Being a career-oriented woman and being a mother do not have to be mutually exclusive ideas, yet there’s often a stigma that tells women they shouldn’t have it all.
As the co-founder of a Fashion PR agency here in New York City, my identity has always been wrapped up in being all about my company (my first born): no balls dropped, no “baby brain” mishaps. So when I first found out I was pregnant, I panicked about how this would alter my professional reputation and my personal brand.
When I started to show, I felt like I was walking into meetings with a sign on my forehead that said, “I care about things other than my job,” like a billboard confessing that family life was of equal importance to me. This was a truth I wasn’t initially comfortable sharing in a corporate setting. But now that I’m in the homestretch, I’ve come to learn that with good planning and a supportive team, you can absolutely keep your career on track through the end of pregnancy (and beyond).
Here are my 4 tips for tackling the stigma of “Doing it All.”
1. Empower Your Team. As a self-starter (read: control freak), it’s always been hard to ask for help or transfer the work off my plate. But when you are a working expecting mom, you need to learn the art of delegation -- and you’ve got nine months to do so.
The key is to surround yourself with capable, driven employees who are eager for the chance to shine in a leadership role precisely when you’ll be needing that extra backup. While waiting for baby, you can train your team to handle all aspects of your day-to-day workload, which can free up your time to focus on bigger-picture tasks like growing your business. It’s also a great way to get your clients comfortable with your team members’ capabilities, so by the time you give birth, they’re acclimated and won’t miss you as much.
2. Expect the Best from your Colleagues and Clients. Pregnancy, though so incredibly personal, is also a universal experience; and people you work with often end up being extremely supportive. So don’t be afraid to share your plans, whatever they might be.
I wasn't sure how to address my impending bundle of joy with my clients and spent so much time worrying that they would be concerned about the work getting done. Ultimately, though, they were all very supportive of my news. As I informed them that I would not be taking a traditional maternity leave, many actually offered up words of advice and encouraged me to savor this journey and all the fleeting moments that come with it.
3. Stay Strong Mentally and Physically. Though morning sickness can make for a rough start, pregnancy is a great opportunity to live your healthiest lifestyle -- for baby and for yourself. The added confidence that you’ll get by staying active physically and mentally will help you prove to everyone who’s telling you to slow down that you are in fact not dying or disappearing; but that you are a superwoman who’s ready to show up and kill it at work.
For me, thanks to an earlier bedtime, boosted immune system, insatiable appetite, all the right vitamins, and forgoing drinks at all those “happy hours” and networking dinners that typically come with my job—I could tell my body was operating at its healthiest. Though I’ve had my fair share of naysayers and funny glances at the gym, I’ve been able to stick to my workout regimen throughout my 40 weeks. Doing cardio or going to Boot Camp four times a week has kept me feeling like I could tackle anything on the job. Of course, exercising isn’t for everyone, and it’s certainly not the only way you can stay strong throughout your pregnancy. If sweating is not your thing, guided meditation with apps like Headspace will keep you clear-headed and focused, and it will help you downplay all of the anxieties about what’s coming next.
4. Be Ready to take charge remotely. As that due date approaches, you’ll probably end up working remotely a lot more -- and that’s okay. Skipping your commute to and from the office can actually be a nice preview of how to be productive at home, which can end up giving you a real boost of confidence.
Personally, it’s allowed me to come up with a few techniques and tools that I plan to use after birth. Since I will not be taking a formal maternity leave and plan on working from home a lot, my staff and I agreed on protocols to follow during my absence (like cc’ing me on all correspondence so I can stay in the loop), and we decided that the team will brief me once a week on everything that's going on. I'll eventually have set "office hours" at home, during which I’ll have childcare and will be readily available. I’ve also pre-planned an out-of-office message that clients will get to know who’s spearheading each of our current initiatives. Apps like Basecamp for outstanding tasks and meeting recaps, Ooma for transcribing voicemails from my desk line, OnPay for automated payroll, and trusty ol’ Google Drive are all set to keep us organized and streamline my new life as a virtual boss.
Getting organized for after birth has definitely set the tone for my postpartum professional ventures, but it’s also given me the motivation and focus to keep on going before baby arrives. Bottom line: Life is indeed going to change, but if being a working mama is your choice, there is no reason to feel like you can’t have the best year of your career while tending to that bun in the oven. To all the expecting-while-working moms out there: you’ve got this.Alyson Roy is a Co-Founder of AMP3 PR, a boutique agency that specializes in Consumer Lifestyle & Fashion PR campaigns, and is currently ranked in the Top 15 Fashion PR Firms in the country. In 2017, she was named "Communicator of The Year" by the Bespoke Communication Awards, where AMP3 also took home the distinction for best "Media Event" of the year, and she was also awarded one of the "50 Game-Changers of PR" by PR News. She is a proud step mom, and expecting her first baby in August, 2017.