Starting a family or planning a family? Welcome to a wonderful time in your life that gives you a lot to think about. All aspects of your and your partner's lives will be affected. Communication is key to the changes in this period both in your career and in your relationship. Communication is the foundation for a successful transition into parenthood and life as a family.
A New Baby and Your Career
Privacy is an important aspect of handling a pregnancy and your career. Timing when to announce your pregnancy can be determined by thinking about several factors.
The pregnancy itself. Sometimes a pregnancy is a surprise. And the health and complexity of the pregnancy itself are part of this issue.
Benefits. Understand your rights as a resident of your state and your company's policies which are legally connected to the size of your employer. This understanding also applies to your partner. You can ask your employer about their policies without revealing your pregnancy. One tactic that many of my clients found helpful is to go directly to Human Resources (if there is not a written policy already in place) and ask. You do not need to divulge that you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant.
Your job and its environment: if your job has a physical requirement like standing or lifting or if there are chemicals or some other factors in the environment, you may need to notify your employer sooner. Please follow your medical professional’s recommendations in this area.
Decide who to tell first: some people tell their immediate supervisor first. Others tell Human Resources.
Mindset While at Work
Remember the two "P's" while at work and pregnant: "Privacy and Pride."
Privacy: Colleagues can be well-meaning. And to put it frankly, some are just nosy. Sometimes questions arise or even comments (judgments) are made that might need some preparation in order to be handled quickly and without too much stress. When comments, questions, or planning matters arise too soon or at an inconvenient time, some responses to have handy might include:
"That decision hasn't been made yet. Not sure when it will be made, we'll (I’ll) have to talk to our doctor."
"As soon as I know, I will update you."
"We're really not at that point to make a call about _______."
"I'm doing the best I can," is a fine response to specific judgments about how you are handling the pregnancy.
Avoid the trap of having others only talk to you about your pregnancy with these phrases:
"I would rather not discuss this at work."
"I'm really sorry but I have to be on a call in a few minutes."
Additionally, utilize sporting events, reality shows, vacation plans, and other topics to steer conversations for sources of recurring themes.
"Sometimes a shift occurs where a diligent and ambitious employee feels thrilled to be pregnant yet also feels like they need to apologize or prove themselves at the office. Don't apologize for being pregnant. There is no need to prove yourself due to your pregnancy. Your job isn't to make your employer feel better about your pregnancy. Simply do your work as you have always done it, providing your pregnancy allows it." Beth Siegert, CPC, CPRC, ACC, CFAA, Elite Executive Coach
Pride: Hold your head high during this extraordinary time. Protect your mental health and physical health by not letting other people's opinions affect your pregnancy. "Sometimes a shift occurs where a diligent and ambitious employee feels thrilled to be pregnant yet also feels like they need to apologize or prove themselves at the office," says Elite Executive Coach Beth Siegert, CPC, CPRC, ACC, CFAA. "Don't apologize for being pregnant. There is no need to prove yourself due to your pregnancy. Your job isn't to make your employer feel better about your pregnancy. Simply do your work as you have always done it, providing your pregnancy allows it," says Siegert.
Make sure you stay healthy while being productive. Health comes first, however. Some ways to do this include:
Managing your stress levels
Learning relaxation techniques such as meditation, using meditation apps, and perhaps joining a prenatal yoga class
Ensuring you have proper ergonomics at your job site
Managing your priorities
Avoiding anxiety about your workload for missed work or maternity leave by openly planning with your supervisor, as to whom will assist in your duties. Next, train your colleague (s) or document your job well. This will also highlight your professionalism.
A New Baby and Your Relationship
A child is a major change to all aspects of the parents' lives. Truly realizing this fact (and respecting the medical and recovery parts of the situation) can make a strong foundation for stepping into change. Prioritizing communication amongst yourselves and anyone involved, such as family and close friends, can help handle complexities and enhance the enjoyment of becoming a family.
"There is no perfect relationship," says Beth Siegert, "a big change can really affect it." A new baby will affect the stability of the relationship. Here is where openly communicating regarding a variety of topics, some obvious and some yet to be realized, is key. The following list is extensive so choose a few topics at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
What financial concerns are there?
What is our budget? "My advice is to add 20-30% to the budget you initially discuss," says Siegert.
How do we go about making financial plans for the baby's future?
How do we plan to be gentle with ourselves and each other during the pregnancy?
What mechanisms will we use to communicate the pressures of this pregnancy and preparing to be parents?
Does either partner need a bit of extra care (therapy) due to perinatal depression or anxiety?
What if our baby doesn't stick to our birth plan?
How will we be sure to communicate effectively with the birth team?
How will we handle helping the mental and physical recovery from the birth?
How will we manage sleep deprivation for both partners?
How will we work around not having as much time as a couple?
Someone else's needs will have to come before our own, how do we handle that?
In general, in what situations will we hire a babysitter?
If we don't have a support system, how will we make one?
Do we know the signs of either postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety in either partner?
Understand Expectations and Family History
What roles will each parent play?
How will those roles change due to logistics?
What aspects of parenting is each partner looking forward to?
What parts of parenting are you not looking forward to?
What are the general concerns you have about becoming a parent?
Thinking back to your childhood, what parts of how you were raised would you like to pass on to your child and what do you want to reject?
Are you concerned about repeating any negative parenting patterns? What actions will you take to address these concerns?
How similar is today's lifestyle to when you grew up?
How will culture and heritage affect our parenting?
Handling Close Family Members and Friends
Other people can have great ideas. And some of their ideas are a bit outdated by 20 to 40 years. Talk and plan your parenting style for your family, then perhaps (if appropriate) explore topics with relatives and close friends.
Limits and boundaries are crucial to help recovery and avoid any anxiety that a parent is being "replaced" when relatives visit to "hold the baby for you." If relatives and friends want to travel and visit, mention that your physician recommends that they sleep elsewhere and come over to help during daytime hours.
Not everyone has a stable of relatives and friends to call upon. Many people find it a bit difficult to ask for help in the first place. Try not to feel "less than" if this is your situation for any myriad of reasons. Ways to gather support include:
Ask your OB-GYN for a list of resources.
Search your hospital's website.
Find a Mommy and Me/Daddy and Me group to find other people in a similar situation.
Some people have been surprised to learn that coworkers would be delighted to help.
Overall, you might not realize who might be willing to help— until you ask.
Just because you are expecting a baby does not make you a parent. If that were the case, simply turning 16 would magically manifest driving skills. Instead, we prepare for the big step of driving. And there is no feeling of shame for going to a driving school, in fact, some states mandate a driving school certificate.
Do you have any skills or experience with newborns or babies? Regardless, parenting classes and Lamaze classes can be very useful to build knowledge, skills, and a wonderful foundation for parenting. At the same time, realize that there is no perfect parent and there is no perfect parenting style.
Every baby is different and every parent is different—regardless of whether or not there are two parents in the picture or one or three or more (blended families). Balancing a life change is also balancing a work change and this is where an Executive Coach collaborates with clients to help with these transitions. To schedule some time to get to know Beth and to discuss your situation and where you want to go, schedule a consultation online or send an email to email@example.com.
And…congratulations on this time in your life!