"Your 'perfect' view of what balance looks like might change 100xs. Don't be afraid to let your partner, employer, and others know every time it changes. There's no way to foresee what you'll want until you're in that situation."
What was your primary motivation for returning to work or changing your work situation after starting a family?
I generally assumed I would NOT go back to work after starting a family. I didn't realize how much satisfaction and happiness I'd get from my job, nor how much the world would change to allow for much more flexible working arrangements.
Tell us about your planning for your new child - timed around your career? Not at all? Share the skinny!
I planned carefully for my first child. Then my 2nd was a solid 3 1/2 years behind, so that I saved up scores of maternity leave. #3 came less than 18 months after #2, but by then I was established enough in my career and company that we were all willing to have a lot more flexibility on what things would look like once that baby arrived.
What was your biggest challenge to going back to work after starting a family?
Breastfeeding. I worked almost exclusively at home for the first year with my first child.
Did you have a back-to-work mentor? How did he/she/they help?
I didn't have anyone specifically of that title. I haven't even heard of this!
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 took 16 weeks off with my first and 12 weeks with the next 2.
Have you, or a partner, paid it forward as a parent in the workplace? Tell us a bit more.
Yes, of course. Most of the contractors I hire are moms who regret leaving the workforce. I've hired some on full-time. I've always given the flexibility to work hours that are convenient to them. I've always covered for someone who had to take a kid to an appointment. I've never asked someone to work a typical schedule and have to pay for daycare without paying that person a wage that would allow them to afford a high caliber of childcare.
How did you work with your doctor, adoption agency, or Human Resources department to plan for your family leave and return?
I didn't--I just sort of stopped working! My doctor signed the papers my HR department left. I encouraged my boss and employees to contact me with questions.
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?"
I am embarrassed to say I never had that moment others describe in which I dropped a child off and cried or felt extreme guilt or anything. I was usually pretty glad to be back at work after leave. I did have my nanny during my 3rd maternity leave, since I didn't want to lose her, so I did miss the flexibility of being able to take long runs in the morning, come home and have coffee, and have help around the house, but no deadlines or big stressors. But I got bored.
What, if any, advice would you give to employers to ease strain around family leave and returning to the workplace?
Know your rights. Ask your supervisor for what you need, and try to speak rationally, calmly, and without assuming the answer will be "no." If your supervisor can't or won't give you what you need, don't be afraid to take it up the ladder. Know that you're doing a good job. Trust yourself to make the right decisions for your family.
What factors contributed to your chosen feeding method for your baby?
I didn't think about it too much. It seems like everyone chooses breastfeeding now, it was natural and free, and my mom had breast cancer at a young age (she did not breastfeed) and her doctor and mine said it would reduce my risk.
FOR MOMS: If you breastfed, did you need to pump? If so, how easy was it for you to pump?
Occasionally with the first, though she never once took a bottle. With the 2nd and 3rd I traveled before their first birthdays, sometimes for business and sometimes for pleasure, so I did have to pump.
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?
With my first child, I was sharing an office, so I would have to go to another location to pump. I almost always worked at home, or didn't come in more than a few hours at a time. With my next 2 I had a nice big private office with a door that locked, so it wasn't too difficult.
A good day is when:
I have "wins" at work and at home.
What I wish I had known:
Sometimes childcare is monotonous. It's not all playing with the kids. Sometimes work is terrible and stressful. Both come with great jobs. Both working and having a family are two of my great pleasures in life, even if they are both frustrating sometimes. I can't imagine one without the other now.
One mistake I learned the hard way:
It's okay to get help!
Best piece of advice for other parents starting a family and deciding on how to balance family life and work?
Your "perfect" view of what balance looks like might change 100xs. Don't be afraid to let your partner, employer, and others know every time it changes. There's no way to foresee what you'll want until you're in that situation.
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