Tag Archives: Working mom

It gets easier, right?

I’m the newest parent at the company. I have coworkers with kids in their twenties, in the teens, even preteens, but no one has babies. Just me.

After coming off a tough night with my 13 month old (TWO HOURS of “I’m so sleepy but I can’t fall asleep and NO DON’T LEAVE ME YOU MUST HOLD ME but now I have the giggles oh wait I decided I’m cranky and I’d rather just cry and fuss…”) I came into the office in the morning with a much-needed coffee, and not just a little bleary-eyed.

We were gathering in the conference room, and I looked around and joked, “It gets easier, right? Tell me it gets easier,” fully expecting people to commiserate with me at this stage and confirm that it does, in fact, get much easier and more delightful.

But the other parents just looked at me, not saying a word, as though they didn’t want to dare voice to a pathetic new parent THE ACTUAL TRUTH. They were saved by the proverbial bell when the client came on the conference line, and I was left to my coffee, my sleep deprivation, and my joke-that-wasn’t-a-joke hanging in the stale conference room air.

I’m just going to assume they didn’t hear me and if they did, they would have reacted the way I expected. I would never recommend denial in client relations, but for parenting, hey! Denial *is* a parenting style.

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Go ahead and write your next chapter

Will my daughter survive? Yes. Will everything go to hell? No.

Will I worry about it anyway? Why, yes. Yes, I will.

I’ve gone from 12 daylight hours per day with my newborn to 2, maybe 3 if I’m lucky, now that I’ve returned to work. What a change! I’m afraid I’m going to miss all her firsts from here on out. (Turns out I missed a first even when I was home. I was getting a pizza and paying the delivery guy at the door when my daughter rolled over for the first time with my husband watching her for 30 freaking seconds. Sigh.)

Luckily, I’ve got a flexible job – or I’ve made it flexible. I check my email in the morning before going in, feed the baby before leaving the house, get in some good “think time” for the job during the commute, do the usual back-to-back-to-back meetings and calls (reserving time in my calendar to pump three times a day so that my daughter has milk for the next day), get home in time for her evening feeding, and wrap up work after I put her down for the night. The flexibility is in the face time at work: need to come in late or leave a little early? OK. Need to work from home to cover for my stay-at-home-dad husband who has a recurring appointment on Thursday mornings? Sure.

The bottom line is: as long as my network and staff connections continue to be nurtured, and the work gets done, I should have all the flexibility I want. So should it be for any parent at the company. I planned out this flexibility – and got buy-in from my colleagues – before the baby came.

Ours is a small company – about 25 people. And more than half of the employees are smart, ambitious 20-somethings. The rest of the employees who are parents have kids who are either grown adults now or well into school age. I know that many of the younger employees – who are newly married or in long term relationships or simply female – are watching very closely what happens to me; they will take cues from my experience about how successfully this company supports new parents.

I meticulously planned the 6 weeks prior to my parental leave. I gave people new responsibilities where it was needed and then conferred the appropriate promotions upon my return. It helped that we set up the situation for me to have a new role upon my return – nothing sucks more than to step in for a higher level person, do a great job, learn a great amount, and then be told that you have to go back and do your old job, thank you very much. Wait – I stand corrected. What sucks more is to continue to do a great job but not have an appropriate job title and/or compensation adjustment.

I’m not recommending that companies give everyone promotions because one person goes on parental leave. What I am saying is (1) plan well before your leave to minimize problems while you’re away, and (2) have a clear vision for what the next chapter is for you and others upon your return, and give people something to work toward in your absence. For us, it resulted in promotions – for other companies, it might be lateral transfers, rotations to different divisions to get additional exposure, classes for skill development, or pre-approved vacation time to clear heads and get rest after carrying extra workload for 3 months.

Whatever it is, write that next chapter with your team while the current chapter is still playing out. While I have a baby as my next personal chapter, I couldn’t ignore that I had to help write the next professional chapter as well.

