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I'm feeling so guilty about work...(84 Posts)
I'm 28 weeks pregnant. I work a 4 day week but on the days I do work, I am regularly billing (I'm a lawyer) 7-10 hours per day. I also have a 2 year old, so I'm running around most of the time I'm not working as well.
Over the last week or so I have basically ground to a halt. I have been diagnosed with SPD, pregnancy-triggered asthma and eczma and low iron. I also have been struggling with acid reflux. I have a history of premature birth (ds was born at 35 weeks) and a low-lying placenta this time too, so I have lots of extra appointments. I'm getting about 5-6 hours sleep a night because I am so uncomfortable and also stressed by work.
I am just not coping with work. HR sent me to an occupational health doctor who advised that I not work beyond 6:30pm in the evening - so once I've done bath and bedtime for my son I can be 'finished' by 8pm. But I just have too much work to do. By 6:30pm last night I was in tears because I just couldn't get everything done. I handed my work over to my boss and a junior and I saw that they finally emailed the client at 2am. I feel terrible that they were there so late doing 'my' work - but what can I do? It's going to start all over again on Monday, I've got to get to London for 6 hours of meetings on Tuesday which will probably run later into the evening...
Some moments I am so close to bursting into tears on my GP and begging to be signed off work. But then part of me thinks that I am just being pathetic - I can work from home a lot of the time and it's not that long until Christmas... why can't a just keep going for a few more weeks?!
Can someone talk some sense into me? Please! What should I do?
Getting signed off sounds perfectly reasonable to me. You'll need some energy when the baby arrives, so don't work yourself into the ground now. You health (including mental health) is important.
Is there no way you can be allocated less work to begin with?
It seems like maybe you know the answer but you need some one to say it ....? Your baby is the most important thing and you have previously had premature births. Stress is not going to help you but it will not harm your coworkers temporarily.
If HR's Doctor is saying you haven't to work those long hours then you haven't to work those hours. Your boss knows this so can't complain or make you feel guilty about it.
If you really feel you can't cope get signed off until after Christmas and see how you feel then. I couldn't cope with work and got signed off. When I went back I felt 100 tiles better and ready to face the world albeit on a slightly reduced workload.
If it took your boss and a junior that long to do your work that they were sending emails at 2 am, that's enough of an indication that it's too intense a workload for anyone! Add to the mix that you're pregnant with health complexities, I think you're being overly hard on yourself. Not to sound crass, they'll have to deal with you by being there soon enough so stop working yourself into the ground and if you need time off, please take it!
Disclaimer: I don't take my own advice so totally understand the pressure you'll be putting yourself under!
Get signed off. Seriously. It’s a job. They’ll cope without you. You may not be able to cope if you don’t.
I really thought I could cope working until 6:30pm every day, but they aren't reducing my work load (everyone is over-worked...) just making me tell them at 6:30pm every day what I haven't managed to finish so that someone else can finish it off for me.
I know it's impossible to get all my work done by 6:30pm every day, but it's like having to ring my boss and admit failure every single day... And the stress of trying to get as much done as possible by 6:30pm is awful...
They were up until 2am because they hadn't factored in how much you were doing. OHP have made a recommendation for a reasonable adjustment, they have to honour it and that means making reasonable adjustments for themselves too probably by drafting soeoneelse into the team. If they don't their additional hours are their problem not yours. Specifically the prob of the partner.
You will have your family for life. Them? Why wait until Christmas? You are almost 29 weeks. Start your mat leave asap - can you offset some annual leave first? Use the time you are still there to handover.
It isn't admitting defeat, it's being courageous and accepting your temporary limitations and that you, your ds and the baby have to come first. Your body is doing this for a reason - it needs you to slow down.
What does your dp think?
I think you need to take a step back here and think about what really matters to you.
You are at risk of premature delivery which can have lifelong repercussions for the health of your child. So is it more important that you send some emails or that you look after yourself and your baby?
If you keep pushing yourself like this there is a strong chance that you’ll end up finishing work earlier than planned either because your baby arrives early or you just collapse.
