"I worked for an employer who was unwilling to discuss alternative schedules or working from home as a possibility . . . I actually ended up leaving this employer because their policies were so unfriendly towards new moms."
What was your primary motivation for returning to work or changing your work situation after starting a family?
I always saw myself returning to work but I will say I had a hard time envisioning myself working in the same way I had before kids - same schedule in particular. I enjoy working - I have always been involved in projects I care passionately about and I receive a lot of satisfaction from work.
Tell us about your planning for your new child - timed around your career? Not at all? Share the skinny!
To be honest we were delusional! My age and our desire for multiple kids were the primary factors we considered. I was working full time, teaching as an adjunct, and enrolled in a PhD program when I got pregnant with the idea that it would all "figure itself out!" I don't think I understood - because you really can't! - how fundamentally having a baby would realign our lives.
What was your biggest challenge to going back to work after starting a family?
Our biggest concern was childcare and scheduling. The daycare/nanny/alternate arrangement questions were overwhelming and we waited longer than we should have to figure out a plan with our first child. I had six months maternity leave, so we thought we had time to figure it out once our baby was born. We should have started the process before I gave birth. I also worked for an employer who was unwilling to discuss alternative schedules or working from home as a possibility as I transitioned back to work. I actually ended up leaving this employer because their policies were so unfriendly towards new moms.
How much leave did you take, and how comfortable were you taking it? If you are a single parent, how did you navigate your leave?
I had six months maternity leave and my husband had a month. After realizing that my employer wouldn't be flexible with scheduling upon my return I began to seek alternate employment and eventually left my first employer rather than return.
Have you, or a partner, paid it forward as a parent in the workplace? Tell us a bit more.
As the ED of a nonprofit now, I have tried hard to create a workplace that embraces the needs of working parents - it's a little easier in our work than most, but I think it's important to have a conversation with staff early on about what their scheduling needs are, how you can support them in their work goals, and be flexible with scheduling.
How did you work with your doctor, adoption agency, or Human Resources department to plan for your family leave and return?
With my first I truly didn't. I was unsure of the policies, felt scared to ask questions, and felt overly grateful for the time I had off. All those combined to make me a less than assertive advocate for myself.
If you returned to work, when did your confidence around work kick in? How long did the adjustment take (or are you still adjusting?) When did the “new normal” set in for you?"
It took four or five months (I was also starting a new job!) to feel confident in what I was doing and to feel a little like my old work self.
What, if any, advice would you give to employers to ease strain around family leave and returning to the workplace?
Think about what the goal is and what it should be for your employees - if the goal is high quality work from people who feel connected and engaged, does it matter when the work happens? Think about how long you want to keep an employee on board.
What factors contributed to your chosen feeding method for your baby?
Peer pressure! I felt a lot of pressure to breastfeed from everything I'd ready to everyone I talked to. I was "lucky" in that after two months of breastfeeding (and the initial issues that go with it) it became pretty easy. Our son took a bottle easily and my supply was more than enough to keep up with his demand.
FOR MOMS: If you breastfed, did you need to pump? If so, how easy was it for you to pump?
I did - I pumped three times a day when I was working.
FOR MOMS: Was there a place for you to pump that met your needs and was conducive to your success? FOR DADS: What, if any, adjustments did you (or your workplace) make to your schedule after having a baby?
It was easy enough, but still no fun! Pumping with your office door closed and hoping people read the sign before coming in is a less than fun experience!
What I wish I had known:
I wish I had known that I had more options when I had my first baby and that I could ask for more from my employer.
One mistake I learned the hard way:
Don't wait to think through/talk through/plan through childcare - both your expectations and the realities out there.
Best piece of advice for other parents starting a family and deciding on how to balance family life and work?
Don't try to balance it - let some things go. I picture my life often as juggling a lot of different balls in the air - kiddos, marriage, friendships, work, volunteering - and they can't all be in the air at once. You have to learn which ones you can let drop that won't break. Which ones you can pick up later and dust off. And know that some will break.
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