Whitney Jordan, of Brooklyn, learned she was pregnant the day after starting work as a teacher, a career she had always wanted. "I was dumbfounded!" Jordan says.
If, like Jordan, you're worried that a pregnancy could trip up your professional trajectory, remember that you still have months to show your supervisor you've got the right stuff. In fact, "the best time to reassure your boss that you're serious about your career is before you go on maternity leave," says Susan Fletcher, Ph.D., author of Parenting in the Smart Zone.
Carry your usual workload as long as your pregnancy allows, and let colleagues know you want to stay in the loop, within limits, during your time away. "Keep reiterating what you hope to accomplish when you return," Dr. Fletcher advises.
During her maternity leave, Jordan asked for class updates from her substitute, and she stayed in touch with other teachers at her school.
Because your goal is to transition back to work as seamlessly as possible, make sure you've lined up child care you're comfortable with long before your return so you can keep your mind on the job when you're there. And when the responsibility begins piling on, ask for more help at home to offset it. "Don't expect your partner or family members to know what you need," Dr. Fletcher says. "Tell them how they can help with some of your new-mom tasks, even if it's only folding laundry."
When you are off the clock, make family time your priority. Jordan says she ignored distractions so she could focus on her son. "During our time together in the evening, I wouldn't even answer my phone," she says. And if you still experience pangs of mom guilt, know you're not alone. "Many working mothers worry about the number of hours they're away from their child," Dr. Fletcher says. "But it's how you spend the time you do have with him that matters most."
Originally published in the August 2011 issue of American Baby magazine.
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