You really need to have an honest conversation with your boss and agree a plan for the next few weeks that is workable. Your organisation is in danger of letting clients down otherwise, which is not a good outcome for anyone.
I know what it’s like to work hard and not want to appear ‘weak’ because you’re pregnant. But your body is telling you to slow down and you need to listen for the sake of your baby.
I can only take 6 months maternity leave for financial reasons (not good ones... we're well-paid, just totally over-extended) so I don't want to start maternity before 36 weeks. Doctor has already said that he will sign me off from 34 weeks anyway (I think because of what happened last time, when ds was born at 35 weeks). And I have two weeks of holiday to use up. I should only have to go back for maybe two weeks after Christmas.
I just need to figure out what to do for the next three weeks... I have a huge transaction running up to Christmas which I have been totally responsible for. It does feel like admitting defeat... but I think I knew that this time was going to come.
DP thinks I'm over-doing it and wants me to enforce my 6.30pm finish time. I think he'd be a bit surprised if I got signed off altogether though. He's a very hard worker and doesn't totally get what pregnancy can do to a person! But he is concerned...
Stark choice here. Return to work when baby is six months and happily wave to him as you drop him with nursery. Return to work in six months without a baby. End up signed off for much longer than 6 months due to yours or baby's Ill health and have additional debt anyway.
Think about it from your employer's point of view - you're clearly not well enough to work your usual hours at the minute. Surely far better for them to have you til 6:30 than not at all. What's your boss like? Could you explain that you're at the end of your tether, that you want to work to 6:30 and leave guilt free but it's not working yet and you are on the verge of getting signed off.
Could you pass the main transaction to someone else (which would have to happen if you went off anyway)? That way you could actually get a lot of other stuff done (including smaller things the other person may need?) by 6:30.
Frame it to your boss that you want to find the solution that allows you to do the most without being signed off.
But obviously, if you can't find a balance, just get signed off. It sounds like you're having a terrible time of it
When I had my children we only got 6 months maternity leave anyway. We coped. I worked in the City then. Worked to 35 weeks, baby born at 36. I was exhausted. Back at work when baby was 4 months.
OP, I'm a lawyer too. Not city anymore as needed a better balance but I get it.
You need to get signed off. Whilst you're there and doing work they will keep giving you work. You know what it's like, you know that's the reality. You need to be away from the office permanently so that they redistribute your matters to other fee earners.
I was signed off for 8 weeks of my pregnancy. Don't feel guilty, you do your best for them when you're there but it doesn't sound like you're well enough. Get the file up to date, do good handover notes, tell them you'll be available by phone to answer questions then get home and rest.
As an aside can you look elsewhere work wise? I moved following mat leave for a better work life balance. I do three days 9-5.30 (I'm employment so I appreciate its a bit easier in my area but the jobs do exist). Large regional? In house?
OP I am a lawyer too and understand how it's not so straightforward. The staggering levels of overwork expected of the OP is very normal. It's also very very hard to pass work around as most people will be working like that too.
OP if you have to go back after 6 months (and I have done this 3 times) then you need to be in the best possible health for that return to working like that with toddler and baby. You will be knackered and you know that little quarter will be given - once you're back you're back. I think better to have a slightly shorter mat leave or pass off work to colleagues now while you have a short term reason. Can you work from home more, just focus on your big deal and get it over the line then finish?
What lawyers tend to be really bad at is admitting we are struggling. I have been at full on meltdown before and implied to my boss that I had a few tricky things I was struggling with a bit.
Have you been as forthcoming about how you are coping as in your OP? Because I think you need to be, and accept it is a short term thing for your team, and that you need to ensure that you put yourself in a position where after 6 months you're good to go, because performance wise that probably matters more.
I can cope with going back at 6 months... I know it used to be the norm. And it's best for everyone if I do go back then - it's a question of being able to keep up consistent childcare arrangements etc. The worst part is expressing in the office!
