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Exec/professional women - dealing with pregnancy

(98 Posts)
careersuicide Tue 21-Jun-16 16:06:32

Hi - name changer here, moving over from the conception board!

Am currently 14 weeks pregnant with my first. Having got safely through the 12w scan etc I am now starting to think about how to manage all this pregnancy and baby business.

I currently run a division of a medium size (£1bn revenue) business. I sit on the board and have around 2000 people sitting under me in the structure across 12 countries. We're doing a full turnaround of the business so every day is v high pressured and I am under the cosh to deliver a huge amount v quickly.

I don't know many other women in similar situations so am turning to MN for some advice and general chitchat!

I have had an extremely rough first trimester, lots of vomiting and dizziness. Managed to get though it just taking a couple of wfh days - all my team probably think I'm really lazy but I just have needed to juggle stuff around and ease off a bit. Felt mildly better from 10-14w but now my vomiting and dizziness is back and I feel like crying. I have urgent deadlines - I have a business that I'm in the midst of turning around and everything is urgent and I haven't yet built the team to delegate to. It's not a matter of "being signed off" (I control my own schedule), more how to manage it as a practical matter.

Also wondering if people had thoughts on how long to take for maternity leave. My due date is mid Dec and q1/h1 of 2017 is a v important time for me worldwise. Am debating whether to take 3 months off (best for business) or 6 months (best for me). Employer is likely to be totally unhelpful & unsupportive - I am the only female exec on the board and it's a v male industry.

Any general words of wisdom are much appreciated!

Lj8893 Tue 21-Jun-16 16:09:07

I'm not in the same position as you, but just want to say do what's best for you. So if that means taking 6 months maternity (which to me doesn't seem much either!) then do that.

Oysterbabe Tue 21-Jun-16 16:17:59

Take 6 months. You don't know what your baby will be like. At 3 months mine still woke every 2 hours, 24 hours a day. Now at 6 months she sleeps pretty well. Also are you planning to breastfeed?

careersuicide Tue 21-Jun-16 16:38:07

Thanks LJ. It's a little more complex than that as I also want to be there for the "pointy end" of what I'm working on now so it's not as simple as perhaps what I wrote.

oyster I was planning to breastfeed initially but start expressing ASAP. We'll also have a night nurse & nanny from the start (lots of help a condition for me agreeing to give birth!).

Am just concerned that I do like my job and want to build a career and wondering how to balance.

malvinandhobbes Tue 21-Jun-16 16:40:21

I only took 4 months in my first baby and it wasn't enough. The baby was still up a lot at night and I just did not have my head in work. I was still all dippy from exclusive breast feeding and exhaustion. I had trouble recalling relevant words and was not at my most professional. With my second I took 7 months and came back in much better shape.

I am 34 weeks pregnant now and considering starting an early mat leave, because I am a bit cranky and scatty and worry I'm not doing my professional self any favours by sticking around.

jellycat1 Tue 21-Jun-16 16:46:25

My advice - which you'll probably completely ignore because I would have done - is be flexible. You can plan to the hilt but you have no idea how you'll feel when the baby is here or indeed, what kind of baby you'll get! You also don't have to tell your employer exactly how long you're planning to take. You can say you need to wait and ensure the baby is healthy and the nanny is settled in etc and then you'll come back with a proposed return date. You may find your employer is a lot more supportive than you think they will be. Mine was and is. Don't forget many of them have families. It's life. Your priorities also might change - if not with the first, they will with the second! We had night nurses with both and have a great nanny and it definitely helps if you need to get back quickly. However I have 2 now and I'd say ultimately, you can plan for everything except how you'll really feel.

Nuttynortherner Tue 21-Jun-16 16:49:42

Not exactly the same situation but I have my own business and went back 1 day a week from DS being 6 weeks old. I expressed but DS would hardly take any so was grouchy by the time I got home. I went back a second day when he was 6 months and by then it was much easier as he could be left with grandparents. Work from home if you can but I get very little done except after he's in bed on an evening. On the sickness and dizziness front I'm now expecting no 2 and constantly have biscuits in my bag to graze on, I didn't stop to eat enough first time round so make sure you do

careersuicide Tue 21-Jun-16 16:51:06

Thanks both.

jelly - definitely won't ignore that advice! In fact part of the reason I thought of initially going with 6 months is just to give myself a chance to see how I feel. My employer is definitely going to be crap (to cut a long story short - I work for an American company so they are used to New York lack of maternity leaves etc, so no understanding or tolerance of British maternity culture. If I told them I was taking a year they would just laugh and think it was a joke!). So just thinking of how to manage that too.

