Pregnant and working: when to pause your career

Pregnant woman at work using laptop

2015 has been an interesting and challenging year for me. I started the year wanting to expand our family, progress my career, write a book about my return to work and start a business to help others on their working mum journey. Ambitious much?!

I am pleased to say that I have achieved some of these goals: I wrote the book (available for free on this website), progressed my career (although not as much as I had hoped) and am well on the way to expanding our family with our second child due in December.

Of course there were many challenges along the way, and times when I thought I would achieve none of these goals. The most challenging experience was going ‘undercover’ for the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy this year. Fortunately it was winter and I could hide my expanding waistline under coats, jackets and scarves. Of course I didn’t fool my closest colleagues who noticed my increased food intake and new wardrobe featuring floaty empire dresses instead of form fitting Review dresses and my unwillingness to remove my jackets/coats and scarves at work.

You may well ask why I felt the need to hide my pregnancy at work in this day and age when there is legislation such as the Fair Work Act 2009 in Australia. Last year 27% of female employees in Australia experienced discrimination while pregnant (Australian Human Rights Commission). Thankfully I did not experience pregnancy discrimination, but can see how easy it is for an employer to hide behind ‘business needs’ as a reason to let a pregnant employee go.

At the time of falling pregnant I was in the precarious position of only having a temporary contract for another few months in a department of the organisation that was going through a period of high uncertainty. In my pursuit of career progression (and stability) I wanted to be retained based on my professional credentials, not my current state of fertility. I even attended a job interview 18 weeks pregnant within the organisation, and although I was not successful I received very useful feedback about my professional potential.

At 20 weeks pregnant I was still waiting on news of whether my contract would be extended and for how long and had also applied to become permanent in my role. One night I had a complete melt down about the prospect of being pregnant and unemployed, not something high on my list. I felt frustrated that despite my efforts and enthusiasm to secure a long term role over the past 18 months nothing was happening on the job front. I realised that I was not experiencing job uncertainty because I was pregnant, it was just a difficult time in the job market.

The heating at work had kicked in and I was sick of hiding my growing baby bump at work (and on social media). I announced my pregnancy to my team (I had already told my supervisor at 10 weeks and she had been trying to secure my tenure ever since) and two days later had a contract extension until the end of December (as did many of my colleagues). This was long enough to qualify for the Federal Government Paid Parental Leave but not long enough to access all of my employer’s maternity leave and no job to return to. My search for a permanent or longer contract within my organisation continued.

At the end of the second trimester an opportunity I had been waiting almost two years for came up in my organisation. Three long term exciting roles that exactly matched what I was seeking. I applied and was successfully selected to attend an interview. Unfortunately by the time the interview panel could meet with me I would be 32 weeks pregnant and less than a month from taking maternity leave for up to 12 months.

At the same time as being invited to an interview my current contract was extended by more than two years, to my amazement and relief! I was now eligible for the full 14 weeks of maternity leave and could take up to two years off work and still have a job to return to!

I weighed up my options for two weeks and decided that continuing with my now long term part time role (which I enjoy) and withdrawing from the interview made sense. The disappointment of withdrawing from the interview took me days to recover from, the timing was just so off. Although I was confident that my application would be fairly assessed based on my merits, I didn’t want to have to rush back to work post baby into a new full time role.

Having faith that a similar opportunity will come along again when the time is right for me and my family is not easy to maintain, but for now will have to do until I can actively pursue my career again post baby no.2.


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Pregnant and working: when to pause your career

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