“Unideal” Congratulations

When we find out we’re expecting baby, how do we expect people to react? My husband and I had been married a year and half (previously dated 4 years before with a year long engagement) so total we knew each other five and a half years before we got pregnant with our first baby.  We were very lucky that everyone in our family (to our knowledge) was thrilled.  Even though it was confirmation that my husband and I had indeed had sex, our parents were ecstatic about becoming grandparents. “Congratulations you guys!” We were lucky.

But what about those couples, or mothers, who don’t experience the “Congratulations”?

Every circumstance is different; the teenage mother, the unmarried mother, the “not sure who the baby’s dad is” mother, etc..  How is society supposed to react to these “unideal” parenting situations?

My family has been in an “unideal” situation.  I come from a very conservative, and extremely traditional family – you graduate high school, get a college degree, get married, and then maybe have kids. How was I supposed to react? “Congratulations” sure didn’t seem like an appropriate term of endearment in the circumstance.

In reality, I somehow felt I was encouraging the situation by giving a literal “Congratulations”  and in some way making them feel their “unideal” pregnancy was acceptable.  What a horrible thought right? Of course there were other extenuating circumstances that prevented me from being able to verbalize “Congratulations” and the ever present family dynamics.  But what is the appropriate way to react?

During a recent trip to Wal-Mart I was scoping out the baby section and noticed a very young couple browsing baby clothes – I swear the girl couldn’t have been older than 15.  I wondered to myself, “why on earth are high schoolers looking in the baby section?” Then my answer.  Another couple from their school greeted them and asked them why they were looking at baby clothes. The young giddy girl answered … “Oh we just found out we are pregnant and we couldn’t help but look at stuff.  We are so excited!” The other couple seemed shocked and asked when she was due. “We just found out so we’re only about 8 weeks along.” The couple answered “Geez Congratulations.”
I wanted to run over and say … “Don’t buy anything! Save your money! Kids are expensive! You need to go to college! AHHHH!” I kept thinking, this girl has her whole life ahead of her and this is the decision she is making.  

Again, what a horrible thought right?  

I suddenly felt this rush of guilt. Who am I to judge what someone else?

I don’t think anyone is ever truly ready for kids; so sometimes the perfect arrangement can be unideal.  Every situation, every person, every pregnancy is different – so maybe our reactions should reflect this. Does a woman who decides to have a baby out of wedlock warrant the same “Congratulations” as an expecting married couple?  All I know is that my mom has always said, “treat others as you want to be treated”.  So no matter how hard it is to conjure up an unideal “Congratulations”, the right thing to do is show your feelings through a card, a gift, or a smile.  Sometimes your reactions and actions are the ones that are most remembered. And let’s face it, no one has ever lost sleep over being too nice.

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Time to tell work …

From everything I’ve been told, being pregnant is supposed to be joyous and thrilling (people leave out the things they should tell you). Shouldn’t women be allowed this moment is our life to be excited and relish in the fact that we are doing what nature intended us to do?  Shouldn’t we have the choice to work or not? And when is the right time to tell your boss – “I’m pregnant and going to need time off.”

Even if you’ve worked with a company and coworkers for an extended period of time and think they will be ecstatic; don’t count on your employer making pregnancy easy on you. When it comes time to file for FMLA, the majority of employers, bosses, and human resource personale, will make taking time off for you and your child even more overwhelming and pressure ridden then it already is.  FMLA can turn into F-M-L.

When you finally tell your boss, “Congratulations” really means “Oh shit.”. Even as the hardest working, most productive employee your employer will (in most cases) suddenly look at you as a liability and even worse; some will look to phase you out of your position because 6 to 12 weeks off is unacceptable.

Let’s look at if from their prospective for a quick second: Suzy is a top of the line employee, she is always to work on time, puts in extra hours, has a college degree, and is flat out amazing at her job.  Then one day Suzy comes into your office and tells you she is expecting her first baby.  Eff. This means she will be slower at her job; might have to take random sick days; her “condition” will make the long hours she used to put in shorter especially once the baby gets here; she’ll need time for doctors appointments; then when she’s due we will have to ready every second to cover her position until she gives birth; then when she has the baby she’s going to need time off; our company insurance is going to have to cover her healthcare costs and she’s probably going to add the baby to her (our) plan;  FMLA costs our company money and so does short term disability; and who knows what kind of employee she’ll be when she gets back?!; how are we ever cover the workload she handles?!

