Can Becoming a Parent Affect My Job?
Becoming a parent changes most things in your life, and your job is no exception. Having a child can impact your salary, time spent at work, how leadership views your commitment to the job, and more.
If you’re thinking about becoming a parent, you should be aware of how bringing a new child into your life may impact your job. Knowing what to expect can help you plan ahead and make the transition as easy as possible for you and your family.
It Starts with Pregnancy
First-time pregnancies can be unpredictable. You may feel fine up until the day you give birth, or you may experience morning sickness, headaches, fatigue, and other common symptoms that can reduce your productivity or cause you to make mistakes. You may need to take more sick days than usual if you’re feeling particularly unwell on certain days.
If you find that you’re struggling at work, then it’s best to tell your supervisor how your pregnancy is impacting you. You may need to request alternate duties or permission to work from home so you can continue to perform at your best while pregnant.
It’s Essential to Understand FMLA
The Family and Medical Leave Acy (FMLA) is a federal law that gives all workers the right to take up to 12 weeks of time off of work without risk of losing their job. Pregnancy and becoming a parent through birth, adoption, or fostering are among the qualifying events. Both men and women are entitled to this benefit.
However, it’s important to emphasize that FMLA guarantees job security, but it’s unpaid leave. For most families, it’s difficult for both spouses to go without salary for 3 months.
Some states offer workers a Paid Family Leave program, which ensures job protection, and a portion of their salary while taking time off for a qualifying event.
The states that currently offer Paid Family Leave include:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
Each state has its own rules about what benefits are provided and how their program works with FMLA.
Be sure to speak with your employer’s human resources department or an attorney who specializes in family law to ensure you maximize the benefits you’re entitled to.
The Motherhood Penalty is Real
Income is certainly impacted when becoming a parent, but in different ways depending on if you become a mother or a father.
The so-called “Motherhood Penalty” is a real phenomenon in which working women see their earning potential decrease as soon as they become mothers. The Pew Research Center reveals that women make about 84 cents for every dollar earned by men. Research conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy shows an even wider wage gap.
Part of the explanation for the Motherhood Penalty is that women are still much more likely than men to step away from the workforce, reduce work hours, or not seek career advancement because of their caregiving responsibilities. In the same research referenced above, the Institute for Women’s Policy reports that 43% of women workers went at least 12 months without a salary, compared to approximately 21% of men.
But it’s not just time taken away from work that can impact a new mother’s wages. Even if women continue to work full-time after becoming mothers, they may be subject to an implicit bias from supervisors.
The assumption is that mothers aren’t seeking career growth that could lead to increased earnings because they’re more focused on home life than the workplace.
If you see that happening to you, then bring it up with your supervisor or human resources. Make it clear that you’re just as committed to your career and your employer as you’ve always been.
The Fatherhood Bonus is Less Known, But Just as Real
The so-called “Fatherhood Bonus” is essentially the opposite of the Motherhood Penalty. Men may see an increase in their salary after becoming fathers.
Many new fathers often feel more pressure to provide for their young families, either to pay for childcare or to make up for their wives’ lost salary if they decided to leave the workforce. Therefore, new fathers are more incentivized to go for promotions, work longer hours, and ask for raises.
Beyond that, there’s an implicit bias that also works in men’s favor. It’s generally assumed by employers that fathers are more committed and loyal workers compared to mothers and childless men. Therefore, it’s fathers who are more likely to get opportunities to advance in their careers and increase their earning potential.
Find a Family-Friendly Employer
Becoming a parent can also affect your job depending on who your employer is. In other words, do you have a family-friendly employer?
The majority of employers understand the rights of pregnant women and parents. Beyond that, they know that being a family-friendly employer will help them attract and retain talent.
See what benefits exist for parents at your place of employment. These may include lactation rooms, subsidies for child-care, college-savings assistance, flexible remote-work options, and health benefits for the whole family.
A family-friendly employer will also have a culture of “parenting loudly.” This is a relatively new concept, but just as important as any other benefit.
A culture of parenting loudly means that no one in the office is hiding the fact that they’re parents. It’s understood if someone needs to leave early to get to a kid’s soccer game or take their child to the dentist.
No one is judged for needing to work from home or take a day off to care for a child who’s ill. Also, you see parents and especially mothers in positions of leadership throughout the organization.
If you don’t think you’re working for a parent-friendly organization, then you may want to look for openings in one of these companies.
Figure Out What Becoming a Parent Means to You
Ultimately, becoming a parent means your relationship to your job will change. Your job may become much less important to you. You may decide you want to leave work entirely to become a full-time caregiver.
On the other hand, you may want to continue your career, knowing that fulfilling your career goals will make you a happier person and better parent.
As with most things in life, communication is key. Discuss your SMART goals and expectations with your partner about work and home life before you have children. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- Will we both remain working full-time? Does one of us want to be a full-time caregiver?
- How will household chores be divided? Who will cook dinner during the week?
- Which parent will handle nighttime feedings?
- How will we plan parental leave? In some cases, it’s best if the working parent waits to take leave until the at-home parent is ready to go back to work to help ease the transition.
- If daycare is needed, who will drop the child off in the morning and pick them up after work?
- Who is the primary point of contact should the child become sick during the day?
- What are our career goals and how might becoming a parent impact these goals?
These are just a few examples to get you started. Any one of these questions will lead you to deeper discussions that will reveal goals and expectations, and enable you to come to compromises more easily with your partner.
For Working Parents, Knowledge is Power
There’s no denying that becoming a parent will affect your job. How much your career will be impacted will be determined by several factors including your career goals, your partner’s goals and expectations, and the type of employer you work for.
The more knowledge you gain, the more power you’ll have to make smart decisions that will be best for you and your new family.
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Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.