In those exhausting last weeks of pregnancy, many pregnant women carefully tuck a birth plan in their hospital bag, or jot down a few notes on what they do and don’t want during labour and birth. And those who don’t actually write one will often think about what they’d like to happen anyway.
But perhaps there’s another plan you should be writing after seeing that second line on a pregnancy test – a career plan.
Like a birth plan, a career plan can be a useful tool for gathering the right information, thinking through potential issues, and making decisions about your preferences. It can be prepared in a similar way to a birth plan, by simply recording your preferences under relevant headings.
So make a career plan and keep it handy; here are five reasons why it might be even more useful than a birth plan.
It will empower you
Leave, pay, finances and access to flexible work options: a career plan will force you to take a good look at all these things now. You can use all this to help you decide how you want your career to progress (or not) over the next few years.
Emma Walsh, human resources professional and director of mums@work, says there are a few things mums-to-be should consider before going on maternity leave.
“Far too many women think, ‘I’m going on leave on this date, I’ll wait until my manager tells me what to do with my job’,” she says. “Too many women take a backseat in the process.”
Emma suggests that women initiate discussions with their manager after asking themselves a few vital questions, such as, “How would I like to see this transition happen? What is my recommendation for how my job can be done when I’m not here? How would I like to keep in touch when I’m away? What other roles within the organisation are available if the role I’m currently in isn’t suitable [post-baby]? How could my role be redefined as part-time?”
It’s a tool for transformation
When preparing a career plan, you may find yourself questioning whether you really want to return to your current job at all. Perhaps you haven’t been enjoying the role, or the organisation you’re working for isn’t particularly family-friendly.
Emma points out that these feelings are likely to be compounded once a baby arrives. “I don’t think there are many mothers who want to leave their children in the care of someone else, who they pay money to, to go along to a job they loathe – not if they don’t have to,” she says.
Emma sees parental leave as an ideal opportunity for women to re-evaluate what’s important to them, and to re-skill or retrain. She says it’s possible to successfully redefine your career during parental leave, and to slot straight into a more suitable position when you return to the workforce.
You’ll have it long after your baby’s birth
The amount of time you spend thinking about childbirth will, luckily, be completely disproportionate to the amount of time you actually spend in the delivery suite. The day of your child’s birth will be an action-packed day, no doubt. But it will be the photos and memories you’ll pull out long after that day, not your birth plan.
Your career, on the other hand, is a work in progress, and you’re likely to have several decades of your working life left to navigate after the birth. The most recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics tells us that women give birth at the average age of 30, while the average age of intended retirement for women is 62 years. So it’s a good idea to think about where you want to be, career-wise, in the next five, 10 and 20 years when preparing your plan.
It’s easily updated
When you’re rethinking your stance on epidurals during a long labour, or you’re being wheeled to theatre for an emergency c-section, there’s no time to update your birth plan (though the thought of ripping it up may cross your mind!). When it comes to your career, however, you’ll have the time to update and modify your plan as your needs and priorities change – or even if you just have a change of heart once your baby arrives.
Plan on fewer regrets
When asked about regrets, mothers with adult children commonly cite either spending too much time at work when their children were young, or neglecting their career in favour of caring for their children. As distant as it may seem when you’re first preparing your plan, your baby won’t always be the tiny, dependent creature that first arrives in your world; it’s worth thinking about how you want to balance your future work and home life even now, when they’re still this small.
If you’ve prepared a career plan, you’ve at least put some careful thought and planning into these tricky issues of balance, rather than taking a more ad hoc approach as the years pass. And perhaps, as thoughts of birth plans are replaced with the dilemmas of teething, toileting, schooling and more, a career plan will mean that you can look back on it all with fewer regrets.
For more discussion about being a working parent, check out the Essential Baby forum
mums@work | 11.07.13