While pregnant in the workplace, there are visible reasons why accommodations might be made for you. Every day, your growing belly reminds your coworkers that you are doing something hard and meaningful. In recent years, cultural awareness regarding the challenges women face in the workplace has grown, notably in tech. Additionally, an increase in media attention and awareness surrounding women’s issues has started to cut through some of the taboos concerning gender in the workplace.
Women like Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, have given a voice to this demographic, promoting how women need to lean in and support each other. In Sandberg’s book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, she recalls her aching, swollen feet while pregnant. This physical hurdle made her recognize the importance of up-front parking at work. As an executive, she knew she was fortunate to already have a reserved parking spot, but she worked with leadership to ensure that other pregnant women received similar perks. Because, let’s be honest, those last few months you practically waddle because your feet are so swollen.
Tips and Tricks to Returning to the Office
Having recently returned from maternity leave, I feel grateful that I have an understanding boss and coworkers at MIL, but in my experience, this is rare. In the fast-paced tech environment, which thrives on keeping up with the latest and greatest technologies and trends, transitioning back to your “new normal” can have its challenges. Along the way, I have found a few tips and tricks to be helpful as I work to regain my footing while being clear on my boundaries and abilities.
- If possible, stagger your return. Try to negotiate a grace period to ease your transition. Perhaps you can work part-time for one to two weeks to practice daycare drop-off before making your way to office. I found this helpful and once at work, my slower transition gave me time to filter through all of my unread emails and get caught up on work life. This approach made my first full-day back to work less painful, reducing my anxiety about not only leaving my daughter, but also my overflowing inbox and work priorities.
- Don’t discount the difficulty of a new morning routine. Set boundaries. Whether you come to work early or leave later, communicate and set boundaries with your co-workers about the timing of meetings. Make sure you give yourself enough time to get you and your little one where you need to go; I was surprised at how much extra STUFF babies need. Instead of just remembering a purse in the morning, I now lug a cooler, my breast pump, snacks, and my daughter’s daycare belongings.
- Find a friend or coworker who is has been through this transition before. Maternity leave is not a vacation. I found myself reminding people who asked me how my “time off” was that recovering from major surgery (C-section) and struggling to find my footing as a new parent was not easy. Thankfully, I was fortunate to have a coworker who was also a new mother. Being able to discuss how I was feeling and the challenges to getting back up-to-speed on projects or changes that happened while I was away has been an essential to my success. Sometimes hearing that not every day has to be a good day can alleviate stress or anxiety, as it is easy to feel overwhelmed with all of your responsibilities, new and old. If there is no one at work, look for a local working mom’s support group.
- Take a training or personal development class. As you watch your little one grow and develop, you are constantly reminded that success is driven by learning and hard work. I know this seems crazy to ask your boss for training right when you get back from leave, but it may help you gain confidence about returning to your role. An in-person training will provide you networking opportunities and a chance to learn something new – reminding yourself what a force you were to begin with. Learning and developing skills leads to confidence building, which is key to getting back in the swing of things.
So even though your swollen feet have subsided, and you may no longer need the parking spot right by the front door, make sure you take care of yourself as you transition back postpartum. Surviving and thriving in a historically male-dominated industry takes perseverance and finesse but mommy-hood has only increased to my ability to be resilient, adaptable, and passionate about serving my clients.
About the Author
Caroline is a management professional on MIL’s information technology team.