Book Review: Here’s the Plan. Your Practical, Tactical Guide to Advancing Your Career During Pregnancy and Parenting. By Allyson Downey

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Here’s the Plan.  Your Practical, Tactical Guide to Advancing Your Career During Pregnancy and Parenting by Allyson Downey is for women who want to continue to work after they have a baby or want to start working during their pregnancy or shortly after. Included in the book are tips to let your employer know you are pregnant, how to handle discrimination if it happens, how to deal with paternity leave, and how to get back into your career without losing too much speed. Allyson Downey states in the introduction how her book is a a “choose your own adventure book.” You can pick and choose which chapters apply to you and which ones don’t. There is no need to read this book cover to cover (although I did) if you can only relate to some of the advice. With that being said, I learned a lot from Allyson Downey’s debut book. Maybe I have been living under a rock, but I had no idea what struggles pregnant women faced in the workforce. Of course I assumed it was difficult to get a new job while you are pregnant, which is why I didn’t look for one when we returned from Korea. And of course I knew that women (and men) do not get nearly enough paternity leave. What I didn’t know was how many working women struggle with the decision to tell their bosses and colleagues that they are pregnant in fear that, in the long run, they will lose their jobs.

I was shocked to see how much you may need to think about (depending on the company) when it comes to announcing your pregnancy. Allyson Downey suggests just casually mentioning it and reinforcing the the fact that it will not affect job production, although ultimately it will. I tell people all the time that “mommy brain” is real. Just yesterday I couldn’t think of the word “credit.” Such a simple word, but my brain felt like mush trying to think of it. Allyson Downey states that your brain’s “cognitive capacity” (pg. 201) will return, eventually. She gives plenty advice on how to become more productive and how to remember simple tasks after returning to work. She also gives on advice on how to task out your responsibilities while you are away on paternity leave.

Currently, I do not work. I was interested in this book because I am planning re-entering the workforce in the fall. Allyson Downey encourages the reader to let their future employer know that they do have a child or children when they are looking for a job and to ask about paternity leave policy in the interview. You want to be up front in your interview and not hide the fact that you do have (or want) a family; finding a family friendly company is ideal. Allyson Downey also gives suggestions about pumping at work and protocol for pumping rooms. There are laws that protect pregnant women and mothers, but many of these laws have flaws that I was never aware of before reading, Here’s the Plan.  Your Practical, Tactical Guide to Advancing Your Career During Pregnancy and Parenting.

The “Finding a Caregiver” section in Allyson Downey’s book is very helpful for anyone going back to work or anyone that needs to find a childcare after they have been a stay-at-home mom for any amount of time. Allyson Downey  talks about daycares, nanny’s, and au pairs. There is also quite a bit of information in Allyson’s Downey’s book about postpartum depression and how you need to take care of yourself after you have a baby. This particular section of the book hit home for me. I wish I had read it before I had my little guy. I really liked all of the personal experiences collected from real moms. One that had me tearing up and nodding my head is:

Your brain is a jungle, with tall grass and tangled vines. There’s a path through it, but it’s full of snakes. You’re terrified of that path, but everything else seems impenetrable. Walking down that path is the only choice, even though the snakes keep biting you. In real life, that path is prompting scary thoughts like, ‘I’m never going to feel love for my baby, or What if I drown the baby while giving him his bath?’ Pg. 210

What is interesting is that while I was reading this section, I reflected on the past two years of motherhood and thought, “I don’t feel that way anymore.” It was like looking back into a dream that was starting to fade. It was helpful, scary, and reassuring all at the same time. On the next page, when Allyson Downey talks about making time for yourself, I wanted to scream YES, YES, YES, as I read this line: “I daydream about being able to stay in bed with my coffee and a newspaper. It sounds totally ridiculous to people who don’t have children.” Pg. 212 I thought, “She gets me. She really gets me.”

Since I am not working, as I stated above, I could relate most to the loneliness of staying home, more than other parts of the book, but that doesn’t mean other chapters and advice won’t help me in my near future.  I also want to state that every working mom (or dad) are not going to have the same experiences. It was hard for me to understand how women feel the need to hide their pregnancy for so long, when it is natural and a miracle. My world includes many friends and family members who are teachers who have wonderful support systems at schools and receive great paternity packages.  This profession that was not mentioned in the book. I hope that one day, my child will live in a world where women and men won’t have to choose between family and career. We read so much about how we women can’t have it all, but I beg to differ, and so does Allyson Downey, we can have it all, and we will.

Allyson Downey is the co-founder of Weespring, a website that givens parents, friends, and family, detailed reviews on baby products. I know I had trouble deciding which baby tub to buy, which swing, and which baby monitor to purchase. This website was created to help with those decisions. You can purchase Allyson Downey’s newest book here.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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