There are a lot of things in life we cannot control.
We can create the perfect timeline of when we want to hit these kinds of milestones, but our actual control may be limited.
Last year, my husband and I spent eight months living in Spain for a work assignment (his). For this big move abroad, I gave up a job that I loved and together, we decided that post-expat life would be the right time for us to start a family. With a return to the U.S. set for mid-September, I had two major hopes: to be pregnant and to land a job. I was both ready to expand our family and get back into a routine, have a career I was passionate about, and start earning a paycheck again.
My hopes for our return to the U.S. hinged two things you absolutely have no control over: how long it will take to get pregnant and how long it will take to find a job (especially in a new city where you have no network). A few people asked me which I would do first. Would I look for a job to lock in job security and maternity benefits then get pregnant, or first try to get pregnant and put off looking for a job until after the baby was born?
Knowing either option could take months (or years), I decided to try to do both at the same time. Fortunately, after a couple of months of trying to conceive (during the last few months living in Spain), I was pregnant. I found out I was pregnant two weeks after we returned to America.
Finding a job while pregnant has been difficult
On the other side of things, finding a job has not been a quick process. After settling into our new city, I started the job hunt. My very new pregnancy was in the back of my mind as I searched and interviewed, but it was still early and I wasn’t showing. In those first few months, I hid my growing belly and didn’t mention my pregnancy. In my ideal timeline, I still had about six months left to land the perfect job so I’d be set up with job security prior to having the baby.
Now I’m seven months pregnant, and as of yet I haven’t landed that dream job. My perfect timeline has fallen by the wayside. My approach has changed and as I continue to apply, I can no longer hide my pregnancy. This is different for everyone, and personally, I wouldn’t feel right withholding this information as I’d have such little time at work before taking a maternity leave. My pregnancy is also plastered all over my social media, and realistically there is no way to hide this bump.
As I get closer to my new role as a mom, this has played a huge part in how I evaluate job opportunities. I’m extra particular with what roles I want to go after. Does it align with my values? Is it for a company I believe in? Is there too much travel? These factors are far more important than sticking to my self-imposed timeline, but I need to be practical too. A dream job would be wonderful, but a good-enough job would also be welcomed.
Babies are expensive. Pregnancy and raising and child has its own stressors — I don’t want money to be an added stress. The reality is, it might be.
Sacrifices continue to add up as my job hunt lengthens
We’ve had to make edits to our lifestyle as we prepare for baby with one full-time income. While I feel fortunate to have savings to fall back on, I worked hard for many years to build up those savings and do not want to see them quickly dwindle. I closely review things we truly need vs. what we want, which is definitely tough when I see all the cute baby gear I want to load up on. I pay extra attention to money spent on shopping, travel, and eating out as we save for our growing family. I even feel guilty when buying clothes for myself now, even though it’s done out of total necessity (maternity and future nursing-friendly clothes).
Finding the balance of being money-conscious while still enjoying life without guilt has been a challenge.
In the time that I’ve been searching for a full-time role, I have taken on a number of freelance gigs to keep myself occupied and to contribute to our household income. While I enjoy these projects, my side hustles do not add up to what I expect for myself — from either a salary standpoint or a growth standpoint.
I do best when there is a lot on my plate. I’m used to having the full-time job, plus a passion project or two on the side. Part of my identity was always having a packed day. Before our move abroad when we were living in San Francisco, I’d start my day teaching a 6am fitness class, then I’d head to the office for my 9-5 and then I’d either head home to write, train for a race, or see friends. It felt like I was making the most of every day. I prided myself on fitting it all in. Now things are much slower. I miss the challenge and energy of juggling a packed schedule.
I want to be working, pushing myself, and learning new things while I help support our family. As of right now, it doesn’t feel like I’m accomplishing this and it feels like my professional growth that was going strong for many years is at a frustrating standstill.
Friends and family will ask if I’m exhausted this far along in my pregnancy. I joke that no, I’m actually extremely well-rested and wish my days were fuller and that I had reason to be more tired.
I always thought I would be a working mom
At this point I haven’t landed my dream job, and though I’m due to give birth in less than eight weeks, I’m still job searching and applying. This surprises some people — it even surprised me at first.
A few months back, I got far along in the interview process for what seemed like a dream job. As I progressed in my pregnancy during the two-month interview process, it felt like if I didn’t get that role, it would be time to give up until after my baby was born. None of my clothes fit, it was nearly impossible to hide my baby bump and with my due date looming, and it seemed that this was my last chance to score a job.
I didn’t get the job.
It felt extra painful being rejected this far along in my pregnancy. My timeline to land a job was narrowing in and I thought about throwing in the job-hunting towel all together until post-baby.
Though I considered this, I constantly remind myself that while there is a (rough) timeline of when I’m going to give birth, there is no set timeline of when the right job and I will find each other.
Job hunting is not easy, but job hunting while pregnant adds another layer of complications to the challenge. Though at moments it feels silly to apply to jobs so close to having a baby, I remind myself that the right company won’t care. When the right role comes along, I will be ready, and it will be a fit for everyone.
Maybe my perfect timeline is not becoming a reality as I had hoped. But through this experience, I have learned there is no perfect timeline for us to live up to. While landing the right job feels out of my control, I can control how I approach the situation. I’m excited to welcome a new baby into our family, and though not everything has lined up as I would have imagined, my career timeline doesn’t end here.
I still see myself as being a working mom, juggling the kids and the exciting career. Even though the career portion might look a bit blurry at the moment, I believe that eventually things will come together.
You can’t control how long it will take to get pregnant or how long it will take to find the right job, but you don’t have to feel powerless. Maybe it’s not coming together on your perceived perfect timeline, and that’s OK. Focus on what you can control and work toward those goals.
If you’re struggling through job hunting while pregnant, here are a few tips to stay positive through the process:
- Be thankful for where you are: Maybe you don’t have the dream job and the baby on the way at the same time, but hopefully you are experiencing a healthy pregnancy and can be thankful for the people and support you have.
- Believe in the process: Finding the right job can take a long time and it can be frustrating. Continue on your path and have faith that with hard work and persistence, you will find the right role at the right time.
- Know when to take a break: Job hunting can be mentally exhausting, frustrating, and stressful. It’s OK to take a break from applying to focus on you, your pregnancy, and digging into what you want.
- Enjoy and take advantage of the time you have: It can be tough to enjoy unemployment when there are stress factors weighing on you. But with a baby on the way, it’s the perfect time to prepare yourself and your family for the big change. Decorate the nursery (save money with DIY), declutter your house, focus on self-care, read all the books, and perfect your registry. Maybe you can’t make the career moves you want right now, but you do have the opportunity of time to make yourself feel as prepared as possible for motherhood.
What was your experience making career moves while also prioritizing raising a family? Tell us in the comments!