How does it work in terms of "being flexible"? They will need to get someone into cover me, how do they know how long that contract should be?

TheDisreputableDog Tue 21-Jun-16 16:53:44

I had 6 months and I wouldn't recommend less. I managed to continue breastfeeding, mornings, bedtime and nights plus weekends. Expressed for a month whilst I was on phase back then switched DD to formula at nursery after that.

Only you know what's best for you but I would say it's taken me about 18 months to stop feeling guilty about only taking 6 months.

Before the baby arrived I was wondering what I would do for 6 months (perhaps finish my professional qualifications) however it turns out they are surprisingly time consuming wink.

Hope you work it out.

jellycat1 Tue 21-Jun-16 16:56:03

I have someone covering me now and I told my boss up front how long I was planning but that this could change if we had any problems with the baby etc etc. I realise it's tricky for you though. If it's a US co with a wide international presence they should realise that it's different here - though I understand it's not always that simple. I would just try and keep your options open and on that basis id tell them it will be max 6 mths min 4 - or whatever you think is realistic.

careersuicide Tue 21-Jun-16 17:04:15

Thanks. The problem is that I am the head of the "international" business - so no one from the U.S. ever sees any of the different regimes that various European & WW countries have in place. Telling them a range is a good idea.

Any tips on dealing with vomiting related absence in early pregnancy? I don't know how much more of this I can take!

Terramirabilis Tue 21-Jun-16 17:05:43

I was back at work when my DS was 9 weeks old - no choice, I'm in the US. It was a very hard first winter and I'm not working at anything like the level you are, albeit my DH and I don't have the money to buy help such as a cleaner, gardener, which may be an option for you perhaps. DS slept through the night from 6 weeks till just before 4 months and then didn't again till 7 months. Those 3 months of working full time and getting up in the night every night were horrendous. DH is a graduate student so couldn't take any leave without messing up his whole schedule to be on track to graduate. And I had a baby with no health problems or issues. You might want to err on the side of caution by saying you'll take 6 months and maybe go back early if you need to. Becoming a parent is a massive transition and learning to balance it with work is hard. Good luck!

Solasum Tue 21-Jun-16 17:16:39

I was by no means as high powered as you are OP, but I went back after 3 months and it was fine. I continued bf til 14 months, my DS settled down quickly, my clients and boss were happy. I know some people love tiny babies, but I was very happy to go back to the adult world and delegate childcare to a professional.

The one thing I would say though is that being a mum can really change your outlook. I used to be obsessed with work and travel constantly. I took DS on several business trips in his first year. I then changed jobs after his first birthday and am now heading in a different direction career wise. I found that I was dreading the 'best bits' (freedom, travel, evening functions) of my old job, and wanted to spend more time at home. I see DS now at least 3 hours more every day awake than I would have had I stayed. The time is precious. It works for now.

So basically I would advise you to keep a gentle eye on how you are feeling all the time, as things don't have to be set in stone. It is surprising how easily you can be replaced in a job, but it doesn't work like that with DC.

Sorry, rambling!

careersuicide Tue 21-Jun-16 17:23:57

Thank you! terra did you at least find that your colleagues were sympathetic to you being a bit sleep deprived etc? The thing that worries me about going back "too soon" is that because I lead the organisation I am highly visible and everyone sort of follows me/wants a piece of me. (I should point out that I am not nearly as high powered as this sounds, it's just because it's a company in transition). I am worried that being back and off my game might be worse than not being there at all - eg at the moment I feel like j am failing with all this hyperemesis.

sola thanks for your perspective, really helpful (and comforting!). Totally agree with you about travel and changing perspectives - my attitude has always been "do it until you don't like it anymore and then change it" so I'll have no qualms about doing that if necessary. But I just don't want to make decisions based on hypotheticals and I feel like I'm being forced into that now!

hopeful31yrs Tue 21-Jun-16 17:29:19

Have a stressful, demanding job in a male dominated career. Took 8 weeks off with first child due to fear that I'd lose time and training and was going mad within 2 weeks of having her as I'd organised my life and house. She was a fab baby though and slept through (11-5) from 6 weeks and DH was willing to take the next 8 weeks leave himself. In retrospect although it was right at the time I wasn't in the best shape going back but got on with it. The emotional reach wasn't there for me as she was still little and was at home with her daddy who then initiated her into nursery. My work loved it but it wasn't appreciated at all and now I've grown with her I realise that no one would have cared and my career wouldn't have suffered to have more time. She knows know different however and our relationship is solid - I can't say what would have happened had I have stayed at home: would have I gone stir crazy and resented her /DH? Who knows.

