Pregnancy is sometimes as taxing as a full-time job in itself. If you're working full time while carrying a baby, pat yourself on the back for pulling double duty. There's tons to be done, but you don't have to do it all alone. Delegate the heavy lifting to your spouse and immediate support system and save your own strength for research, planning and preparing a space for little one.
Deciding when to tell your employer that you’re expecting is tricky; many women choose to wait until after the first trimester, when the risk of miscarriage is significantly lower. However, it’s also important to alert your manager before you begin to show, to keep employers from feeling like you’re the type to withhold vital information. If you have severe exhaustion and nausea -- both of which are common during the first trimester -- it will be difficult to conceal your condition. No two pregnancies are identical; when it’s time for you to share the news, you’ll know.
Things to Consider
Once you share the news, you’ll want to gather some information from your human resources department. Shenise Cook, an organizational development specialist at Chicago State University in metropolitan Chicago, advises expectant mothers to find out whether they are covered under the Family Leave Medical Act. Companies that have more than 50 employees must offer workers up to 12 weeks unpaid leave under the act; eligible employees must have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours during the 12-month period before applying for the leave. “Women should fill out the request form at least 30 days before they want the leave to begin,” Cook explains. “They should also decide whether or not they want to add the baby to their insurance and find out what that procedure entails. In some states, you have to provide all your documentation within 60 days of the birth or you have to wait until the next benefit cycle.” Cook also recommends moms find out if their jobs offer any additional services to expectant mothers, like an employee assistance program, which helps parents find child care, sometimes at a discounted rate.
Questions to Ask
Other questions to ask your human resource department involve sick days and vacation days. Find out whether you’ll be permitted to use paid time to extend or fund your family leave. If not, ask about your options for a reduced schedule -- such as telecommuting or working a shorter week -- upon your return. If you decide to breastfeed, ask your employer about your options for pumping milk at work upon your return. You will need a clean, private space, regularly scheduled breaks that accommodate your pumping schedule, and a freezer to store your milk.
As your pregnancy progresses, talk to your manager about a lighter schedule if the baby is taking a toll. “Depending on what your job is, you might be able to get a reduced schedule, but we generally don’t see a reduction in duties,” Cook advises. Under certain circumstances, you might be asked to start your leave earlier than you anticipated. “If your job is physically strenuous or you have to move in small areas, those things have to be taken into consideration. From a business perspective, HR will limit the liability for the company,” says Cook.
Finding the opportunity to buy all the things you’ll need for your new baby can be difficult with a full-time schedule. Take advantage of the loved ones and co-workers who will undoubtedly want to deluge your baby with outfits and diapers, and plan -- or better yet, ask for a volunteer to plan -- a baby shower. Sign up for the registry at your favorite mommy store and pick out your wish list of gifts to free your guests of any guesswork and get what you need most.
Restructure your down time so you and the baby get the maximum benefit. Whether it’s joining a walking group, taking up yoga, scheduling regular massages or working in that weekly mani-pedi, add activities to your schedule to ease your stress levels. Non-activity works too -- you might want to take a non-essential activities off of your schedule so you can begin going to bed earlier or sleeping in later.