This week I had lunch with a friend who is simultaneously job hunting and trying to get pregnant. Yep, been there! And it got me thinking about what it was like being an Undercover wannabe Mum.
Having children didn’t come easily for me, even though I started wanting a family when I was 26 years old. During this time I learnt to carefully juggle my career and fertility treatment.
The first time I was trying to get pregnant I was working full time and after six months of trying naturally it was time to seek help. I did six months of fertility treatment, three months after starting a new role on a two-year contract. It was the first time I had accepted a contract role and left a permanent role to do so. I could have stayed in a permanent role I didn’t like just in case I got pregnant, but that could take months or even years! I stayed in that role for over 2 years and gained many new skills and experiences that I would otherwise have missed out on if I had stayed where I was for guaranteed maternity leave.
You definitely feel like you’re undercover when you’re working and doing fertility treatment. Arriving late, leaving early or disappearing from the office during the day to attend doctors’ appointments. Concealing numerous blood tests, sometimes days in a row. Colleagues who notice this, may suspect you are sick and there is something wrong with you (it’s almost as bad as concealing morning sickness). Not to mention the hot flushes from clomid, which are difficult to disguise in winter!
Doing fertility treatment can also test your resilience. It can be an emotional rollercoaster filled with hope and optimism, contrasted by uncertainty and disappointment, especially if you don’t get pregnant on the first attempt.
Something you may be wondering is whether to tell your employer or not. Although it’s none of their business (yet!) it can make you feel more comfortable doing all of the above with their knowledge and prevent you from feeling anxious about your job security. You need to gauge whether you can trust them with this information and it not adversely affect your employment. When I was working full time I told my immediate supervisor so that he understood my need for flexibility at certain times and also that my emotions, which were like a rollercoaster up and down during the month, was not a reflection on how I felt about my role. I knew I could trust him with this information.
Two years later I was working part-time (3 days a week) in a different organisation when I did fertility treatment again for our second child. At the time I was on short rolling contracts and the department I was in was facing a significant restructure with plenty of uncertainty and poor morale. This time I decided NOT to tell my employer as I could manage to go to most of my appointments on my rostered days off. I also didn’t want to jeopardise my chances of securing further contracts or a long term role.
At the end of the day you have to do what you intuitively know to be right for you and your employment situation.
Don’t delay career changes when you’re trying to get pregnant or delay starting a family for fear of ruining your career.
You can have BOTH a family AND a career.