Here, working women describe the choices they made when they became moms and how they made them. Let their stories—and their creative solutions—guide you as you chart your own course.
What to name the baby, which obstetrician and hospital to go to, whether to use cloth diapers or disposable, which kind of car seat to buy … these are just a few of the decisions you face when you’re pregnant. Unfortunately, many women have no choice when it comes to one of the biggest decisions of all: whether to return to work after the baby arrives. But others do have that choice, and if you’re among them, the decision tree grows even larger: When will you go back to your job? Who will look after your baby? Will you work full time or part time? From home or outside? Before you know it, your decision tree grows into a full-fledged forest.
Experts on work and family issues say that one of the best ways for working mothers to make smart decisions is to learn from women who have been there. So we asked four mothers in dual-income families to share the thinking that led to their choices. We hope their experiences will help you as you make your decisions. Plus, from negotiating maternity leave to hiring a nanny, we offer experts’ advice on 10 of the most pressing issues pregnant working women and new moms face.
Try To Plan Ahead
Carrie Jones, 27
Married to Jason Jones, 29, a seventh-grade science teacher. Daughter Chloe is 4. At press time, Carrie was expecting her second baby, due in December 2002.
Decision she is facing Whether to give up her job and stay home with her new baby or go back to work full time.
Her choices Jones stayed home with Chloe until her daughter was 3, and that’s what she would like to do when her second baby arrives. She wishes she could return to work part time, but that’s not an option. “It’s hard, as a teacher, to come up with anything too creative,” she says.
Pros of staying home As an educator, Jones believes it is important for mother and child to be together for the first few years. “I know that when it comes down to it, family should come first,” she says. She also wants to breastfeed, but pumping isn’t easy for an always-on-the-move teacher. Plus, it’s very hard to find licensed, quality child care in her small town.
Cons of staying home Leaving her job would send the family’s health-insurance payments through the roof, and breaking
her teaching contract could jeopardize her future career. Jones also feels very close to and responsible for her students and
doesn’t like the idea of handing them off
to another teacher.
Financial issues Money is tight for this two-teacher couple. And it’s possible Jones would have some financial liability if she broke her employment contract.
How she feels about her choices Frustrated. The only quality child-care option she can think of is to have her mom, who lives 90 minutes away, stay with them during the week to take care of the baby. “But that’s a last resort,” Jones says.
Her best advice Try to plan ahead and look for a family-friendly employer. “Our
maternity leave here in America is really sad compared with other countries,” Jones says.
“It’s frustrating, because there’s just not a
lot of ways to spend those important first years with your baby.”