Looking for career advice about how to have a baby and a career? You are not alone!
Working women spend years getting their professional lives off the ground. We dedicate ourselves to training and education, start off in entry level roles and then hustle our way through the ranks.
Then right as we get the hang of it and start making headway, some of us are presented with a new conundrum:
How does all of this work when I want to have a baby?
And if you’re anything like me, that question can leave you slightly panicky…
Career advice about having a baby is one of the most requested topics from The Grapevine Club readers. Thankfully, we’ve found two professional mums keen to share the career advice they wish they had before having a baby.
So without further ado, let me introduce two awesome working mums, Sara Swann and Tegan List. Both HR professionals, Sara works part-time and is a mum of three. Tegan works casual hours and is a new mum of one!
Comparing yourself to other working parents is a losing game
Sara’s number one tip is to avoid comparing yourself to other working parents.
In her opinion, how and when others return to work can be an informative, but sometimes unrealistic, measuring stick.
Sara recommends focusing on what makes sense for you and your family. And then finding ways to get comfortable with your choices.
“This lesson was really important for me and it took a while to stick,” Sara said.
“When it comes to parenthood and work everyone has an opinion about when you should return, how you should return and what you should do for child care.”
“There is a lot of noise to cut through.”
“People will return to work, or not return to work, in their own way and in their own time and that is okay.”
“If you’re constantly focused on what others are doing or what others may think, you’ll have a tougher time deciding what your own path should be.”
“All women have their own unique skills and experiences that empower us to best understand our position in the world.”
“You need to own that and trust in that.”
“Ultimately, if you come to an arrangement that works for your employer and your family – that is all that really matters.”
“At the end of the day, it’s about you and your family, not about what that arrangement may look like to others.”
So if you’re thinking about having a baby and returning to work, have a look around you and see how others have done it. But don’t feel pressured into doing things the exact same way.
Your thoughts about returning to work may change once your baby arrives
Tegan believes its important to recognise that even the best laid plans may need tweaking once your baby arrives.
“Something I’d like to normalise is that your thoughts about returning to work may change once your baby arrives,” Tegan said.
“You may want to return to work straight away. But once your baby arrives you could have a whole new perspective.”
“I thought I’d go straight back to work after a couple of months. But once Amelia got here I wasn’t sure I wanted to return at all.”
“It was huge for me because pre-baby I was always in fast paced roles or management positions where I had a fair degree of responsibility.”
“When I did eventually get back to work, I went through separation anxiety from my daughter and I just didn’t want to be apart from her.”
“With my husband’s support I persisted with it and found that casual hours were the right fit for me and our family at the moment.”
“It was an unexpectedly emotional time for me, but I’m glad I pushed through it.”
On the flip side, Tegan also has friends and colleagues who went through the opposite experience.
“Some people plan to take substantial time off and when their baby gets here they want to jump straight back into work because it just feels right.”
“The key takeaway for me is to leave room and flexibility for things to change and to not lock yourself into concrete plans.”
Be prepared to find your ‘new normal’ at work
Both Sara and Tegan believe it’s important to understand your work life may be different once your baby arrives. And that the change can be a positive thing!
Sara said she learnt about building her new normal the hard way when she returned to the workplace after her first child.
“Before children I had always worked full-time. When I transitioned to part-time, I didn’t realise I was still trapped in that full-time mindset,” Sara said.
“I struggled because I felt like I needed to keep pace with other people in my team who worked full time.”
“I put all these expectations on myself about how much I was meant to be producing. Even though I was only working 60% of the time.”
“It ultimately led to burnout which didn’t allow me to be an effective worker or mother.”
“It was a process for me to understand that I could still contribute quality work and be a valuable team mate in my new part time capacity.”
“Upfront communication with colleagues helped manage exceptions regarding workload and deadlines.”
“I also developed ways to work smarter not longer to achieve output.”
Tegan said an open mind will help you to properly assess your options for work life after your baby.
“Just because you always used to work forty hours from the office, doesn’t mean you need to work that way moving forward,” Tegan said.
“Be open to change and try thinking flexibly about how, when and where you work.”
“I used to work a full week in the office and now I work some hours at home and some in the office.”
“My work week looks nothing like it used to but I am more productive and focused than ever before.”
Having a baby doesn’t mean your career is over
Sara firmly believes having kids doesn’t need to mark the end of your career progression. It just may look a little different than what you first anticipated.
“I think it’s very easy to make the conclusion that if you step out of the workforce to have children you are automatically on the backfoot because you’ve spent time away.”
“I may have missed some opportunities when I was away on parental leave or because I came back part-time.”
“But I think ultimately becoming a mother has put me on a better career trajectory because of the skills I have developed and the person I have become as a parent.”
“I have become more focused and confident in my abilities which has helped me refine what I do.”
“I’m now clearer on what I want and more importantly, what I don’t want.”
“It means I’ve been able to grab hold of new opportunities I may not have recognised before.”
“Being clear on what I want and what I’m good at has helped me hone in on new types of work and projects.”
“I may not be on the career trajectory I envisioned when I finished my degree. But the reality is, I have become specialised in a field where I feel fully engaged.”
“I do more meaningful and exciting work and I’m making the best use of my skills.”
“Before children, I didn’t even know this was a possible pathway for me”.
To wrap up this excellent career advice from Sara and Tegan, remember to:
- Stay in your own lane and don’t get distracted by the other working parents around you.
- Go easy on yourself and remember that your plans and perspective may change when your baby arrives.
- Once you return to work, your career might be different – but different can be a positive thing!
- Embrace this new part of your career as the chance to refresh and re-imagine what working life can be.
Thank you to Sara and Tegan for sharing the career advice they wish they had before having a baby. Juggling parenthood and work life may not be easy. But its definitely easier with the support and guidance from women like you!
Stay tuned for our next blog post ‘How I returned to work after having my baby’. We’ll explore the nitty gritty career advice for returning to work after having a baby.