It's Working Project

"Once I became a parent I understood every upset parent, angry phone call, or sense of disappointment I had ever heard in the families I served."

What is one piece of advice you wish you could offer your former expectant self?

Be gentle on yourself and on your partner. Neither one of you has a clue what you are doing and we are just trying to figure it out along the way. Communicate and support each other. My husband always says that whatever is challenging today will change tomorrow and we have to just roll with it. Need to send a quick email? Have to go in early or work late? A project due? Talk with your partner and find ways that you can steal time for work, for self, for kids. I also think aiming for balance is hard, so I prefer to say I’m aiming for forward progress. There are more days than not I feel like I am falling short, not giving enough in one part of my life, or making sacrifices to another. Allow yourself to move through these complex emotions and realize that it’s not a problem to be solved. It’s just life, we are all trying to live it one day at a time.

FOR MOMS: If you breastfed, was there a place for you to pump that met your needs and was conducive to your success? If you breastfed, how did you decide to continue? FOR DADS: What, if any, adjustments did you (or your workplace) make to your schedule after having a baby? Was it specific to your manager or larger, whole work culture?

Is there someone who doesn’t? I chose to nurse, partly because I knew it was the preferred method for me and my children, but also because my two best friends had both nursed and were outstanding role models for me. I was fortunate that I became a mother at a time that nursing was actively promoted and accepted as something working mothers could still do.

How much leave did you take, and how comfortable were you taking it?

Our district provides 6 or 8 weeks depending on delivery type and access to up to 12 weeks of leave for FMLA. I used my accumulated annual leave to have all of my time paid and spent 14 weeks with my first and 12 weeks with my second. Initially I wished I had had twice that amount of leave, however the fortune of excellent child care made the transition much easier.

What was your biggest challenge going back to work?

Recognizing my own limitations. I was used to producing at a high level and firing on all cylinders physically, cognitively, and emotionally. My initial concerns were whether or not I would be able to balance it all (and I learned quickly that balance is a relative term). My employer is family friendly by nature, but I wondered whether or not I’d still be as good at my work with the competing demands. I learned that I might not be able to work 12 hours a day, but I was able to exercise new “muscles” in terms of elevating my ability to multi-task and work efficiently.

Who was your biggest source of support in returning to work? What was your biggest pregnancy indulgence?

As an elementary school principal of a mostly female staff, I was surrounded by “mommy mentors”. Some with grown children, but many raising young children just like me. I went to them with questions and I think the inevitable uncertainty that new parents possess endeared me to my staff. They saw a vulnerability and humility that was both candid and supportive in terms of my leadership.

Fill in the blanks: As a working parent, I never expected ____ would be so hard and ____ would be so much easier!

How much better I would be as a leader after having children. I thought I understood empathy and the urgency around the work I do on behalf of children. Once I became a parent I understood every upset parent, angry phone call, or sense of disappointment I had ever heard in the families I served. It’s as if for the first time I understood the tremendous anxiety and hopes parents have for their children. It made me a better person, a better mother, and a better leader.