Moms-to-be go through a life-changing period during their pregnancies; those who are working throughout face many trials and tribulations. In an era when paid parental leave still isn’t guaranteed in some countries, working remotely while expecting can be a huge perk—and a way for companies to engage talent that otherwise might leave the workforce. A few coworking spaces are even catering to new parents.
Occasionally, pregnancy inspires parents-to-be to birth a new business idea. For example, CEO and employment expert Sara Sutton founded FlexJobs while she was pregnant with her first son, after experiencing firsthand the frustration of searching for professional jobs that also offered flexible work options. She applied her experience as a working mom to help others who want or need work flexibility—and as a result, she built a company that operates with a remote workforce.
Those of us fortunate enough to have remote positions do have some distinct advantages while expecting a bundle of joy; I know this intimately as I’m now among them. In my first trimester, I was the mid-afternoon drool-inducing napper, the constant behind-the-screen snacker, and the otherwise-work-as-usual head of a fully remote content marketing company.
Now that I’m rounding out (literally!) the end of my second trimester, I’ve been grateful for all that my job’s flexibility provides: the opportunity to work out during hours that are best for me, the chance to not have my growing abdomen be the constant topic-of-choice with clients, and the ability to take breaks to research baby products and read about my little one’s development. At 35, there are a few clinical reasons to watch a pregnancy closely, and it means a lot to me to know that I can pop in to see my doctor midday without having to request time off.
There’s much more to working through this interesting life stage, though.
Below is advice and real talk from two remote professionals who’ve learned how to manage energy levels, cope with morning sickness or other less-than-ideal pregnancy symptoms, and find baby-safe alternatives to the endless cups of caffeinated coffee to keep things humming along:
Managing Energy Levels
Business analyst Kate McCormick worked from her home in Austin, Texas, partially through her first pregnancy and throughout her second. Her experience included some extreme fatigue, which is common in the first trimester, as the body slowly adjusts and has to work really, really hard to support a new life.
“Fortunately, I did not have a ton of symptoms for either of my pregnancies, so morning sickness thankfully wasn’t a concern. I’d get queasy in the afternoons, so it was nice to have the office snackbar for that one! My energy level wasn’t too bad; I was most tired during the first trimester when I was hiding it anyway, so I just powered through and went to bed at like 7:30pm.”
That bedtime might sound like it’s more appropriate for an elementary schooler, but it’s easy to see how wrapping up the workday while exhausted could make you fantasize about your head hitting the pillow ASAP. (Personally, I’m surprised she made it through dinner. Well done, Kate!) Snacking helps to ward off sensations of nausea, so it sounds like the time she did spend in the office enabled her to regulate her blood sugar or reach for the salty stuff if her blood pressure felt low.
As many moms-to-be know, caffeine intake becomes a luxury; something consumed sparingly, if at all. (This also depends upon whether you still have the appetite for it!) An avid java drinker, Kate wasn’t about to cut it out entirely: “I still drank a cup of coffee a day. Some ladies can cut it off completely but I am not one!”
It’s important to note that just because a woman is expecting doesn’t mean she wants to discuss it incessantly, or have it be the first thing on others’ minds. This can be difficult to curtail when interacting with colleagues or customers face-to-face. Kate was relieved to be able to continue to focus on her work and provide value for her organization’s clients during a time when her growing midsection could otherwise become an unwanted distraction.
“Even while working from home, I very much did NOT like talking about pregnancy. It was nice to be able to talk to people without it being the first or the only topic, especially with clients.”
There were some challenges, of course—one of them being how she managed her time.
“Self-discipline became much more of an issue during pregnancy in a way that hadn’t bothered me previously while working from home. I was definitely a bit more distractible and it was easy to spend time on registry stuff, reading others’ birth stories, etc., instead of focusing on work. And I spilled stuff on my keyboard a lot more.”
Let’s be honest: eating + drinking + keyboards do not mix. We all know this, but the struggle is indeed real.
Keeping up Communication
When Ankitaa Gohain Dalmia was expecting her daughter, she was the remote editor of a technical magazine working from her home in Rudrapur, India. While she didn’t have to travel much during her pregnancy, she did have to work hard to ensure the magazine kept running smoothly—and her biggest challenge involved written communication.
“Because of very acute (and embarrassing) morning sickness that lasted throughout my pregnancy, I wasn’t on the phone with team members or even meeting them in person regularly. This meant I relied on emails and messages a lot. And sometimes how you want to convey a message can be quite different to how the other person perceives your message.”
How’d she combat the potential for miscommunication?
“I got more descriptive with my words compared to how I would talk in person. Even if I sounded repetitive, I made sure I communicated often with my team and really spelled out each task, without leaving any room for confusion. At that time, I hadn’t come across tools like Trello or Asana or Slack—life would have been so much easier with these tools.”
Aches and Pains
Like many remote workers, Ankitaa also struggled with posture issues.
“Working on my laptop led to all types of aches and pains in my neck and lower back. Coupled with the aches and pains of pregnancy in the final trimester, I suffered quite a bit because I couldn’t find that ‘right’ position to sit and work. Investing in an ergonomic chair with adjustable lumbar support really helped; I still have that chair, and it still helps me!”
What she loves best may not come as a surprise—but it’s still heartwarming. In her current role as a digital marketing consultant, Ankitaa is able to work around her daughter’s schedule where she acknowledges that, naturally, some days are better than others.
“The best advantage of working remotely is having the freedom to be near my baby. I’m a hands-on mom and share my workspace with my daughter, who is now five. She plays while I work. When she was younger, she would climb on my back to sit there while I worked on my projects. Interestingly, that never gave me any aches or pains!”
Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com