Excelling at your career when you’re at your peak is difficult as it is. Now imagine having the added complication of being a high performer while carrying a child. Not only are a higher share of women expecting their first child continuing to work, but they are working longer into their pregnancy – a task that is not so easy.
Everyone’s experience is different, but if you ask me, the most challenging aspect of pregnancy isn't the discomfort and pain that comes with it. It's the consistency of the discomfort and pain. And just when you think you have a handle on what you're feeling and your internal monologue of complaints starts to die down, your body does a 180 and discovers a new and different way to throw you off your game.
So what’s the big tip on staying boss at work? Don't skimp on personal comfort. It will keep you productive during your pregnancy, so never feel guilty about catering to your needs. Here are a few ways I was able to get over the bumps along the way and set myself up for success as I transitioned into becoming a first-time mom.
Manage expectations regularly.
Because each trimester has its own unique ups and downs, be sure to talk with your company about setting realistic goals that account for your potential rollercoaster of a pregnancy. Schedule frequent check-ins to help your team or leads see your progress and understand if anything needs to be modified. This will help provide a lot of mental stability for yourself because you’ll have the opportunity to rejigger your days based on what you know people expect opposed to bogging yourself down with worries that you’re not living up to your usual level of performance.
- Create a goals calendar and some expected blockers to help you problem solve in advance, keep track of progress, and better project what is and isn't likely to work out. This can be a personal document or shared with your team members.
- Schedule regular 1-on-1's with key team members if you need them. Whether it's to keep your backup team members consistently looped in on projects in case of emergencies or just to keep comms open with leads, remember that over communicating will serve you better in the long run.
Explore working remotely.
Take advantage of working remotely if your company offers the opportunity. One of the hardest things about being pregnant is that you may find yourself struggling to be in a tolerable mood on a consistent level. With each trimester of pregnancy, your discomfort level increases. By the third trimester, it can seem like no matter how you move your body, you can't find a comfortable position. That can become a big energy drain. And as sweet as it is to have your coworkers expressing concern for you all the time, sometimes you just need to feel miserable in peace and without feeling embarrassment or shame in order to get things done.
- If you're new to working remotely, try it out early on to work out any kinks and make sure that you and your teams are still keeping comms open and strong.
- If you're experiencing trouble maintaining good communication while remote, try to work with your team to group your meetings into certain blocks of the day. That way you can be in office for part of the day to collaborate, and then head home to work during dedicated focus time where you'll need fewer touchpoints with your team.
Take control of wandering thoughts.
Yes, baby brain is a thing, and it hits you hard and fast. Aside from all the unsolicited advice you'll be getting from strangers, friends, and family, there's a lot of information to take in about your pregnancy and birth as it is. So accept that you’ll likely leave your keys in the fridge at least once and be ready to laugh off your bouts of forgetfulness from time to time.
- It helps to keep track of your research and decisions in one place like a shared document that you and your partner can access anytime.
- Use apps like The Bump that help you segment what is important to know right now rather than thinking about the whole pregnancy at once.
Take advantage of peak energy.
Try and get ahead of as much work as possible so you can have more flexible days. Note your peak energy times and use them wisely. For me, I'd wake up at 3 or 4am completely energized and would work until the sun came up, at which point my body would decide to fall asleep immediately. This would allow me to sleep in an extra hour or so and then get to work without being overtired or feeling guilty. If this is something that happens to you frequently, be open with your team about it so you can plan around it and limit frustrations from their end. It may not be this way at every company, but I was lucky enough to have a very understanding and supportive team. We certainly recognized each other's efforts to be as mindful as possible of one another's workflows and needs. Mutual respect is key!
- Set up a comfortable work station with a chair pillow and footstool, if needed, to stay focused longer, but do take breaks regularly. Whether you go for a walk, do some yoga, or power nap, these are all things that will help you maintain, or boost, your productivity.
- Use pregnancy-friendly fitness and hydration apps or simple step trackers to help keep yourself active and hydrated. Google Fit is an easy go-to app to get started with, but there are a plethora of options to choose from.
Surround yourself with others that can empathize with your situation. You may find yourself complaining a lot just to get things off your chest. That's ok, but be selective with whom you choose to spam with these thoughts as some are more receptive and understanding than others. Remember, nine months can feel like an eternity for everyone, not just you. This level of mindfulness will keep you and your team members a little more sane and willing to be consistently supportive of your needs.
- Other new or recent parents are great go-to resources for emotional support and just plain-old funny pregnancy and new-parent stories.
Schedule your down time.
Your doctor's appointments will be more frequent than you may initially realize. Aside from the typical check-ups and ultrasounds, you may find that some appointments may not go as planned and you have to go again. On top of that, pregnancy scares do happen and you may need to schedule an urgent last minute appointment. This is ok and it becomes easier to plan around as you all get used to regularly working through your schedule as a team.
- Keep your team aware of your schedule as early as possible and give them a heads up when the frequency ramps up to a minimum of once a week.
- If you have someone as a backup team member, communicate with them often so they can better support you.
Take the lead on your transition.
As your due date approaches, don't depend on your team to schedule transition meetings in prep for your maternity leave. Take the initiative to schedule it well in advance so you have time to train your stand-ins and give them a chance to raise questions over the course of your last few weeks to prevent snags from cropping up while you’re off birthing greatness. The more you take control of your situation, the better your team can help you.
- Speak with your account managers to understand what projects are projected to hit during your absence.
- Work with your team to select stand-ins that are best suited for projected tasks and meet with them early to get them briefed and comfortable with any unfamiliar files, folder structures, or client details.
Plan for your return.
Figure out how much or how little you'd like to be disconnected during your maternity leave ahead of time, and be realistic with your expectations. Start by confirming with your team how you'd like to transition back onto your projects. Be clear on your folder structures and whether or not you like to be cc'd on all client conversations in your absence. And most importantly, take it easy. You'll certainly feel some bouts of FOMO, but that will pass very quickly as you start your parental journey.
One final, but important note:
Don't take advantage of your pregnancy.
The urge will be there because of how unquestioning and supportive most strangers, let alone team members, will be but please don't abuse this courtesy. Not only is it wildly inappropriate, but you risk ruining things for future moms-to-be by risking getting caught. Pregnancy is difficult enough without having to stress about your job more than you have to!