You've reached the safe stage, told all your friends and your tummy is expanding. You are going to work as normal and then all of a sudden you think to yourself – what about me? My career, my world, my income and my future?
This isn't a selfish moment; it is an important thought process.
You have one of the most life changing experiences about to occur in your life and remembering yourself is the first point to keep in mind.
It starts with you
That little person (or more if you are having a multiples pregnancy) will be an extension of you. Keeping yourself, your wishes and your sanity in check is number one to get you through the challenges ahead.
In your mind, start considering how you expect things to be when the little person arrives in your world. This is a thought process. It will change, weekly, maybe even daily and possibly hourly. This is fine. Go with it. Let the process happen, just keep in mind a goal.
Planning your maternity leave
As your baby grows and you get closer to your due date, you'll have handed your maternity certificate to your company if you are employed, or registered for Maternity Allowance if you are self-employed.
You may have done neither but if you are employed, your company ought to be chasing you for this bit of paper. It officially tells them you are pregnant and allows the payroll and HR team to organise and plan your maternity pay and be compliant with HMRC.
It's not exciting but is another detail in the steps leading up to going back to work.
You will have an indication by now of when you want to return to work and I hope you've discussed it with your company. More than likely there is someone coming to cover your job and you've given them the impossible answer to the impossible question of:
"How long will you be on maternity leave?"
Give it your best answer.
Things might change but it's best to start with the bare bones of a goal and try and work towards it. Remember this is your career, your baby, your future and your plans. Commit to what you feel comfortable with and do your best to stick to the date. If you are employed rather than working for yourself, your employer will be working to the same date. Keep this in mind and if things change, give your employer as much notice as possible. You have the right to change your mind.
FORMING YOUR 'YOU' PLAN
Before you head off on maternity leave and begin the blended career of your job and being a mother, think about this question:
- What are all the things you do now and have done in the past that make you, you?
That might seem like an impossibly big question but it’s a good 'un!
Before you became pregnant - and probably still while you are pregnant - you'll have routines, things you do daily, people you see, programs you watch, restaurants you like to go to, favourite hobbies. There is no correct answer here and everyone is different, but whatever it is that you do that means you manage you, think about it.
It’s possible that you do these things without thinking. You unconsciously just get up each day, have apple juice and toast for breakfast, because you just like it, do a spin class on a Wednesday because you feel better afterwards, always meet your best friend in that restaurant at the end of your street….
It doesn’t matter what these things are, but whatever they are, start taking note.
Add to the list as and when you notice these things about yourself. It may be something your partner or family do. You may notice that you really relax on the sofa when your sister calls, or you love it when your partner gives you a huge cuddle when you see him at the end of the day.
Whatever these things are that form your list, these are things you want to keep and retain when your baby arrives.
Some may be more important than others. So when you feel pressure to keep them going, know you can drop a couple but remember which ones are the things that mean you feel so much like you, there is no way those things are going anywhere. Well not unless they get replaced by anything else, but more of that later.
All these things that make you you, and mean that you feel like you, are unconscious coping mechanisms and patterns of behaviours that you have developed in your life because they work for you, your partner, your family and your world. They may have come from experiences with friends, values and beliefs from your upbringing and shared times with others. All these things will contribute to you staying on track when your baby arrives.
So consider how you can still spin on a Wednesday if that’s your thing. We aren’t talking about the moment your baby arrives, but as a woman with a career, you will more than likely be keen to get a routine in place to help you manage your work as well as this little person.
Keeping your 'you' plans in place will be a huge step to achieving routine, sanity and strength in the coming months.
WoMos in society
Before you leave this page, I want to discuss society, the world we live in and the potential pressures you might be feeling. In the UK there are active groups pushing for more women in senior positions, for example the 30% club. Whether you agree with this kind of objective or not, it doesn't really matter but you can't help but have a feeling about it one way or another.
Virtually every day there is an article in a magazine or newspaper discussing women at work. The subject is either some kind of campaign for women to get back to work or suggestions that it's difficult or hard.
The book I Don't Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson was one of the first. A book which had working mothers feeling inadequate by her achievements or horrified about how little she saw her children. Either way, the book evoked emotion. What it did shout was that you CAN have it all but it can come at a price. Something may have to drop, standards you have had before may slip and at the very least you’ll find ways to cut corners to optimise your time.
I read and digested many of Sheryl Sandberg's brilliant words in her book Lean In, but some of what she said I failed to associate myself with. This is the reason you have to think about you,
what works for you, who you are and pick up on points that may or may not work for you as a mother wanting to work.
The WoMo website isn't going to give you all the answers but it will give you plenty
to think about to help you on your journey to becoming a working mother.
- Write down your plan. How do you anticipate your life will be when this little person arrives? Just write down the first few words that come into your mind. There is no right or wrong.
What is important to you? Make a list of what you love in life for you? What do you need to be, do and have to be the very best version of you?
Identify your must haves. Now go through your list and put a star next the ones you really must have in your life. Think about those moments when you feel you NEED to do something that will make you feel better. It might be going to the gym, seeing a friend or taking 10 minutes out and being in a quiet space.
- Remember yourself
- Stick with things that make you feel good
- Have a prepared plan