My first post for our new blog series Translators on Parenting is about parental leave, deadlines, and baby brain (pregnancy or early motherhood can harm a woman’s memory and ability to think). While I certainly don’t recommend this for expecting parents, I didn’t take any maternity leave before or after my baby was born. I’d heard of other translator mummies who did the same and, for whatever reason, I wanted to follow my own mum’s example. She went back to work (with me in a bassinet) on leaving the hospital three days after giving birth. My parents owned a shoe store and the very busy holiday season had just started, which meant no time to rest for the new parents.
Of course, I didn’t have an ‘official’ plan to not take maternity leave. I thought I’d play it by ear through my pregnancy and stop whenever I felt like it or if my doctor told me to do so. I notified our biggest client about my estimated due date and told them I’d need a few weeks off after giving birth. All our other clients and most of our colleagues had no clue we were expecting, because it felt too personal to share, and I didn’t want to jinx it (a miscarriage the previous year made me cautiously optimistic, instead of over-the-moon-I’m-going-tell-everybody happy).
Things were smooth sailing health-wise during my pregnancy and I continued my activities as usual (work, volunteering, baby preparations and prenatal classes) and then, baby decided to arrive three weeks early! So the only thing I had time to do on labour day was to tell our biggest client the great news and ask for a few days off, with the option to extend. All went well and I was back to work four days later.
A few hours after labour, I was sitting on the hospital bed, trying to realise what had just happened and staring at my newborn bundle of joy in his crib next to the bed. My hubby had gone home to fetch the hospital bag that we hadn’t brought because we didn’t think I was giving birth, and I had the brilliant idea of checking my emails (it all happened so suddenly that I hadn’t even set up my out-of-office reply).
After sorting through project emails (confirming ones with nice, long deadlines, declining urgent offers, and simply deleting the first-come-first-serve project emails as usual), I came across a tiny 1-sentence project from a regular client, which I happily confirmed because I stupidly thought it was for two days later (enter baby brain). The next morning, the very polite PM asked for the translation and I panicked when I realised I had misread the deadline, apologising profusely and sending the translation in by email (no CAT tool, no file, back to the Stone Age).
Baby brain is real. Give yourself some time after labour. It’s a huge life event, and if you’re a new mummy, your hormones will be all over the place. Projects, deadlines and translation will be pushed to the farthest corners of your brain. Don’t expect too much of yourself. Just set an out-of-office reply and enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime moments.
Scheduling and Deadlines
A couple of weeks into my parenting adventure, I was working on a juicy editing project for a financial (and, thankfully, very high-quality) translation. Baby was sleeping in his bassinet next to my desk and hubby heads to the Danforth to pick up dinner from Greektown in Toronto. Thirty minutes later and only thirty minutes to go until my deadline, baby wakes up (right on time according to his nap-feed-change schedule every three hours) and wants to be fed! I panic, trying to work while cradling the baby (doesn’t work), trying to explain to the 2-week old baby that if he could please wait for 10 minutes so mummy can finish and deliver her project (doesn’t work), called my husband (I’m dying here, the baby is hungry and I have a deadline!), and then a light bulb went on in my head! Why don’t I ask for a tiny extension? One hour would be more than enough, and gosh you’d think I would know better after 16 years of working as a translator! So, that’s what I did. The PM was very accommodating, baby was fed and back to sleep, and I delivered my project.
- Always overestimate how much time you’ll need for a translation project during pregnancy (because you’ll probably need a nap in the middle of the day, or while typing, eating, or pretty much doing anything), during and after labour (because labour! And hormones means it takes a while to realise what just happened), in the first few months after labour (no sleep, no brain, there’s nothing but the baby 24/7), and at least until baby goes to daycare or you otherwise secure a few hours of concentrated work during the day. At the very least, double the time it took you pre-pregnancy to complete a project.
- Be professional about your work, and especially deadlines, at all times, so when the time (baby) comes and you certainly need an extension (probably a few times), the client/PM will be more than happy give you one (just remember to ask for an extension before the deadline. The disappearing act only guarantees that your clients will also disappear shortly after).
- Maternity or paternity leave, if you can take it, is always a great idea! It helps you ease into your new role as a parent without the stress of work and deadlines. Multi-tasking (work and babies, in this case) doesn’t work! Protect your sanity, as well as the quality of your parenting and translation work. Better to do one thing well at a time, than several poorly all at once.
How has your experience been with parental leave, deadlines, and baby brain, dear readers?
Can you share some funny stories or useful lessons you’ve learned?
Image source: Pixabay