"It's incredibly important to me that I normalize taking maternity and paternity leave from my position as a leader & that I advocate."

What was your primary motivation for returning to work or changing your work situation after starting a family?

Yes, due to finances. I'm the primary breadwinner for our family and don't see that changing.

Tell us about your planning for your new child - timed around your career? Not at all? Share the skinny!  

Completely timed around my career--as a teacher, trying to time pregnancy in the spring in order to have extra time with the baby over the summer.

What was your biggest challenge to going back to work after starting a family?

I was the first person at my job to have a baby & come back. I was worried about lack of understanding what it meant to be a parent, judgement for needing to be out for kid doctor appointments or sickness on top of juggling actual work.

Did you have a back-to-work mentor? How did he/she/they help?

No. I wish I did.

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?

13 weeks. I was really upset about having to go back to work, not because I didn't want to work, but rather because my daughter just seemed so young. My mom ended up taking an unpaid leave of absence from her work for a month so my daughter could start daycare a little older. For my second, my mom retired & moved in with us to help care for her.

Have you, or a partner, paid it forward as a parent in the workplace? Tell us a bit more.

I have definitely been a mentor to many people who had children after me, both those I've been formal manager to, once becoming an administrator, and peers. I was able to donate paid time off to a coworker when my work allowed it for her leave. I constantly would speak up & explain how decisions had ramifications on working parents.

I encourage all my people to take off the time allotted. I have someone right now whose wife is pregnant with their first and have worked with him to determine leave & encouraged him to both consider taking all the time we pay for (now 16 weeks for him) and offered flexible leave solutions if that works better (flex time, work from home, etc). It's incredibly important to me that I normalize taking maternity and paternity leave from my position as a leader & that I advocate.

How did you work with your doctor, adoption agency, or Human Resources department to plan for your family leave and return?

Didn't really--just amount of time. I did convince my managers at the time of my second daughter's birth to extend my leave since I had so many PTO hours donated to me at that point.

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?"

Oh man, such a balancing act. I'll feel really good about it all, now with a 3 and 5 year old, then it easily comes tumbling down with an illness, injury, weird school schedule. Overall though, it was after I stopped breastfeeding and around each kid being two or so to not feel like a mess on the inside.

What, if any, advice would you give to employers to ease strain around family leave and returning to the workplace?

Work to treat people the way you'd want to be treated--value them, respect them, and ensure the environment is both safe for taking leave and for all the wonderful challenge that comes with parenting.

What factors contributed to your chosen feeding method for your baby?

Research at the time that indicated breastfeeding and breast milk was highly important for brain development (among other things).

FOR MOMS: If you breastfed, did you need to pump? If so, how easy was it for you to pump?

Yes.

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 miserable. So miserable. It was five years ago & I still feel upset thinking about it.

A good day is when:

Everything goes as planned!

What I wish I had known:

To forgive myself more easily & to be vocal (in an approachable way) about how hard it was from the beginning. To feel confident & not scared about advocating for myself. I'm an amazing employee. I wish I'd felt confidence in that earlier to ask for & demand what I needed.

One mistake I learned the hard way:

Ha, just one? :) See above.

Best piece of advice for other parents starting a family and deciding on how to balance family life and work?

It's doable. Be honest, direct and positive about what you need. If you're a good employee, don't feel scared to negotiate your needs.

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