It’s Working: Jennifer Senior

6 questions about work/life balance for the author of parenting must-read “All Joy and No Fun.”

Even as we make the momentous decision to have kids (of course, this decision and all that follows is far easier for some than for others), we can still find ourselves in the momentary (or even longer) panic of “What have I done?” and “I’m the one responsible for this human being?” Jennifer Senior, a writer for New York Magazine and author of the New York Times bestseller, “All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood” tackles this very issue: why do we value our children so much while at the same time exhausting ourselves in managing their care and character development?

One of the many things we admire about Senior is that she isn’t afraid to ask for help, and she encourages other moms to do the same. “Don’t ever be ashamed to ask for help,” she says. “Don’t think you can do everything once the baby is born. If the conventional wisdom is not working for you, don’t drive yourself crazy trying to hew to it.” Senior knows this from personal experience, as she explained to Forty Weeks as part of the It’s Working Project. She found herself isolated in the New York suburbs when her son Rusty (now 7) was born in January, a time when it was hard to leave the house and connect with others.

Below, she shares with us a little more insight into her transition back to work, how she found an incredible nanny, why doing it all will not work for every mom, and why we just may need to adjust our expectations.

1. What is one piece of advice you wish you could offer your former expectant self?
Don’t ever be ashamed to ask for help. Don’t think you can do everything once the baby is born. Ask for assistance. If the conventional wisdom is not working for you, don’t drive yourself crazy trying to hew to it. If you can’t breastfeed, don’t be afraid of bottles. If your kid is only napping once a day, don’t beat yourself up for it. Make sure your baby and your body provide the cues and not the books (or the websites, or especially opinionated friends).

2. How did you share the news of your pregnancy with your employer? How far along in your pregnancy were you when you had the conversation?
I just told them at week 11. I walked in.

3. How long did you take for maternity leave before heading back to work? How close was your back-to-work plan with the reality upon your return?
I took six months. I planned to take six months, I took six months, I came back at six months. New York Magazine had a generous policy, paid in full for three months, partially for another month and a half. It was incredibly generous, I’ve been there forever.

4. Who was your biggest source of support in returning to work?
We had an unbelievably fabulous nanny. I worked long hours. So did my husband. We came home at 6:30, so we had to have a nanny. Daycare in New York is impossible to get into. My folks were great too, fabulous for pinch-hitting and weekend relief.

5. Your biggest pregnancy indulgence?
A glass of wine every three weeks.

6. Fill in the blanks: “As a working parent…”
I never expected that summoning the mojo for a second shift would be so hard and getting back into a work groove would be so much easier!

Learn more about the “It’s Working Project” and read more stories of parents in the workforce.

Rebecca Gale

Rebecca Gale

Rebecca Gale is an award-winning journalist and author of Hill Navigator, Roll Call’s workplace advice column. She also serves as Roll Call’s opinion editor. She has covered wide-ranging issues from landing a job on Capitol Hill, student loan reimbursements, maternity and paternity leave, and childcare for working parents. She also serves as a contributing editor to the It’s Working Project.

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