It's Working Project

"In a mostly male-dominated field I was wary of being perceived as taking a lot of time off."

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

Enjoy your time alone, because once you have a kid you will not get much of it!

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

With my first pregnancy, I told people at work around 3 months. As an academic, the concept of “maternity leave” is a little fluid. I managed to time it so I had a few months after my daughter’s birth before I had to teach. Although I’m always expected to be doing research, this timing meant I didn’t have to ask permission to take time off work.  So there was never really an issue of telling my boss.

When I got pregnant with my second child I was just starting a new job. I told people around the same time in the pregnancy. Again, academia makes this issue pretty fluid.

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

With both kids I came back to work for the first time very fast, but not for much time on any given day. My job is such that coming in for a couple of hours two or three times a week can be very productive. I think I was back in the office for the first time when the kids were a couple of weeks. With my second I didn’t get the timing quite right, and actually was in the middle of a teaching semester when he was born. I wasn’t back totally full time with my daughter until maybe 5 months, and I’m planning the same thing with my son.

The ability to ramp up work a bit at a time after the babies is one of the nicest aspects of academia. I am grateful for it all the time. At the same time, there was enormous pressure – especially with my first child, before I had tenure – to at least show my face in the office early on. In a mostly male-dominated field I was wary of being perceived as taking a lot of time off. I was a bit more relaxed about this with the second child, probably because I had tenure already with this one!

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

It is all impossible without our amazing nanny.

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

My husband was great at telling me that it was okay to come back to work as much as I wanted, when I wanted, and to leave early when I wanted that.

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

I never expected getting dinner on the table would be so hard and the second kid would be so much easier!