A Pregnant Pause
Richard Grace has a regular Career Clinic column in OS magazine. Here he replies to a PA who is concerned about her teamís poor grammar and spelling.
Iíve been PA to the MD of a small PR company for the past five years. Itís a fantastic job that involves me in just about everything, from running the office to helping organise events and even invoicing. I love my work, but Iíve just found out Iím pregnant and Iím worried about letting my boss down (she really relies on me and often calls me in the evenings and at weekends to chat about work). I dread to think how sheís going to manage when I go on maternity leave and havenít even dared tell her Iím pregnant yet. I really want to keep my job - how do you think I should handle this and looking ahead do you have any tips on how to juggle work and being a mother, or is that an impossible question!
Congratulations! I can understand why youíre apprehensive about the future, but with careful planning, thereís no reason why you shouldnít successfully combine your career and motherhood.
My first thought is that you should tell your boss as soon as possible. It sounds as if you have a relationship of trust, so donít risk her suspecting or finding out from someone else. Before doing this, think about how you can reassure her. She obviously relies heavily on you and may be worried about how she will cope when you leave.
Have some ideas to share with her about how you can help your temporary cover be as successful as possible. Consider which parts of your job are purely process and which need knowledge and experience of the company. Could you delegate the trickier elements to somebody else in the team? Or perhaps you know a temp whoís covered for you before and could be persuaded to stand in? Assuming your pregnancy progresses smoothly, time is on your side for planning ahead.
If youíre thinking about taking the full maternity leave, you could consider doing some work from home Ė perhaps invoicing? - to demonstrate your commitment. However, it may be best to wait until the baby arrives, and you have a better idea of how much work you can realistically handle, before committing yourself.
If you donít want to work during your leave, keeping in touch by phone or dropping in to the office occasionally will reassure your boss that you are still keen.
The toughest part of course will be when you return and have to juggle work with your new family responsibilities. PR, with its tight deadlines and last minute demands, might make this difficult and lead to uncomfortable situations. If your job involves working late, this may not fit if you have to leave at a fixed time to get home. Rather than risk feeling guilty or causing resentment from others, you might want to think now about whether you should relinquish parts of your role in future.
My final thought is that, with the demands of a new baby, late night chats with your boss might not be welcome. Rather than cut off what she might see as a life line, float the idea of nipping out for a chat over coffee or lunch instead!
In time you may find that a demanding, all-encompassing job in a small busy office might not suit your new life, but such a decision is far down the line and as you clearly love your job Iím sure you wonít let it go without trying hard to make it work. Good luck.
OS magazine Ė October/November 2010