This is an article in our Pregnancy Week by Week series, a resource to help you manage your job and life, through and after your pregnancy.

Week 68: How To Keep Your Nights And Weekends Sacred(Ish)

Who doesn’t love and cherish their weekends? There’s a reason for the people say “Happy Friday!”

But after Baby arrives, weekends take on a new kind of sacred meaning. Saturdays and Sundays can feel all the more precious since many new moms (and even experienced ones) feel that they need to catch up on the hours they missed with their family during the week.

If your work had a way of creeping into your weekends before you started a family, you may be wondering how to change things now that you understandably prefer to spend less time working on evenings and weekends. Can you simply stop doing work after-hours?

While every woman is different, we have a few thoughts about what to do if you’re trying to keep your free time, well, actually “free.”

Frame Work As a “Break” If You Have To Put In Weekend Hours

Let’s face it. Parenting for 48 consecutive hours can feel much harder than your actual job sometimes. Okay, pretty much all the time. That’s why Lauren Brody suggests that you take “scheduled work breaks.” In her book, “The Fifth Trimester”, she cites her father-in-law David who parented three young sons as a single father on the days he had custody. He would take breaks in his home-office on those days off to do a couple hours of work (which got him away from his kids’ school and sports transportation trips for a bit).

Take Baby Steps In Taking The Topic Up At Work

The subject of weekend work received some lively discussion on the Fairygodboss community boards. One woman said she dealt with weekend work expectations by dipping her toes into the subject gradually:

"Test the waters first. Tell your manager that your upcoming weekend plans will include being off the grid - perhaps you are going to the mountains for a hike or to the beach (wink, wink). Then set your out of office message on. See how it goes and then start doing this more often until you have in effect, trained your manager."

Set Expectations And Have Honest Conversations...

It does seem that many women believe that setting clear expectations is key. Another woman chimed in:

"A question to consider is, 'What expectation or pattern have you set to date?' Once a pattern of behavior or expectations have been set, it can be harder to change than it is to set them from scratch.

Either way, I find that the best approach is to be transparent. It can either be in the form of, 'I don't check emails regularly during the weekend, so if there is an emergency that requires my urgent attention, please would you call/text me to alert me and I will check it then' or 'I only check emails once a day during the weekend. If we encounter a work situation that requires something different, I would really appreciate it if you would let me know ahead of time.'

I feel that this approach allows you to set boundaries around free time that everyone needs to allow them to recharge without saying that you are not prepared to do anything at all."

...Or Don’t, If You Can Set Clear Boundaries

Another woman responded:

I never check email on weekends, and almost never check them when I get home. Everyone else on my team does check them, but no one has said anything about the fact that I clearly don't. I realize that when you reach a certain level, people expect you to be reachable at all hours. I honestly would start by pretending you have a trip that weekend and really won't have time to check anything. If nothing explodes while you're off email, keep trying it until it becomes the expectation.

If you’re like most new moms, you’ve already become an expert at squeezing every minute of productivity at work. While there may be the occasional emergency, your efficiency will make it easier for your manager and colleagues to accept your new boundaries during evenings and weekends.

If You Work Night and Weekend Shifts

Finally, sometimes work is during the weekend. However, in some ways, if you know that you have regularly scheduled weekend time away from your family, things can be easier. You can simply move your family time during the week to one of the days you have off. Of course, this may mean that you don’t put your child in daycare or use your nanny during that weekday in order to maximize family time.

Try to work out a schedule in advance with your employer so that you can plan these days with as much notice to your childcare provider and your partner.

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How can I unplug over the weekend without seeming like a slacker?

Does anyone take a digital break over the weekend or found a way to tell your manager that you won't really be available on the weekends to answer emails quickly? I want to have the conversation but not sure how to start it without looking bad...

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Taking a weekend break really starts from top down. We tend to follow our leaders. There has to be a way for one to say or ask 'does your family come first?' Which means when it comes to the weekend show that and do not work or send/respond to emails...

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