Pregnant While Working: Did Serena Do All Working Mothers a Favor Or Not?
The best tennis player in the world—male or female—and arguably the best athlete in the world, Serena Williams, is pregnant.And we all acknowledge she won the Australian Open while she was eight weeks along. It’s a time, when most mortal women in the same condition feel pretty horrible.What this means to working mothers and pregnant working women everywhere is now there is a role model of a super human who cannot only bounce around on the court while pregnant, but also bounce back, as she plans to start competing again a few months after the baby is born.We can look at it two ways: Williams gives us permission as women leaders to retain ambition while parenting, allowing us to perform at peak in careers we love until delivery; or she offers an impossible pinnacle to attain and retain.[bctt tweet=“Williams gives us permission as #womenleaders to retain ambition while parenting” username=“takeleadwomen”]Certainly, Williams is not the first high profile mother who is able to do everything in the spotlight for both her career and family. We also have Beyonce, Victoria Bechkam, Marissa Meyer, Angelina Jolie, Sheryl Sandberg, Madonna to admire from afar.“There will likely still be people who question whether Williams and Beyoncé will be able to achieve the same level of excellence they maintained throughout their pre-baby careers. These people must not know the resilience of black women, and of black mothers in particular, to transcend all obstacles and accomplish the seemingly impossible,” writes Tyrese L. Coleman in Romper.Yes, the list of high performing celebrity mothers are all well-paid women with a lot of childcare and personal help. Chances are they do not worry about paying for a baby sitter, arranging enough paid leave, trying to find a suitable room for breastfeeding at the office or paying all expenses for a growing family.But given we will likely get a view of this high profile pregnancy for the next 20 weeks, how exactly does Serena skew the image of the expectant and working mother in 2017 for all of us—working mothers and working women without children? Perhaps we all have to be super women all the time.“Interesting how we treat pregnancy like a big enough deal to end a woman’s career, but not a big enough deal to guarantee her paid leave to recover, isn’t it?” writes Heidi Stevens in the Chicago Tribune.“The differences don’t stop once the baby is born. Recoveries vary widely, and so do post-pregnancy plans. Many women want to dive back into their careers quickly; others, for a variety of reasons, do not,” Stevens writesPaid leave is the first thing a working expectant mother needs to worry about. That is, if she is not running her own business, or freelancing as a contractor.[bctt tweet=“Paid leave is the first thing a working expectant mother needs to worry about #WorkingMoms” username=“takeleadwomen”]Georgene Huang of Fairygodboss writes: “Maternity leave is a legal right for many women (though sadly, not all), and if you qualify for FMLA or unpaid time off through a state law, or even better, paid leave benefits offered by your employer, you should not apologize for exercising your rights or benefits. You are having a baby and need physical and emotional recovery, not to mention bonding time. Your work will be there when you return, and taking maternity leave does not mean you don’t care about your job or your career.”Huang also says while you are figuring that out, you should not have to explain or apologize to anyone about your condition and your plans post-baby are nobody’s business.Farnoosh Tarobi, the financial expert who was the April Virtual Happy Hour guest for Take The Lead, writes about the necessary money worries that accompany each new birth.“The latest government figures show that for a middle-income family, parents can expect to spend close to a quarter of a million dollars to raise one child through high school. This includes food, housing, health care, and basic necessities. (To estimate your own costs based on your state and lifestyle check out this site),” Tarobi writes.“The average cost of childcare has been climbing over the years. Day care, for example, now costs an average $200 a week, according to Care.com. A personal nanny can be $15 to $18 an hour in some areas,” Tarobi writes. “As an alternative, you may save by opting for a nanny share. Many neighboring parents are reaping the savings of splitting the cost of one caretaker for two children. And if you have more than one child attending a day care center, ask about sibling discounts.After your baby is born, you have likely worked out your leave and are headed back to the office, or are piecing together flex time options and contract work perhaps. This will cost you.A new French study finds a significant “motherhood pay penalty” that is “at least in part due to discrimination in the workplace, as employers assigned women with children to lower-risk tasks associated with slower career progression and fewer bonus payments,” according to The Times.The Université Paris-Saclay study documented French women in their late 20s working in private sector companies over a 16-year period, from 1995 to 2011. “After allowing for women’s education, seniority and type of work, they found a pay deficit among working mothers that was particularly pronounced after their first child but was replicated with each sibling up to five children and was equivalent to 3 per cent less per hour for each child.”If and when you do go back to an office, you have to figure out where best to pump or breastfeed and whether or not your employer will adequately accommodate your needs.“Nationally, 81 percent of mothers start off breastfeeding, according to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. By the time a child is 6 months old, only about half are still nursing. Less than a third of mothers continue to breastfeed by the time their child is a year old,” writes Victoria Freile at the Democrat & Chronicle. “Breastfeeding is tough but rewarding. Pumping is time-consuming and, at-times, overwhelming and isolating.”The adjustments back to work after having a child create additional emotional, cultural and psychological baggage, Sarah Rubin writes in Bazaar. Who says she found herself defending her desire to work—a luxury single mothers and many other women simply do not have.“Suddenly, my ambition to expand my career and utilize my education and skills, to make my own money and be a strong partner, is seen as a selfish pursuit or an unnecessary current stress on my new baby and our home life,” Rubin writes.According to Rubin, “A recent study from Harvard University, which looked at 10,000 students from 33 middle and high schools, concluded that parents who are strong role models, providing opportunities that develop the capacity to empathize with others, were more likely to raise caring, respectful and ethical children.”Transition back into a career has its own timeline, writes Kelly Wallace in CNN, and its own name. “If only I had known then that what I was going through was the ‘fifth trimester,’ a term coined and trademarked by author Lauren Smith Brody, a former executive editor of Glamour magazine and a mother of two. “Wallace writes, “We mark pregnancy in three trimesters, and the ‘fourth trimester is used to mean that time after delivery when your baby is adjusting to life outside the womb. The ‘fifth trimester’ is the time when new mothers, just months after delivery, are going back to work but often before they feel emotionally and physically ready to return, said Brody, author of the new book, The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom’s Guide to Style, Success, Sanity, and Big Success After Baby.But there are many places around the country where working mothers are respected and valued. The National Association for Female Executives is one of the largest associations for women professionals and business owners in the country, and each year with Working Mother magazine comes up with a list of the best places for executive women to work. This year the list includes Procter & Gamble, Marriott, Deloitte, Accenture and so many more.It is possible to pull a Serena as millions of women have been professional and parental successes at the same time.[bctt tweet=“It’s possible to pull a #Serena & have professional & parental success #WorkLifeBalance” username=“takeleadwomen”]According to Gloria Feldt, co-founder and president of Take The Lead, “Parenthood doesn’t just equip you with experiences that come in handy at work. It can actually help you hone the skills that the 21st-century economy is coming to value more and more. And it’s why working parents should start adding “parenthood” to their resumes, especially women in leadership roles.”Williams is leading by her example, of course, and many women may be wishing they could be as powerful and fit as she is in every phase of her life. That would be a win for every woman.