Only you know what's right for you at the time - and even then with retrospect we don't always know the answer

stareatthetvscreen Tue 21-Jun-16 17:34:04

i went back early - 4 months after both mine.i did 2 days per week part time - is that an option? not at your level though but in a professional environment.

i wouldn't worry about what the norm is in a company, be flexible but lead the way for other mums and hold out for what you have a value to the company. smile

morning sickness - sweets - lots of them.

hopeful31yrs Tue 21-Jun-16 17:38:20

Eugh too many autocorrects - sorry!

careersuicide Tue 21-Jun-16 19:00:44

Thank you all. These stories are really helpful x

Nuttynortherner Tue 21-Jun-16 19:26:48

Oh and my top tip-don't work up to your due date like I did, thinking you'll go overdue. I went into labour that evening then was incredibly exhausted after a 50 hour labour! This time around I'm taking a week off to recharge my batteries! Hope you're feeling better soon

PropertyWidow Tue 21-Jun-16 19:37:22

I would take three months. I've now moved out of the corporate role I was in where conditions were similar (work in a more creative but executive role now), but any longer and you will miss out.

Practically, get as much help as possible. Maternity nurse from the get go (they normally do a 6 day week but we go for 5 days and a weekend maternity nurse for round the clock care). Get them booked for 4 months minimum, to ensure sleeping through before they leave and move on to a nanny (can recommend agencies if you need). Get your housekeeper/cleaner doing more hours, if they're not already fulltime (and cooking).

chloechloe Tue 21-Jun-16 19:53:24

I would try to leave yourself some flexibility - maybe say 6 months but you can always go back earlier if you are desperate to. I'm a lawyer and always considered myself as really career driven and that I'd want to go back pretty soon. But when my DD arrived that completely changed. I had a year off all together and am really glad I did. Small babies need their mothers (I think!) and they grow and learn so fast in the first year that I would have hated to miss that.

I would have really struggled going back at 3 months, as with the hormones and lack of sleep it would have been impossible to be on top of my game, as I have to be able to advise on quite technical issues under ridiculous time pressure. Even now DD (14mo) is a pretty good sleeper, but if me or DH has an important meeting or tough day coming up, he or I sleep in the spare room upstairs so as to get a good night's sleep. If you have a night nanny then maybe that won't be such an issue (though if you want to BF then you may be up at night anyway as it will probably be difficult to express enough to cover night and day feeds).

In my experience you won't get much sympathy for being a working mum unless somebody else has been through it themselves. It's a whole new world that you will never understand until you've lived in it!

museumum Tue 21-Jun-16 20:01:57

If I were you I'd say you're going to be off 6 mo. Tell them that 9-12 is the norm in Europe so you're going for a US/EU compromise. It could be argued that if you take less you will put women in Europe off working for your company as it will appear unfriendly to women.

I am self employed and went back to one ongoing client after 3mo but I really wasn't on form. It was luckily an easy job compared to my others. I'd rather take longer but go back on form than go back earlier and be seen to struggle visibly.

ColdAndGloomy Tue 21-Jun-16 20:04:00

Don't suppose you can take six months and sell it to your American bosses as setting an example for your employees, and explain it will lead to increased employee retention and satisfaction? I am probably being idealistic but I would really like that to be something people did! And if you can't suggest it on mumsnet then where else wink

KleineDracheKokosnuss Tue 21-Jun-16 20:07:46

Word of warning- If you take too much time, people will start looking to your replacement as the person to go to, and you may find that continues even when you return. If that happens,which I am aware of happening, you may have to move companies to get back to your current position/treatment.

Personally I wouldn't do less than 3 months due to the recovery from birth. But you need to judge how it would go down for you to take that long.

careersuicide Tue 21-Jun-16 20:14:29

Lots of food for thought here - thank you!

kleine they would have to hire an external interim to cover me so no risk of my replacement hanging around like a bad smell. (That's one of the reasons I don't want to take more than 6mo as I want to have the legal right to take my particular job back.)

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