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Protecting Your Career

You're naturally starting to wonder how you're going to juggle work, a newborn, and any other children you might already have. This is a good time to think quietly and rationally, while you still can, about how to manage your career.

Don't be afraid to explore your wildest fantasies of the perfect work-family-fun life. This will involve asking some tough questions and perhaps facing potentially heated arguments with your partner and friends. Beware: Working-mother guilt is a nasty little beast that can pop its head up in unexpected places. Ironically, stay-at-home moms often feel guilty too. Because they're not earning money they're feeling pressure from parents who paid for their college educations, or they resent giving up their own dreams of a rewarding career.

Whatever your decision, you should know that 50 years of research on working moms and their children has shown that a mother's choice to work or stay at home doesn't influence how her children will turn out (unless her job makes her miserable). Happy, stable families and good childcare are the most important predictors of your child's future success.

You can't know now how you'll feel about working outside the home after your baby is born. You may be washed over by feelings of intense longing for him once your maternity leave is over, or you may feel so confident in your daycare provider that you eagerly hit the ground running, briefcase in hand. Either way, it will help you maintain perspective on the whole issue of working moms if you ask yourself these questions now-and perhaps again and again through the years as your child reaches different ages and stages:

  • Can you comfortably live on just one salary?
  • What would be the long-term effects on your Social Security, health benefits, and other retirement plans if you quit your job?
  • Would you put raises and promotions at risk by quitting? If so, how much do you care?
  • Are you thinking of a career change anyway?
  • How does your partner feel about how much you work (or don't)?
  • How would you feel about yourself if you were pushing a stroller and picking up toys instead of walking to board meetings and having business lunches out?
  • Does your job allow for flextime, job sharing, telecommuting, or any other part-time options so that you can stay home more hours each week without completely giving up your career?
  • Could you take a longer maternity leave and head back to the office when your baby is a little older?
  • Are you satisfied with your daycare options?
  • Could you and your partner each work part-time?
  • How stressful is your career? How successful are you at leaving that stress in the office instead of bringing it home?
  • And the big one: Do you love what you do at work and feel good at the end of the day?

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

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