Could you explain that you're at the end of your tether, that you want to work to 6:30 and leave guilt free but it's not working yet and you are on the verge of getting signed off. I think I might need to have this conversation on Monday. My boss is nice to me... but I think that's mostly because it's in his best interests to have me ploughing through vast quantities of work for him! He is overworked too and is visibly stressed by the fact that I am now struggling.
My advice: take one day at a time. Don't think of the week ahead, just think of today. It's much easier to cope with a heavy workload that way.
Also don't feel guilty. Your junior worked late but so did you Until recently. And it's great experience for them.
Also have you thought of taking an in-house role when you return?
What lawyers tend to be really bad at is admitting we are struggling. I have been at full on meltdown before and implied to my boss that I had a few tricky things I was struggling with a bit. This, a million times! I think I've been underplaying it - every time I start trying to explain how much I'm struggling I end up finishing with 'but I'm sure I'll manage'!
I actually have been working from home as I thought I'd be able to get this deal done if I could just work for 10 hours a day from home. But it's more than 10 hours a day now and even working from home I can't cope with working until 2am...
It does matter more that I go back to work 'ok' next year...
Also have you thought of taking an in-house role when you return? I have started to wonder about this. I'm a senior associate at a silver circle firm (magic circle trained but moved at 4 PQE for a better work life balance!) and they are very supportive of me going for an of counsel role or partner once I'm ready in a few years. But I'm also coming to the hard realisation that continuing in private practice (much as I love it) probably isn't best for my overall health or my family. The clients on my big transaction are represented by some awesome senior in-house women... they've sort of inspired me and got me thinking!
It is not admitting defeat to call your boss at 6.30 and tell him/her what needs finishing. Occ health have made the suggestions. To be honest your employer are being shitty not reducing your workload - and are clearly relying on your commitment to the job to basically get as much out of you as they can.
I'm assuming you're generally very driven and professionally successful. I have several friends who work as solicitors, the pressure seems high generally.
It sounds like you are doing what a lot of us try to do, trying to do everything if only you try hard enough.
But you're pregnant now, and some things are outside of your control. Sheer willpower alone will not make your body cooperate and SPD go away.
Also I feel perhaps because your toddler was born at 35 weeks and is okay you think preemies are always okay/you will be okay.
Sorry if I'm over stepping, but, my sister was born at 29 weeks. She is absolutely fine now, but it was a scary time for my parents and there were no guarantees she would be fine.
What I'm saying is put yourself and your baby first now. Take care of yourself.
So on Monday make sure you are honest with your boss about your health, how you are feeling, how you are coping, and what the GP has said, and then how you want to continue to work but how it has to be to avoid being signed off. I would make it clear the GP is reviewing you and unless a change in stress/BP/ whatever is accomplished, you won't have any choice over being signed off.
Then when you are working, delegate as much as possible and do some cracking notes too as another poster said just in case. Can you suggest some additional resources for the team as well - a quieter team's trainee for support, colleagues in your dept in a different location?
I was in similar shoes OP - except it was my first baby, so without the toddler at home to add to the mix! I was in my third trimester, had high blood pressure and had been told to take it easy, but was on a very stressful project at work. I walked out of the office at 6pm every day with (almost) no guilt. I knew it meant that others were having to cover for me, but the health of my baby was more important. Similarly, I was happy to cover for a colleague on a different occasion when his wife had cancer - this is no different.
Yes, driven and a perfectionist. I find it hard watching people do my job but not as well as me!
You're not over-stepping at all Maria1982. Ds being born early was scary (although he was fine) and I lost it with my FIL a few weeks ago when he asked if it was 'anything you did' which made ds arrive early... maybe because I do worry that it was me commuting too much, working too hard.
AndersArms They've been struggling to get me assistance... they've just been pulling people in for isolated tasks and I spend as much time explaining the task and reviewing their work as it would have taken me to do it in the first place. And then it's someone different the next time around so I have to explain all over again.
The partner said that they would staff the deal in a 'different way' if I was suddenly signed off as it would then be an emergency but at the moment they have to staff it in the 'normal' way.
I think I'm going to have to have a difficult conversation with my boss on Monday... dreading it. Am going to spend the weekend having the conversation over and over again in my head! Argh!
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