There was a lot about my first pregnancy I wasn’t ready for. I hated the new limitations on my body, and had a hard time adjusting: I was hungry, hot, swollen, and out-of-breath all the time. I worked full-time, and then taught summer-school up until the day before I delivered.
In addition to the discomfort of being pregnant, I also didn’t anticipate the guilt I was going to feel about taking a maternity leave. In the weirdest way, I felt like I had tricked everyone at work. Like, I showed up and said “Hey! Hire me! I’m knowledgable, experienced, and dedicated, and I’m going to teach for you until I get knocked up, and then I’m going to need 8 weeks off to take care of my new baby. So good luck with that.”
And, don’t get me wrong, my school was extremely good to me: I was new, and they threw me gorgeous, generous showers and celebrated my new baby with me. My long-term sub was incredible: experienced and willing, and the transition back to work was very easy.
But then I did it again.
I worked in Indianapolis for about six months before I found myself pregnant again. I had the same feeling…”Hey! Thanks for hiring me, I’m going to need that FMLA now. See ya in 6 weeks.”
And that’s all I took after Ivy. At six weeks, she went to daycare and I went back to work: partially because I had used every sick and personal day I had and couldn’t afford to take any more time off, and partially because I felt like I needed to get back to work. I felt like I needed to prove that, yes. I had a baby. But I am still around, and I am still as knowledgable as I was, and I promise I am still worthwhile to have here.
Again, my immediate co-workers were supportive and kind. They have empathized with me, advised me, and made it easy to come back to work.
Some co-workers on the periphery were not as supportive. I heard, “You really can’t do this job with a baby…” I heard, “Be careful around that principal, she doesn’t like to hire people with families because she thinks they can’t give enough.” I talked about my kids to my immediate group of co-workers, but outside of our office, I found myself not talking about Charlie at all. And then I didn’t tell anyone beyond my supervisor and immediate team that I was pregnant with Ivy until I couldn’t hide it anymore. Once I did, I found myself both writing behavior plans for teachers from the hospital (I wasn’t in labor, just hooked up to blood pressure monitors), but also ignored by others because I wasn’t worth considering as my maternity leave approached. Both scenarios really sucked.
I am not done having kids yet. But I am still having a hard time figuring out how to prove that I’m worth having around a workplace after having a baby. Yeah, okay. I guess I am a “maternal risk”. But I’m also a human being. And I am still as smart, as experienced, as knowledgable, and I am still as hard-working as I have ever been. I am going to have to take days off when my kids are sick. I am going to have take time off for their doctor’s appointments. But I promise you, the amount of time-off I’m going to need is nothing compared to the nine years I’ve spent learning this profession.
High turnover is costly to businesses, and I – and other working moms – are worth keeping after our babies arrive. Afraid we will quit because of the baby? Incentivize us to stay. Not with money, necessarily, but by creating a natural transition back to work. Here are a few ideas, from my own experience, to keep the “maternal risks” from being “risks”, and help them instead to have the reasonable desire to start a family and continue their careers:
1. Provide a comfortable and private place to pump (not a random someone’s classroom while their kids are at Specials.)
2. Help me plan for and take care of my maternity leave: let me train my sub or temporary replacement if I have one. Let me help plan what the transition back will look like.
3. Subsidize childcare
4. Help make it a comfortable climate for mothers. Just because I am a mom doesn’t mean I don’t have a brain. I can handle what I handled before the baby came.
5. Or here’s some light reading on how maternal and infant health are connected to business productivity and how your business can help support women’s health through pregnancy and then the infant’s health through the first year of life: Worksite Strategies to Support Woman and Infant Health and the Experience of US Employers
Did you have a hard time returning to work? Did you not return? Was there anything that could have helped you stay?