I’ll say it: I’m looking forward to going back to work

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a new mother, it’s that people don’t have qualms about judging you every which way. Though I nurse my baby, I’ve seen enough “how dare you choose formula” posts on online mommy boards that I cringe and really feel terrible for the new moms who are subject to those scathing comments.

Well here’s one for all those judgmental people out there: I love my baby girl to the end of the world and back but I CAN’T WAIT TO GET BACK TO WORK. I feel like screaming it from the mountaintops.

Our little girl had a rocky delivery, and a rough start with 12 days in the NICU. She was fussy and generally unhappy when we got her home; it was a tough transition for all of us. Thank goodness we have come out on the other side in many ways, and you know what? It feels damn good! Our little girl is a delight, and she’s thriving. Maybe we first-time parents are doing something right.

But while I’ve cherished all the smiles she has for me, and I’ve celebrated all of her milestones, and I’ve marveled while watching her learn new things every day, I still desperately want to head back to the office.

I’d like to have conversation with other adults, and have it not be about babies.

I’d like to dress in sharp clothes every day and feel great about how I look rather than wear sweats covered in drool or spit up.

I’d like to challenge my mind by figuring out issues around new medical technologies rather than figuring out how else I can entertain a two month old.

And I was going to say that I’d prefer to hear clients whining than my baby, but that’s pretty much a draw.

*****
When I left for maternity leave, I purposely (and purposefully) created a situation in which the idea was not to have things maintained in the exact same way during my leave as before, but instead to keep our team’s goals in sight, ensure they had the skills and support necessary, then let the team run with it on their own while I was gone. (It’s easier to do when you hire the right people from the start.)

Since I’ve been gone, revenues have been maintained and business has grown to support hires. Clients are happy. My staff have tackled things they’ve never encountered before and have grown professionally by huge strides. This is excellent news!

My first order of business when I return in a few weeks is to interview both my team members and our clients to learn their new ways of working that developed in my absence, so that I can do my job to put in place additional support systems, identify areas of quality improvement or increased efficiency, give people an opportunity to identify and commend colleagues who did exceptional work internally or externally, and basically celebrate how far we’ve come.

Yes, it’s a little kumbaya, but I don’t care. My absence was very disruptive even as prepared as we were, and I want my team to know that disruption is nothing to fear, and coming out on the other side should feel damn good.

Decisions, decisions: Should I stay or should I go?

We have decided to cancel a babymoon trip because of other circumstances that can’t really be helped. (Our dear kitty cat has been sick, and we don’t really want to leave her in others’ hands for too long while we’re gone.)

My husband expressed regret, and understandably so. He noted that it was an opportunity for us to clear our heads before we have to really dive into preparing for the birth of this baby. But for myself, honestly, having a babymoon at 7 months pregnant is a bit rough. The discomfort of being so big is starting to be a daily reality.

So I suggested that the trip be less of a cancellation and more of a postponement, to sometime in the next year after the baby comes. We can take the baby, or not. He asked, “But would we really want to take a vacation without the baby?” and I responded, “I don’t know, but it might be good for us to do so, regardless.”

* * * * *

Kids will be a priority, no doubt. But how far of a back seat would our marriage take, or how far of a back seat should the job take? What is walking that fine line going to look like for my husband, for me?

I have NO IDEA. And few people do, right? Am I going to be a blubbering idiot, guilt-ridden and with serious separation anxiety once I have to go back to work? Or will I be so desperate to get back into the swing of things at work and leave the stress and uncertainty of Baby to someone who can handle it better than I can? (shrug) Don’t know.

But regardless of how our hearts react, there is balance to achieve with our rational sides as well. We may not want to leave the baby at home, even with someone we trust implicitly, but perhaps we should take some time away for ourselves, even in the first year. Kids benefit from their parents’ healthy and loving relationship. I may not want to work away from the baby, but who knows? Maybe I’ll be setting a good example for her. Maybe I’ll be closer to achieving true flexibility between work and home life as an executive that my mom struggled more to accomplish in the 70s and 80s.