In a recent interview with The Daily, Mad Men star January Jones said though working while she was eight months pregnant was challenging she said, “I think that having work was really helpful … I just didn’t lose myself into ‘baby-world.” January is probably not alone in her feeling that a career that you love can help give you a sense of identity outside of being someone’s mother. After all it was Gloria Steinem who argued that having another identity besides being someone’s mother and wife was the essence of feminism. And especially during a pregnancy, which comes with lots of joy but lots of stress and worry as well, going to work can be a great relief. We talked to some women who said their jobs also helped them get through their pregnancies.
A recent study finds that more first-time mothers are working late into their pregnancy and then returning to the office soon after the baby arrives, according to the Census Bureau. Women are increasingly tending to work during pregnancy. Among those with a first birth between 2006 and 2008, the portion who worked during pregnancy reached 66%, compared with 44% for those with a first birth between 1961 and 1965. Among women who worked during pregnancy, about 82% of those with a first birth between 2006 and 2008 worked until one month or less before their child’s birth, compared with 73% for those with a first birth between 1991 and 1995. Those rates are up from about 35% for a first birth between 1961 and 1965. Among women who worked during pregnancy, about 59% with a first birth between 2005 and 2007 were back at work three months after the baby’s arrival, compared with 57% for a first birth between 1991 and 1994, and 17% between 1961 and 1965. Women with at least a high-school diploma were more likely to return to work within three months after giving birth.
Melissa R. Harman, a Marketing Manager for Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, is currently pregnant with her second child and is working. She also worked throughout her first pregnancy and “loved it.” She told The Grindstone:
“If I were at home, I would be reading baby blogs, baby magazines, baby books…and eating way too much food. Having children is important to me and my husband; but I also went to college for a reason, and love my career. If I were to take a break, I would lose traction and all the progress I’ve made in legal marketing. Women CAN have it all. A career, a family, a home, a social life. I’m not going to become JUST a “mom.” And I certainly don’t want to be referenced only as “Mac’s Mom.”
I’m glad I’m working right now. I’m not overanalyzing every flutter in my belly. I’m not over-obsessing about becoming a mom, again. Everything will fall into place once the baby is born, and I’m sure within days I will be checking work email on my iPhone. Because I will yearn to still feel needed and important in the working world. “
Angela Nielsen had four children in a span of six years. At the time she was running her own web design agency. She told The Grindstone:
“For me, all my pregnancies were extremely high risk, and I know that by working during those pregnancies, I found a way to take my mind off things and keep busy. I am sure that if I had sat around during the day I would have driven myself crazy with worry.”
Denise Altman’s children are now in their 20′s but she told The Grindstone her job helped her realize being a mother was just one part of her identity:
“I certainly was glad to be working while pregnant. My career is a big part of my life, just as my children are. Being pregnant was just one facet of who I was and where I was going. I worked nearly every day during both pregnancies. I was teaching at a college while pregnant with my second child, and I taught in labor all day on the day he was born (left school at 4:00 and he was born at 10:00 pm). Being pregnant doesn’t have to take over your life. Working keeps you active and, I think, helps you not obsess over every little ache, pain and odd occurrence.”
For some, working while pregnant provides a built-in support system. Kristin Serio, Account Coordinator for uproarpr.com, told The Grindstone:
“I too was happy to be working throughout my pregnancy. My job not only kept my busy, but it also kept my mind off the “baby drama” so to speak. As a single mother, it was hard not having anyone there to support me. Being in the office and around my coworkers definitely kept my spirits up!”
Sheryl P. Kurkland’s baby is now 15 but the Marketing & Public Relations Specialist said she loved working while pregnant:
“Nine months is a looooooooong time and it made the time go much faster. Plus it was enjoyable to hear the fun and positive remarks from co-workers as my stomach grew. It’s a very exciting time and there is an unofficial club among moms wanting to share the joy with to-be moms, which was apparent at work….I don’t know if this had anything to do with working, but I felt great the entire time I was pregnant. Perhaps it was due, in part, because I didn’t have time to fixate on body aches.”