Work + Life: Trust and flexibility in the workplace

By Autumn Manning, worker bee and Miles’ mama

autumn-pic1.jpgI read this article one time that said a pregnant woman’s brain actually decreased in what I will call “efficiency” while pregnant, only to ramp up after the baby arrives to allow the mom to multi-task and take care of all that needs to happen. I will admit that I am definitely feeling a little dull in the brain department right now.

It’s totally normal for me to be in a meeting with my co-workers, burst out with, “I have the BEST idea!” only to follow it up with a completely blank look on my face. It’s kind of embarrassing because I don’t know if everyone else really believes the whole baby brain argument, so I try to cover with statements like, “Well, never mind, that wouldn’t necessarily work” or “You know what? I will wait to see if it makes more sense to bring up after you finish…” In reality, I am thinking, “Oh crap. What the hell was my great idea?!?!?!”

The majority of the people I work with are men. Thankfully, most of them have wives who have probably used the baby-brain argument on them, or the “it’s just the hormones making me cry” excuse. I can’t believe how many times I have found myself running to the bathroom to cry for no reason, embarrassed and hoping no one sees me.

I know they sympathize and are understanding, but in an office environment, I just hate having to use the pregnancy as an excuse. But you say, “It isn’t an excuse! It is real!!” I know this, but it doesn’t feel any better when you are around a conference room in a meeting, surrounded by six men, blubbering and crying for no reason, apologizing again for letting your hormones get the best of you. Somehow, you just feel stupid. And like a silly little girl.

Another struggle I find myself constantly having is the struggle to not be such a [insert word for very mean, moody, cranky woman here] to the guys at work. It’s like I literally cannot help it some days! Usually, they are perfectly great and accommodating and the issue is, again, my hormones, or lack of sleep, or leaky boobs, or cramps, or the extra 10 pounds on my butt. Unfortunately, this comes out directed at them since the majority of my time is spent with them. Poor guys. They deserve a few beers after I have Marin. They should treat themselves and bring some to the delivery room when she arrives so I can have some, too. That’ll be lovely.

A lot of my thoughts are around maternity leave since I am about 2 months away from taking my second leave from work. I am a pretty restless person, so the “standard” maternity leave doesn’t go so well with me. I love my maternity leave time and the time with the kiddoes, but I am not one that says, “DO NOT call me for 12 weeks. I will see you when I am back from my leave.” I can and want to be available if anyone from the office needs me. It helps me stay sane. Otherwise, I think of all the things that could be happening and if I am just in the know, I relax more at home.

Where my thoughts take me about maternity seems to be around what works best for other moms in other companies, and what will work best for me long term. I can do 6-8 weeks just fine, but it’s the time after the first few months that it gets really hard. Breast-feeding / pumping at the office, getting home to cook dinner, spending quality time with each kid, having a semi-clean house, getting to the post office. All of these day-to-day things become very hard, almost impossible for a working mom.

And BECAUSE I am so restless, we don’t usually take the long, 1-2 week vacations several times a year. I am more of a couple days here and there type of person. This works for me so much better because I can’t tell my heart and mind exactly when I will miss my child the most. This time doesn’t wait for the couple of weeks throughout the year I would choose to take off. There are days where I just want so badly to leave the office and BE with Miles. I don’t care what we do…I just want to have him near me.

It gets tough when you feel you have to squash this desire and address that need at the end of the day. A couple of months ago, it was so bad that I found myself sad every single afternoon for a couple of weeks straight (some say it’s the hormones from being pregnant…). All I could think about was all the new things Miles was learning at school that I wasn’t a part of. I was missing all these great things about watching my son grow up. The emotions were so deep that I would sit in my office and cry sometimes, praying that Miles knew I loved him and that he wasn’t missing me as much as I missed him.

I’m sure this isn’t going to change once I have Marin and Miles to miss every day, but I get a lot of comfort around the fact that I realize that I have some freedom around how I address this dilemma. I have flexibility that I am not sure everyone else has in their job. Actually, I don’t know that it is flexibility so much as it is trust. My company trusts me, and because of this, I give a lot back to continue earning their trust. This is probably why I can leave when I want, come when I want, and take a day off if I miss him during the middle of the week. I find that this is the “balance” I need to be a good mom and to be good in the office.

I talk to moms all the time who feel like they are drowning because they don’t have this. It’s funny because this seems like it is an issue that is ALWAYS an issue, yet no one has a solution to the problem. What would our companies look like if there was more trust and flexibility for working moms? What would our companies look like if working moms pushed harder, worked smarter, and showed more commitment in order to have the trust and flexibility they need to make it work? One without the other won’t work.


  1. Do you have any ideas as to how to build that trust and flexibility in the workplace? I know that there is no clear solution, but you seem to make it work and I’m sure you have some ideas as to how to at least start making that progress. Do tell:-)

  2. I do have some ideas, but I can’t say they will work for everyone. They certainly work for me:

    1) Have open and honest conversations with people at work, including key peers and your supervisor, about what your priorities are, your passions, and the things that are important to you. Having these open conversations on a regular basis will help others to engage with you in order to help you get what you need. If they are not connected to these things, how can they care about it?

    2) Start thinking of ways that you can offer your company more. I feel that many people feel entitled to benefits that uniquely meet their needs, special concerns, new policies, accommodations, etc. Maybe people ARE deserving/entitled to this, but I feel the better way to approach this topic is to ask, “What can I GIVE my company so they will WANT to give me more in return?” Start looking at it from a mutually beneficial viewpoint. Get creative with this. Do not wait for permission to change things here and there. Approach the right people in your company and begin these conversations. Who knows whether or not you can have a flex schedule unless you address the issue?

    3) Stop trying to achieve balance. I just don’t think this is realistic if you want to have a great career AND be a great mom. Once you have children, it is tough not to try to organize your life and your time more rigidly. It feels this is the only way to get everything in. Instead of being rigid on when and how you will do things at work and how, you will have to sway back and forth a lot. If you refuse to let the office call you after 5pm, won’t take work calls on the weekends, won’t travel, and are crazy about getting in and out of the office at EXACTLY the same time every day because you refuse to cut into your home time, you cannot expect for your company to make special accommodations for you when you need them. I believe that if you treat your company as a commodity, you will get that in return. Be willing to work late and extra hard when you need to and show your commitment. This will build trust in you from your company.

    These are just 3 things that come to mind. I would love to hear thoughts from other people.

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