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Pregnant? Advice for Professional Moms-to-be

Marissa Mayer: The most public example of trying to 'Have It All'. Graphic: NY Post.

Marissa Mayer: The most public example of trying to ‘Have It All’. Graphic: NY Post.













About four years ago, I became a mother and my professional and social worlds were turned upside-down. I was in the middle of my PhD at Oxford and I had just moved to New Haven to spend a year in Yale’s political science department.

I was excited by the prospect of being a parent, but it was difficult for me to anticipate the ways in which the arrival of my son would change my professional life, my identity, and my relationships. I was well-prepared for some changes, but not for others. My husband and I spent a disproportionate amount of time worrying about the pregnancy and learning about the basics of how to care for a baby, but in hindsight, it turns out that this was the easy part. There were bumps in the road that no one had told us about and that I could not have anticipated, especially as a professional mom.

To give you one example, I struggled with whether or not to write this post. As a female academic, there are enough hidden obstacles in my way without furthering highlighting the tensions that exist between my professional life and my family life. As an academic mom, I thought hard about whether this post would damage my professional credibility. I know that millions of other professional mothers must also struggle with these little dilemmas all the time. Consider: You child is sick and someone needs to be at home- should you take  a vacation day or a personal day? Will your choice signal to colleagues that you are not as serious about my career anymore? If simply changing your surname to that of your husband’s can have a penalizing effect in the workplace, then how do people’s perceptions about us change when we become mothers?

Recently, several close friends and family members have had babies or are about to. A few asked for advice. So I pulled together a list of web resources, with an emphasis on issues that people seemed to be reluctant to talk about when I was the one asking for advice five years ago. This is the reading list that I wish I had had when I found out I was pregnant.

Some of the pieces are directed at career-oriented moms, others are aimed at expectant mothers. For many of them, it’s actually more helpful for both parents to read them and discuss them together. For example, they can help partners to understand the social pressure that mothers might feel, as with breastfeeding. Some of the pieces are on the long side, but most of them are an easy read.

Work-Life Gender Split

1. When Mom and Dad Share It All. By Lisa Belkin. New York Times. June 15, 2008.

2. Why Women Still Can’t Have It All. By Anne-Marie Slaughter. The Atlantic Magazine. July/August 2012.

3. Why I Put My Wife’s Career First. By Andrew Moravscik. The Atlantic Magazine. October 2015. (Moravscik is Slaughter’s husband)

4. Women’s success tied to household help. By Edward Schumacher-Matos. Washington Post. January 20, 2011.

5. In Sweden, Men Can Have It All. By Katrin Bennhold. New York Times. June 9 2010.

6. Some Theories on Why Men Don’t Do As Many Household Tasks. By Alexandra Bradner. The Atlantic. March 11, 2013.

Marriage (Post-baby)

1. How a new baby tests a marriage. By Laura Roe Stevens. Work it, mom!

2. Is there love after baby? By Carolyn Pape Cowan and Philip A. Cowan. Psychology Today. 1 July 1992.

3. So Cute, So Hard on a Marriage. By Andrea Petersen. Wall Street Journal. April 28, 2011.

Marriage (General)

1. The Happy Marriage Is the ‘Me’ Marriage. By Tara Parker-Pope. New York Times. Dec 31, 2010.

2. Seeking to Pre-empt Marital Strife. By Tara Parker-Pope. New York Times. June 28, 2010.


1. The True Cost of Breast-feeding — This Milk Isn’t Free. By KJ Dell’Antonia. New York Times. April 3, 2012.
2. The Case Against Breast-Feeding. By Hanna Rosin. The Atlantic Magazine. April 2009.  (And many, many responses to this….)


1. Spoiled rotten. By Elizabeth Kolbert. The New Yorker. July 2, 2012.
2. How Not to Talk to Your Kids. By Po Bronson. August 3, 2007. (Followed up by Nurture Shock which is also worth reading.)

3. Bringing up Bébé. By Pamela Druckerman. Penguin. 2012. (Summaries here and here, but the book is richer and funnier.)

Gender equality in kids

1. Parents keep child’s gender a secret. By Jayme Poisson. The Record. May 22, 2011.

2. Swedish School’s Big Lesson Begins With Dropping Personal Pronouns. By John Tagliabue. November 13, 2012.

Food as reward

1. What Rewarding Kids with Food Looks Like 20 Years Later. By Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen. May 27, 2011.

This page was created to celebrate International Women’s Day in 2013. It’s dedicated to one-month old Heidi Rose Morita, who will one day become part of the next generation of women to transform the world.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Anna permalink
    April 15, 2013 6:13 pm

    Thank you for putting this together, Christine!

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