As a working woman you should always progressively keep a portfolio and/or file of the work you do. Keep a running record of the accomplishments and accolades you receive along with other communications that may help you in the future. But the moment you get pregnant, documentation is extremely important. You never think, “My company would never be that stupid to fire me because I’m pregnant!” Wrong – there are companies that are stupid and try to cover it up with processes and extensive paperwork all the while they think you are not documenting anything yourself.  Always keep a copies of your current job description; ANYTHING you sign; and any possible discriminatory communication.  Always get as much as you can in writing especially during your pregnancy.  “Suzy, you don’t have to worry about filling out the report, I know how busy you are with other tasks.” Get it in writing in an email! Use your womanly instincts and don’t ignore them – if something seems sketchy, it most likely is.

As a soon to be mom, the most important thing is to have to have a state of mind that you will do what is best for you and your child.  Your employer does not care what happens to you in the process (as much as they say they do) – they are worried about their bottom line. Even if they tell you they want you to move up in the company and have big hopes for you, their vision of you will change the moment you say you are pregnant and the moment you discuss needing time off.

Be sure to you are up to date on your company’s FMLA policy and know your rights. Follow this link to see the federal governments regulations on FMLA – http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/.

If you feel like you have been discriminated against the EEOC can give you some direction – http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/index.cfm. However, the EEOC is very picky about the cases they choose to intensely investigate and it takes an extensive period of time. You must file a claim through the EEOC first and they can you the option of whether or not you can file a civil suit. Universities with a law program will usually give some free legal advice and can help with the process.

If you have further questions, you can also comment on this post for responses. It’s our choice if we want to work or not! Even though we may be pregnant and/or have children, we can more than compete in the career force.  Being a mom is not a “condition” or “illness” – its a force to be reckoned with.

What will my parents think?!

Remember that moment when you first found out you were expecting? For most women its a mixture of fear, excitement, and “holy crap!”.  Even as a married woman “trying to conceive”, I was still a bit horrified when my husband and I saw the plus sign on our home pregnancy test and even more appalled when my doctor confirmed the news in person, “Congratulations!”

How are we supposed to feel when we find out we are expecting a baby? Excited? Disappointed? Scared? I guess each situation requires an individual set of emotions.  Both of our pregnancies I was absolutely terrified – the second time more so because I knew what to expect.

Then there’s that moment you have to tell others: – like your parents.

Telling my parents my husband and I were expecting our first baby was literally the most embarrassing moment of my life.  When you tell your parents and family you are pregnant, it is vindication and proof that “their little girl” had sex. I’m sure my parents (like most) wanted to assume my husband and I only kissed until we got married and even after marriage, sex was obviously still out of the question – “Our Kim would never do that!” All of a sudden BOOM your parents look at you a little differently – my dad was shocked! He jumped up out of his chair and asked my husband if he had been having sex with “his daughter”. I joked, “Yes, Dad. Only once though! He talked me into it!”. My mother of course, was blissfully ecstatic.  We were lucky and both of our families were beyond thrilled which made me feel more at ease.

Isn’t that how it is supposed to be? Pure excitement and joy? Just like the pamphlets and movies make becoming pregnant seem? Maybe the pamphlets should have pictures of terrified mothers with hormonal acne trying to find something to wear to work while nine months pregnant.

Society in a way has made women in our generation feel uncomfortable with being a mother.  Our mothers and grandmothers came from the Women’s Rights Movement; passing Title IX and burning bras. They forged the way for modern moms.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, to all of these brave women who proved females are capable of more than just having babies and getting dinner on the table – it took men long enough to realize it!  But as with all great movements there are unintended consequences.

