Pregnancy Week 19: What Do You Do If Your Job Isn’t Family Friendly?

Pregnant woman at office


June 19, 2024 at 1:9AM UTC
Your belly is growing by the day. So is the nagging feeling that you may be in the wrong kind of job.

After years of not particularly thinking about whether your job is family-friendly, it can come as a sudden shock to have to come to terms with what it means to hold down your job as a new mom.

Women who work in environments where they are subject to hazardous materials or physical labor have probably already had to ask their employers for changes. But even for those who work in an office environment, you may find yourself wondering about whether your line of work is compatible with being a mom the way you envision yourself being.

Usually these doubts occur when you spend a lot of time traveling for work or you have to work extremely long hours. Other times, it’s simply the nature of your hours that’s the issue. One woman posted this question on Fairygodboss:
"I've been working in a business development role that involves a lot of nights out with clients. But now I'm pregnant and I'm afraid that I won't be able to — or want — to be out entertaining clients at night once the baby comes. Do I need to find a different job? What have others in my situation done?"
So, what do you do if you think your line of work is incompatible with having a family? Well, there’s no one right job and work-life balance equation that works for everyone. That said, if you have a feeling your current work lifestyle is strongly at odds with having a young child at home, it's worth listening to that feeling — but proceed with caution here.

Although pregnancy is a very logical time to ask these questions, there are a lot of reasons not to make any hasty changes.

Among them, this is a vulnerable time for you and your baby in terms of health benefits and financial security. If your employer offers any paid leave or time off, you want to take advantage of this before switching firms since even if you were to get a new job, some companies have tenure requirements before parental leave benefits kick in.

Second, while you’re pregnant, you can start taking the time to investigate what others say and gather facts and opinions in case you do have to make a change later. You may think that it sounds grand that teachers get summers and school holidays off, but consider their pay and retirement benefits, as well. And of course, remember that your personality does not necessarily completely reverse itself after you have a baby, even if your priorities may shift somewhat. (Read: if you aren’t particularly patient and didn’t always love children, it’s likely that you’ll mostly love your own but won’t transform overnight into someone who loves teaching kids!)

Don’t make too many assumptions about how certain things will feel, either. If you’ve never been a mom, you simply don’t know what you will feel until the baby has arrived. While you may be pretty sure you don’t want to live in the airport lounge and out of your suitcase anymore, some women do make business travel work. Some women are even happy with their arrangements, particularly if their partners are available for care-taking.

There is also a big difference between looking for a new job and completely changing your career path.

For example, looking for lateral positions at your company is a way to make some lifestyle changes for the short-term while preserving your longer term options to go back to a “track” you may have been on prior to having children. One woman we met at a “Big 4” accounting firm told us that many women at her company moved away from the front lines of consulting to take on internal operations roles for a few years while their children were young. Some ultimately stayed within those functions, while others returned to more client-intensive positions after their children became school-aged.

While we think it’s healthy to reflect and investigate your options, be sure to be realistic about the fact that job and career features come with tradeoffs. If you’ve decided that Corporate America doesn’t seem appealing while you have a young family and want to explore the non-profit world, be aware that reduced hours often comes with reduced pay, and may not always mean more flexibility. Also, be sure to consider the full package of benefits and other non-monetary compensation and perks when you evaluate other kinds of work.

Finally, do your research carefully about any prospective employer or job.

It can be harder than you think to figure out whether a company is really family-friendly. It’s easy for a company to push their image but if you can’t find a current employee you can ask, check out employee reviews (hint: we ask everyone in the Fairygodboss community in their job reviews how family-friendly and flexibility there is at their jobs).

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