It was 21 years ago when I waddled into the newsroom wondering how much longer I could hold on at work until my daughter was born. I desperately wanted to work until the last possible minute, particularly because I had no idea what my life as a working mother was going to be like. Getting ready to become a working mother is tricky. As they say, no one can fully prepare you for what's ahead. By the second week of March I had given birth and the work life balancing act had begun.
Today, my guest blogger shares her experience and perspective as she prepares to become a new mother while continuing to practice law. Let me introduce you to Laura E. Eggnatz, an associate with Shapiro, Blasi, Wasserman & Hermann, one of the largest independent full-service litigation and transactional law firms in South Florida. Laura focuses her practice on products liability and mass and toxic torts defense litigation. Connect with Laura at email@example.com. Feel free to comment below and share your thoughts with her on life as a new mom.
I have been an attorney for almost eight years, and now, as I set out to embark on my career as a first-time mother, I am finding that while pregnancy is without a doubt an amazing and brilliant experience, it is also one of the most stressful. As my due date rapidly approaches and my legal career will be put on hold for a few months, one of the biggest stressors is preparing for maternity leave and figuring out how I will balance the most important aspects of my life—a new baby, my role as a new mother, and a legal career—while still out on leave. I am planning to use the preparation skills I have learned, enhanced and utilized as an attorney to juggle this difficult balance. I offer some suggestions to those in a similar position as me:
1. Prepare an exit plan: I am protective of the work I do, and tend to shy away from relying on others. Yet I recognize I will have no choice when I am out of the office for three months. To combat this struggle, I am creating a spreadsheet of all ongoing matters I expect will require coverage and attention while I am out. I also have had conversations with my supervisors and staff about handling my day-to-day responsibilities. Delegation and learning to “let-go” is key. Having some coverage system in place will ensure an easy transition before, during and after my maternity leave.
2. Prepare to stay informed: Most people would encourage a new mother to completely disconnect from work while on maternity leave. That is not something I can do. Although I do not anticipate performing any substantive work, I plan to review my e-mails and stay in touch with my colleagues on a basis that is appropriate and convenient for me. I feel more comfortable with having some contact during leave, rather than being completely out of touch. Even limited communication will be beneficial to a smooth transition back to work.
3. Prepare a return plan: I anticipate experiencing mixed feelings about returning to work when the end of my maternity leave approaches. Here lies the majority of the work-life balance struggle: How can I leave my newborn? How will I be able to handle a newborn and a career? How can I be a good mom and a good attorney at the same time? The answers to these questions are unknown to me right now, and may very likely go unanswered. But a flexible plan in returning to work may make all the difference. Before my leave, I will discuss my timeline with my supervisors for returning to work and be upfront about what my work limitations may be once I return, i.e., less travel, doctor’s appointments, working from home when baby is sick. Staying connected and informed throughout my leave is a key aspect of my return plan. For me, this will lessen the overwhelming feeling of getting up to speed after being away and understanding the workload I will have to balance once I return.
4. Prepare for the unexpected: I may sound like I have everything under control—I certainly do not. Part of my preparation for maternity leave is preparing for the unexpected. I am confident that as long as I am prepared and do what I feel comfortable with, the stress in balancing a family and a career during maternity leave will be manageable.