There was a time, believe it or not, when women would lose their jobs if they got pregnant, requiring time off near and after delivery of their baby. Today there are laws making it illegal to fire someone for getting pregnant. Even in recent years some interviewers have found what they thought were crafty ways of discovering whether or not an applicant intended to get pregnant. They would ask loaded questions as to their marital state and in an effort to seem friendly and engaging, would ask if they had a family or one in the works.
With that said, although you don’t need to fear for your job if you require maternity leave, some women feel like that lull slows their career advancement. Although they are elated with the birth of that beautiful baby, they also need to be cognizant of the fact that they need the income. Here are some thoughts on how to work toward advancing your career during those weeks or months you may be at home before and after delivery.
Looking at the Bright Side
If you are a new mother for the very first time, you may be unprepared for those around the clock feedings in the first weeks of baby’s life. There seems to be a constant tension between adoring that beautiful little bundle of joy and the amount of sleep you are not getting. Why not use the cup half full perspective?
Most new moms are almost afraid to go to sleep in those early days! They spend hour after hour just gazing down at that tiny creature sleeping soundly in the bassinette or crib. This isn’t time wasted and there is no reason to feel guilty about just sitting there doing nothing while baby sleeps.
However, you can also put that time to good use! If you have a laptop, why not take a course or two pertinent to your profession so that you can go back to work with new tools to impress your boss? You might even get a promotion with your newfound knowledge and/or certifications.
A Much-Needed Career Change
You can also use that time to think about a career change you have been meaning to pursue. There are some degrees you can earn, building upon a degree you already hold. For example, if you hold a Bachelor of Science degree in majors such as:
- Computer Technology
It is possible to change career paths by simply adding the core courses that form a foundation for a different discipline or major.
How It’s Done
For example, anyone with a Bachelor of Science in any major can pursue a degree in nursing. While caring for that baby and unable to yet return to work, you can study for an innovative ABSN online degree from Baylor University. This is an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program that simply requires you to take the core courses for registered nurses as you already have the other courses completed for a 4-year degree. It’s time well spent because although newborns demand a lot of time and attention, there is equally as much available to advance your education.
Recertification within Your Current Profession
Some professions require recertification at predefined intervals to keep you current within your profession or industry. Some examples of this would be continuing ed for nurses, teachers, and licensed professionals such as real estate brokers and agents. Many professions that are licensed or certified by the state in which you work require continuing ed, often at two-year intervals. This is a must, or your license or certification will not be renewed. This is something you can certainly do during maternity leave with the availability of distance learning.
If you were/are up for promotion, perhaps one of the only things holding you back is a lack of experience in leadership. Sometimes maternity leave is short, and many women return to the workforce almost immediately. While there are college courses in leadership, there are also corporate programs you might be able to take advantage of. Many entrepreneurs have created leadership training online seminars, so this is something you might be interested in. There’s nothing like advancing your knowledge in your career to climb the corporate ladder.
Mindfulness Training and Stress Reduction
Sometimes we reach a plateau in our careers because of burnout or stress. It seems like we take one step forward and two steps back every time we are confronted with a stressful situation. Until it is possible to get a handle on your emotions long enough to keep stress in check, it will be next to impossible to show you are ready to step up a rung on that ladder. Mindfulness training lasts about eight weeks and often only requires one group session per week with mindfulness exercises to be done daily at home.
Locking Down Infant Care
While it is illegal to fire or lay off an employee simply because they required time off for maternity leave, that is the only time covered by legislation. You cannot hope to even keep your job, let alone advance in your career, if you are taking time off because the babysitter didn’t show. Some mothers find it useful to interview prospective nannies or sitters during those early days because they can watch the interaction between the caregiver and the baby. Babies have this uncanny ability to sense threats and if a baby seems uncomfortable when being held by that particular stranger, maybe you had better recheck their credentials and references. With that said, some babies just aren’t comfortable with anyone except for mom so don’t let that be your only gauge!
Time for Introspection
One last thing you can do during maternity leave is to make an honest assessment of where you are now in relation to where you want to be one, two or more years down the road. Do you really want to advance in your current profession or is it time for a change? Are you happy in your career and place of employment? Maternity leave is never wasted time, but it may not be productive either! Use this time wisely so that when you return to the workforce you have a plan guiding you forward.