The Pregnancy Problem

This post is the second of three in a "mini series" about Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In for my Consumer Behavior class. To learn more about why I chose this topic, read my post "Why Sheryl Sandberg Is My Homegirl". Since I am being graded on this, I will be including citations from Lean In as well as referencing consumer behavior concepts from my textbook.

Read the first post in the series: "You Say Bossy, I Say HBIC".


You were born because your mother took 9 months out of her life to grow fat, throw up every morning, and become an emotional train wreck. Remember that.

Most people seem to look at pregnancy as a type of professional death sentence. Which is ironic, because pregnancy gives way to a new life. It is this ridiculous societal attitude that tells girls to start worrying about the family that they can't even conceptualize yet (Babin 124).


You were born because your mother took 9 months out of her life to grow fat, throw up every morning, and become an emotional train wreck.


At 19 years old, I had my first internship with Procter & Gamble. To this day, I still remember a conversation I had with a woman in senior management who had just returned from maternity leave. I asked her, "What sort of maternity leave does P&G offer?" and "Do you feel that P&G allows you a good balance between work and family?".

"By the time they are in college, women are already thinking about the trade-offs they will make between professional and personal goals. When asked to choose between marriage and career, female college students are twice as likely to choose marriage as their male classmates."
— Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

At 19 years old, I was worried about some hypothetical child that I did not even want to have for another ten years. Why? Because society told me that I should worry. As a child myself, I was worried about setting up my future so that one day a child could fit in. I was wrong to do so. No woman should ever feel that the decisions she is making at this moment in her life will negatively affect her family or her children down the road.


The best time for a soon-to-be mother to be given a promotion is right before she is set to give birth.


Sheryl Sandberg addresses this exact topic in her book Lean In within the chapter entitled "Don't Leave Before You Leave". What Sheryl is saying is that, until you actually have a baby on the way, do not make space in your life for a nonexistent child. Even more, she says that once you are actually pregnant, do not begin leaning back and making an irrational amount of space for this child either (Sandberg).

"Women rarely make one big decision to leave the workforce. Instead, they make a lot of small decision along the way, making accommodations and sacrifices they believe will be required to have a family."
— 
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

This is how women leave before before they actually leave.

So what can we do to change it?

Change is a matter of altering society's current attitudes towards pregnancy and ensuring that a woman's self-concept is not totally shattered by the time she is ready to return to the workforce (Babin 124, 128).

Let's take Licia Ronzulli as an example. I'll give you one guess at figuring out which one Licia is in the picture below.

That's right. She's the one with the baby in her lap. Licia, a Member of European Parliament (MEP) has become famous for not giving a damn about what anyone thinks and bringing her baby along to parliament. She didn't tell herself that, just because she has a daughter she could no longer be a MEP. She did not lean back, but instead leaned in even further.

"Women who take time out of the workforce pay a big career penalty. Only 74 percent of professional women will rejoin the workforce in any capacity, and only 40 percent return to full-time jobs."
— Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Just because your co-worker is pregnant doesn't mean she has become mentally incapacitated. Figure out the logistics to accommodate, not because it is your legal obligation, but because now more than ever that woman needs to know you believe in her capabilities. If her professional self-concept hits an all-time low, and she perceives herself as being unfit to return to the workforce, chances are she won't be (Babin 128). Do you really want to be responsible for that?

Sheryl discusses that the best time for a soon-to-be mother to be given a promotion is right before she is set to give birth (Sandberg).

This sounds backwards right?

Actually, it makes perfect sense. A soon-to-be mother who has been in the same role for a couple of years is likely to be bored with her position. She is less likely to return to the workforce compared to someone who has been given a new set of responsibilities and has something to look forward to. She wants to succeed in this new role and can't do so without returning back to work.


I am going to keep my foot on the gas pedal and I can assure you that I will definitely be breaking the speed limit.


As strong as my support system is, there are those who still believe that I need to start my search for a "suitable match" and ensure I end up with a "family friendly" job. Because apparently my body is a ticking clock and if I don't act soon it will be too late.

Here's the thing. I want a family and maybe one day I'll want kids. But right now in this moment? I do not want to be tied down by a husband nor by kids. So for that reason, any decision I am making in the here and now will be based off of my unattached status. Once I get married and once I get pregnant, I'll start worrying about that chapter of my life. Until then, I'm going to keep my foot on the gas pedal and I can assure you that I will definitely be breaking the speed limit.