Society now expects Mothers to birth and raise babies along with a new laundry list of other things:

  • “Why yes, I have a Bachelor’s degree …” (Have an education)
  • “Full time career, yes please!” (Working mom)
  • Sure babe, let’s have sex every night! And then I’ll rub your feet!”  (“Perfect” wife)
  • “OMG your house is so clean!” (Pristine house)
  • “I’m sure there’s a Pinterest craft for that!” (Capture every milestone)
  • “Sure, your mom can verbally punch me in goodies whenever!” (“Perfect” daughter-in-law)
  • “Now I organized your clothes by color, size, and season …” (Organization expert)
  • “Of course I washed the shirt you never put in the dirty clothes!” (Human laundry machine)
  • “Yes I sent the bills in a month early just because I am so not busy!” (Family business office manager)
  • “Where did I get this hot body? Just by breathing!” (Hot body lady 2 weeks after giving birth)
  • “No, I do not need any makeup or anything for myself! Not even food …” (Selfless mother)

AND BY THE WAY … this includes being Martha Stewart’s clone and having a healthy, homemade dinner on the table!!

When you tell your parents you are expecting, if not initially, they (hopefully) eventually will be over the moon, but remember, you have so much more on your plate (pun intended) than mothers of any other generation.

My mom used to say “You’re not the first woman to have a baby!” Well guess what … we are the first women to have babies in this technological, pessimistic world that expects us to have our lives pulled together 24/7. Its OKAY TO NOT BE PERFECT ALL THE TIME; our moms weren’t Betty Crocker every night and we can’t be either.  And there’s a pretty good chance, I won’t look like Heidi Klum after giving birth – ever. While we will make immense sacrifices for our children just like mothers before us – we are the innovators of doing it all and then some – being a Mogul Mom.

A New Generation of Moms – “Mogul Moms”

My friends have always said, “Give Kim a few drinks and send her in to teach a sex-ed class and no teenagers would be having sex!” Maybe my friends say this because of the graphic depictions of birth I’ve privied them to, or horror stories of the days after giving birth.  Usually their eyes are about to pop out of their heads as I recall birthing details – “And that’s something they should teach you in birthing class!”

As frank as I am about giving birth, I have done it twice; within 12 months and 19 days of each other.  So obviously I “forgot” about all the pain of the first round and was ready to have another – a far far cry from the truth.  Don’t mistake me, bringing a baby into the world is beyond a shadow of a doubt the most incredible moment, I get choked up just thinking about it.  I classify having my kids as the “best day(s) of my life”.  But during pregnancy, when I was ready to punch most people in the face, colleagues said to me, “Trust me, all the pain over the past 9 (really 10) months will be worth it when hold your baby for the first time.” I stood there in disbelief and with my disheveled eyes and hormonal zit ridden face protested “Yeah, I’m so sure.” They were right.

Before I met my husband I had no desire to get married let alone have any kids – “There’s no way I’m giving up my body for anything or anyone!” I was going to be a career woman because that’s the way I was raised – “I don’t need a man!” That ALL changed the day I met my husband. I am one of the lucky ones; as soon as I met him I knew we would spend our lives together. Our marriage is a sappy “love at first sight” saga that makes most people puke a little in their mouths. That day changed my outlook on life and suddenly my road to being a mom began. After a year and a half of marriage, we took the plunge and decided to try to have a baby.

I always wondered what kind of mother I would be. My husband hypothesized I would be easy on our kids and he would be the tough one (False and False). In my head I envisioned being a mom who had dinner ready on time every night, singing and rocking my babies to sleep, and of course having the smartest kids in the world. Let’s get one thing straight – no kid will read by the time they are two and there is a very slim chance despite all your planning efforts you will have an immaculate dinner ready every night.

But after having two babies and surviving some of the “stuff they never tell you about”, I am still trying to figure out what kind of mom I am. I am also still trying to find that perfect balance of being a wife and being mom. But when you’re a “mom”, suddenly there are more responsibilities around the house, not to mention most moms work full time jobs also resulting in not enough hours in the day. Even stay at home moms can find themselves overwhelmed with a multitude a new items to check off their to do list. And I would be oblivious if I didn’t mention the ever increasing pressure from society and social media to be the “perfect mom”.

Being a mom is the most important job I will ever have, even though it wasn’t in my original career or life plan. This realization brought me to the determination that being a mother in our generation isn’t as simple as being a mom – being a mother now entails being a “Mogul Mom”. We are the CEO’s of our family, whether we want to be or not; Moguls in our right. We have power to change the world, starting with our children. But every now and then our generation of Mogul Moms needs support from each other. While being a mom is the most important job, it is also, the hardest job of them all.