for communication but don't shut down

Set clear boundaries for communication but don’t shut down

6. Prepare for the unexpected

 Sometimes events overtake everyone. Bosses are replaced, mergers and other organisational restructuring can happen in your absence. Don’t allow yourself to be side-lined in any discussions if possible, although this can be difficult if you are in the middle of giving birth and all you can anticipate is the next contraction. Before you leave make sure you have all key emails and documents relating to your own performance, job description, address book and maternity leave agreements off site, or on your own computer. I have a catalogue of nightmare scenarios reported by women whose statutory and contractual rights have been ignored or abused while away from their offices in times of change. Women reporting widespread discrimination is well documented.

7. Maintain visibility

 At a senior level drifting off the radar totally is never a good idea. During your maternity leave consider scheduling ad hoc attendance at some key meeting, or perhaps a monthly briefing call with your replacement. You need to do more than drop by with the new arrival on your arm.

8.  Establish childcare support in advance

 Whilst planning your pregnancy and maternity leave, check out childcare options and decide which suits you best. Some crèches and day-care centres actually have waiting lists. You may want to set up hiring processes for nannies. [Tweet “Some women are also shocked at the cost of childcare and how it eats into net salary.”] Think of this as a strategic long-term investment in your career.  Also factor in the arrangements you make with your partner about the distribution of childcare responsibilities.
Speak to your partner and work out a realistic child care plan

Speak to your partner and work out a realistic child care plan

For some women this is a good time to take stock of the way their relationships operate on a daily basis. Sometimes the biggest negotiations are within your own relationship rather than with the boss. It’s also important for some women to let go of their perfectionist tendencies and the need to be in control of the domestic operation. Having it all is not doing it all or even managing it all.   As Shirley Conran said:
“You don’t need a pair of breasts to take a child to the dentist.”
Many women are now running their homes like a business project and outsource low value work. Think about what you can delegate or outsource. There are many apps now to support working parents. The most important part of this time of your life is to enjoy the process and to take care of yourself and your new baby.

   Good luck!

  Need advice for working your career around your children? Worried about going back after a career break?

Download our FREE Post Maternity Leave Career Guide eBook

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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