Having a baby is always an adjustment for new parents, but one strategic communications company found it was going to go through some adjustments of its own when three key employees on its 16-member staff turned up pregnant at nearly the same time.
After seven months of “adjusting, juggling and stretching” to accommodate three maternity leaves, “the truth is it wasn’t bad after all,” writes Jon Newman, co-founder of The Hodges Partnership, in a blog post titled OOOhhh Baby…(Our three-peat feat).
“In fact, it was an extremely good thing, not only for the moms, but for all of us at Hodges,” he wrote.
The change in routine was good for the company because everyone pitched in, learned to stretch their capabilities and skills and be more flexible with their work, Newman says in the post.
One of the moms who was pregnant and now has a 7-month-old baby is Stacey Brucia, an account manager. She says she was telecommuting from home when she heard about the second employee announcing her pregnancy.
“I’m glad no one could see my face because I knew then I was also pregnant,” she says. “I knew then it was going to be a stretch (for the company) because it was going to be a revolving door of maternity leaves.”
However, Brucia says she wasn’t overly concerned because Hodges already had been supportive when she was the first woman in the company to take maternity leave four years previously when her first child was born.
Still, companies don’t always have supportive atmospheres. Women often debate about when they should reveal their pregnancies and what will happen to their jobs while they are on maternity leave.
Cheree Aspelin, who writes the Maternity Leave Coach blog, says many women try to hide their pregnancies. She saw one woman wearing a heavy overcoat to work in July in Houston.
“Sweat was just pouring off her,” Aspelin says. “She’s trying to hide her pregnancy, but now people just think she’s a weirdo.”
Aspelin, who works for a large United Kingdom-based oil and gas company, says she has taken to advising women about maternity leaves because she believes many are not thinking clearly about how they’ll handle their jobs before and after their babies arrive.
“My U.K. colleagues talk more freely about their pregnancies, and women here seem to agonize over it,” she says. “I don’t agree with the advice that women should keep it a secret. It can all backfire.”
Women can give managers and colleagues plenty of time to plan for a maternity leave if they reveal pregnancies early, Aspelin says. One benefit is that they also can provide support if the pregnancy is difficult.
Women often struggle with other issues such as how much time to take off and whether they need to keep in contact with colleagues the workplace while they’re gone.
Bracia says she took four months off for each pregnancy, using vacation time, paid leave and unpaid leave. She thinks things ran pretty smoothly, and she didn’t have much contact with her office during that time.
When Aspelin went on maternity leave, she says she went through a roller coaster of emotions, wanting to return to a career that she loves but also wanting “to be seen as a good mom and stay home.”
That’s why Aspelin advises other pregnant working women to share their thoughts and fears with other women who have taken leave, to find a strategy that will work for them.
When the time comes to negotiate your maternity leave, experts often advise you to be familiar with company policy but also check in with others who have taken parental leave to find out their arrangements.
If you’re asking for more time off than others, want to arrange a flexible schedule or hope to work from home more often, don’t frame it as special accommodation just for you, but rather pitch it as a chance to experiment and try something new.
As Hodges found out, maternity leaves often can lead to rewarding outcomes for the companies for which the moms work.
“We are a better place because of these new members of the THP family, better because there are three new members of our extended family,” Newman wrote, “but also better because of what we’ve learned and accomplished as a result of them coming into our world.”
Courtesy of USA Today