I’ve been with Nestlé Purina for eleven years. I joined immediately after I graduated college, and I earned my master’s degree in HR management with educational support from Purina. I became the team lead of HR operations five years ago.
In 2013, when my first child was born, I took FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) for twelve weeks off. I was saving up every spare personal day to try to bridge the gap. You do your best when you have only twelve weeks to arrange childcare, but I wasn’t as confident and felt guilty.
Things changed with Nestlé’s Parent Support Policy. Since I work in HR, I had a lot of knowledge on the before-and-after of the policy. We started hearing that a new parental leave policy was close to rolling out, but when my coworker and I saw the actual policy, we were blown away. It’s not a policy you often see in the U.S. I’m still blown away. For the birth of my daughter Kayla, I chose to take the full six months of leave.
Six months of leave is much different than twelve weeks of leave. My favorite time with Kayla was being able to hold her in my arms during her naps every day for months. Those things that I wasn’t able to experience with Blake, because I knew I had to hit daycare milestones really quickly. He had to be ready for a daycare schedule at twelve weeks.
With 26 weeks of leave, I could see Kayla’s personality start to develop.
I missed his first belly laugh, it was with a babysitter and they sent me a video. Kayla’s first smile and real interaction came at about four months old- you lose that if you’re back after 12 weeks. With 26 weeks, I could even see her personality start to develop more.
Before the leave I was nervous because I am so used to working every day. It’s nice and not set in stone, because you can always decide to change or do a graduated plan back to the office. Looking back, I had no idea how I had come back after twelve weeks with my son. I was so grateful that I had more time with my daughter. In the beginning, going back to work was hard. I spent so much time with my daughter and son and it was only natural to want to stay with them. But my colleagues gave me the time I needed to just go through emails and catch up on what had taken place. I even used the mother’s lounges at Purina.
It’s been nothing but positive reactions from everybody that I talked to. I thought ‘they are offering 26 weeks, but can we really take it?’ YES, you can take it, and YES, you will be able to come back and do your job.
This is one of the best progressive policies I’ve seen anywhere in the U.S. I was already an ‘I’m never leaving Nestlé’ employee, but that’s even more true now. Nestlé has gone above and beyond in showing employees that we do mean something to them. They care about you as an employee- you aren’t just a number. It makes you feel good to know the company is supporting you as a working parent.