I wish I had spent more time talking to working moms to learn about what to expect and how to overcome challenges related to work/life conflict

What is one piece of advice you wish you could offer your former expectant self?

I wish I had spent more time talking to working moms to learn about what to expect and how to overcome challenges related to work/life conflict. Our culture doesn’t seem to be very forthcoming about how hard it is to be a mother, not with the specifics anyway. While I heard larger themes about the struggles of work/life balance, the lack of supportive family policies like paid parental leave and childcare support, etc., I didn’t have much information about the ways in which I would be challenged emotionally, physically, financially, and professionally. However, of all the struggles I’m grappled with since becoming a mom, I’d say dealing with the effects of the motherhood penalty has taken the largest toll, because it cut me at my core — my self-worth, my sense of self and how I fit into the world. After becoming a mother, I began to see another set of ways in which sexism works against women and couldn’t help but feel depressed about it. From our tax code to education policy to labor and employment laws, I reeled from the inequities that are codified within our institutions. It was a complete head trip, so I wish I’d been more prepared to go through a process of putting myself back together in a way that honored my new role and responsibilities.

What was your primary motivation for deciding to return (or not) to work? How early did you tell your employer?

I was consulting for a nonprofit when I got pregnant with my first child. Shortly after I found out I was pregnant, the Executive Director offered me a full-time position. Because of the relationship I had with her and the organization, I felt comfortable enough to tell them during salary negotiations. My news of my second pregnancy didn’t travel quite as nicely. I was working for a state-wide elected official at the time, and during a site visit to local organization, the Executive Director of that organization — an acquaintance both me and my boss knew socially — outed me by pointing at my belly when I subconsciously rubbed it and said, “Are you pregnant again?!!!” Needless to say, I was mortified because I was only 10 weeks along and no one except my husband and doctor knew. I ended up officially telling my boss over text after the meeting. (It hurts just thinking about it.)

How much leave did you take, and how comfortable were you taking it?

I took about 15 weeks each time – 8 weeks partially paid thanks to CA’s labor laws that enabled me to claim disability, 6 weeks unpaid, and a week of vacation time. I went back to work at a time that was expected because I stayed in touch with my HR rep throughout my leave both times.

 

 

How easy was it to put a childcare arrangement together and did it work for your family?

I did a lot of legwork to find a fantastic daycare with loving, competent caregivers so that I’d never have to worry much while at work.

 

Who was your biggest source of support in returning to work? What was your biggest pregnancy indulgence?

I’m very thankful to my husband, who’s been a true partner throughout our marriage. He’s as invested in my professional success as he is of his, and he’s done a lot to make sure I was/am supported. My supervisors were also great in making accommodations whenever necessary during my pregnancies and after I returned to work.

Indulgences? Rice the first time. (I’m Chinese American and that was the only thing that made me feel less sick.) Mint chip ice cream the second time. (I ate so much of it that I thought the kid would surely come out with minty breath.)

Fill in the blanks: As a working parent, I never expected ____ would be so hard and ____ would be so much easier!

As a working parent, I never expected (getting through the day) would be so hard and (avoiding social commitments) would be so much easier!

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