You’re pregnant, at work and trying to focus on the tasks at hand, but little thoughts keep creeping in. Is my job dangerous to my baby? Should I keep working or stay at home?
While facing possibly the most exciting event of your life, you’re also contending with new limitations, major decisions and issues that concern your identity, job and home life.
Here, leading work/family experts offer advice to help guide you through such issues as deciding whether to return to work, negotiating your maternity leave, staying fit and healthy and simply surviving the workday.
Go back to work? Or stay home?
“Are you going to keep working?” It’s one of the first questions pregnant women face. But for every woman who knows exactly what she’s going to do, there’s another who can’t decide. And almost all women have doubts about their choice. It doesn’t help that new mothers often are given a hard time either way.
Rather than taking these judgments personally, it may help to recognize that as a pregnant woman, you are caught in a clash of two social ideals: the perfect worker vs. the perfect parent. As companies become more progressive about meeting parents’ needs, women may need to struggle less with this “identity crisis.” In the meantime, we’ve cleared up some common misconceptions to make your decision — assuming you have a choice in the matter — a little easier.
Myth: Children of stay-at-home moms fare better.
Reality: Research shows that children of working mothers have as secure a bond as those of stay-at-home moms, they’re as well adjusted socially and emotionally (indeed, they may be more independent and outgoing), and they score equally on intellectual and physical development, writes Ellen Galinsky of the Families and Work Institute in New York in Ask the Children: What America’s Children Really Think About Working Parents (William Morrow, 1999). What counts most is how warm, sensitive and responsive the mother is to her child, as well as how satisfied the mom is with her situation. But then again …
Myth: If you do quit working, you can always jump right back in the game later.
Reality: Unfortunately, most women’s careers and advancement opportunities suffer if they leave work or work part time. Not only that, but being a stay-at-home mom can make a woman and her children financially vulnerable. “In case of divorce, women who are home full time end up in economic dire straits, as do their children,” says Joan Williams, author of Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What to Do About It (Oxford, 2000). That said …