Categorized | Working & Family

Working Against the Biological Clock

Posted on 21 February 2011

New mothers struggle to find career security.

The biological clock once ruled the female lifecycle. But these days, the clock most women adhere to is the one they punch into work with. “Sixty-seven percent of today’s working women occupy blue-collar jobs and have children under the age of 18. It would be a lovely world if we provided total support for mothers, but dual-earner families are in the majority now. We’re living with a different construct,” says Lisa Benenson, editor-in-chief of Working Mother magazine.

Making It as a Mom

The median age a woman has her first child today is 24.3, according to Benenson. Even at this early stage of a woman’s career, “It becomes tremendously important that she’s planned and set herself up–and achieved enough to take a break,” she says.

If you’ve been resisting your maternal instincts, realize it’s normal to be frightened about the life changes you’ll undergo.

It’s normal to be frightened about certain life changes.

“But don’t worry about it. You’re never going to be completely ready. It’s a huge transition. But, having a baby doesn’t mean you’ll stop achieving in your career,” says Benenson.

Young working women have much greater flexibility than at any other time in history, according to Benenson. “Companies are doing amazing things and adding new benefits,” she said. While job-sharing, compressed workweeks and telecommuting are a few of the more common practices, the concept for new moms of gradually returning to work is a more recent one. Under this arrangement, employees are able to come back part-time for a month or two, before going full-time again.

And in addition to on- or near-site childcare, “It’s becoming more common for companies to have a lactation room for new mothers, so that they can continue to breast feed after returning to work,” said Jean Holbrook, director of product management for Lifeworks, a division of the Ceridian Corporation, a payroll and human resources-support company.

Whether to Work?

The decision to return to work after giving birth often depends on whether or not you’re the sole provider for your baby. If you’re financially secure, decide what “quality of life” means to you, according to Hilary Boyd, author of Working Woman’s Pregnancy.

“You may be loving motherhood so much that you know you would be miserable swapping it for the workplace,” she writes. This book is a worthy read for working women on the verge of becoming first-time moms. The author advises on the practical issues you’ll face including:

  • Separation anxiety. Being anxious as you re-enter the workplace and turning your baby over to a caregiver is natural, but your anxiety should lessen as you get used to your work routine.
  • Guilt about working. It’s natural reaction when your caregiver tells you about your baby’s first step, or if you’re not around to comfort her when she’s sick. Don’t fight this feeling. Instead, view the time you do have together as precious and don’t fret about the parts you’re absent for.
  • Fatigue. After a long day on the job, you may be too exhausted to feed, bathe, or play with your child. Communicate and share tasks with your partner. Or, pay your caregiver to stay overtime so that you can unwind before resuming your parenting duties.
  • Working breaks. You may find you need a rest from your career. If economic circumstances permit, consider a sabbatical, reducing your work hours or switching to a seasonal or part-time job. You’ll feel rejuvenated and you’ll learn how to manage your work and family life more effectively.

Remember, your baby will take priority over your partner for a while. Make time as a couple so that your relationship doesn’t degenerate.

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