Putting the Bed Rest Brakes on Your Career
When my husband and I started talking about having kids, I tossed and turned over the implications it would have on my career. I’m just starting to get into a groove of “up and to the right” in my field and since I’m part of a pretty tight team at my job each one of us depends on the others to bring about success for the company. I worried that I’d be letting them down by not being able to give them 100%.
I worked with a woman with whom I had been very close personally and professionally who, when she got pregnant, suddenly determined that she had to work twice as hard to prove herself. She was almost paranoid in her certainty that she had to focus only on her career and work more hours than anyone else to show that she could still contribute, to the point where she actually undermined her own contributions to the team, ignored her family, and alienated her friends. I worried I would end up like her.
When I did get pregnant, I absolutely struggled with paranoia and feeling like I was letting my team down. I fretted that I would regret my decision to go back to work after the baby was born, and that if I chose the opposite I would hate it. I also started to worry about my career in the big picture, and how having a kid (or two or three) might slow down or change my goals. But these were all in the background of my daily life, and I knew I’d work them out for myself with plenty of guidance from friends and people in my network who had been there themselves. Now that I’m on bed rest, though, these questions are at the forefront of my mind and weigh on me in much more immediate ways.
The physical limitations of bed rest are astounding: I can stand only for daily showers and trips to the bathroom, and can sit up only for meals. I spend approximately 22-23 hours a day lying flat on my side or back. Trust me, I’m not whining – I am actually among the very luckiest of those who’ve been given this prescription. Although I’ve been ordered to stop working entirely I’ve been able to develop a schedule that keeps me from going crazy with boredom but that doesn’t put me up against deadlines that will make me stressed.
Even so, I find limitations to what I can do within that. I can’t contribute to a radio ad, even though the team was willing to recreate the entire setup at my house, because there’s construction outside. I don’t always get much done during the day because, as you can imagine, typing is kind of a bitch in this position. Some days there are a million things I want to move forward and can’t, and some days it feels impossible to motivate. I wonder if it’s not more frustrating to butt up against these things than it would have been to take leave and remove myself entirely. I still wonder how I’ll handle it when I have a newborn.
I’ve joined bed rest chats and forums, and there is talk from many women about how hard it was to slow down, but I haven’t as yet seen anyone talking about how bed rest affected their careers overall. Mostly we talk about how worth it all this is/will be in the end, which I know and is why I keep my butt here instead of going for a walk around the block. But I find myself in a truly unique position (a flat one – HA!) when searching for guidance. It’s not like being laid off – I haven’t lost my job, for one, and even if I had I don’t necessarily have the physical ability to move in another direction. It’s not like coping with a sudden physical disability because mine is absolutely temporary.
I know there are some moms in my circle with bed rest experience, so I’m asking: how did bed rest change your career? Did it slow down your momentum or stop it altogether? Did you try to go back to the way things were when it was over? Were you able to? How did this affect your career goals, if at all? How did you cope with such a dramatic shift in priority? If you work/worked in social media, how did you manage the urge to be “always on” with the lack of energy and need to factor in plenty of offline hours? I’ve noticed that my energy and motivation have changed a lot, and while I expect myself to be able to hustle even though I’m lying down, I really can’t. Did you feel the same? How did you communicate this to others? How did you manage other peoples’ expectations of you and your own expectations of yourself?