We’re a family of five: my husband, my four year old son Davis, my two year old son Ellis, and my six-month old daughter Audra.
I previously worked at a different firm in Washington DC, and they were much earlier in the process of figuring out an approach to parental leave. They didn’t have a clear standing policy on maternity leave; it was subjective and you had to negotiate your own leave time. That meant that different levels of staff got different amounts of time. It created challenges for everyone, but especially for junior staff. They had many of the same challenges being new parents but got much less leave, and it felt unfair to everyone. It was a tough culture to balance with becoming a parent. Meetings regularly started at 5:30pm; you couldn’t possibly leave on-time and get home. People came into the office during their maternity leave, they’d be proud of only taking three weeks, they would be on email every day. For me, almost as soon as I had my two sons, I had to start giving them bottles because I needed to start preparing to go back to work, and my worst fear was that they wouldn’t take a bottle when I was at the office.
My experience having my daughter, Audra, and my life as a mom have been totally different at Nestlé. I started working with Nestlé in January 2015. When I first found out about the Nestlé Parental Support Policy, I wouldn’t have thought I was going to have another child! Fast-forward about a year and half, and I was telling my boss that I was expecting. She sat me down and said “I know this job is fast-paced, but if you want to take the six months, you should really take the six months.”
Even though I ended up deciding that 14 weeks paid leave was right for me, having someone offer six months was an incredibly different feeling than I’d had with previous employers, and it set a different tone for my leave and beyond. It makes a difference every day. If I need to come late because my baby is sick unexpectedly, it’s completely supported.
It used to seem unbelievable that an employer would give this much time.
Having a longer parental leave really changed things for me — I tried to be in the moment with Audra. I was very aware of having the extra time, and I wanted to nurse longer. For my first two kids, I was dealing with getting my child ready to transition to childcare, getting my schedule ready — I felt almost like I didn’t have any leave. I never fully transitioned from work to having a baby, enjoying that time, and doing mom things. I never really decompressed.
After I had Audra, I felt like I had so much time. We paid more attention to her development and how she was feeding. I went to a lactation consultant for the first time. We spent a lot more time together — I talked to her more, I read to her more, I got used to being with her one-on-one.
I wasn’t expecting some of the benefits of the policy — like having direct contact with a nurse (my nurse would call and see how my pregnancy was going and then check on my postnatal experience), or having your own personal case manager who is working with you from the time you announce your pregnancy through to when you return.
To be able to be with Audra and experience this amount of time was incredible. It used to seem unbelievable that an employer would give this much time and that people could really take it. Previously, when I’d gone back at eight weeks, my babies were JUST starting to smile and interact. That was incredibly sad for me. Missing milestones is hard. All the things I didn’t get to notice before, I’ve experienced with Audra.
It wasn’t all easy — Audra had bad reflux when she was little, so she did not sleep well at night. But having flexibility with my leave made me better able to manage the tough adjustments. We had a routine when she didn’t sleep well — she would go to bed at 5am, I would be exhausted, she would wake up, and we would nap together. She would sleep on me because she needed to be elevated to be comfortable. With my first two children, I never slept when the babies slept — I was always trying to cook and do other things. Instead, with Audra, I kept my sanity, and I was a better mom to my other kids as well while they get used to their new sister.
No office, not even Nestlé, is a perfect employer or company, but there have been so many times that I’ve been very proud and inspired to work here. One of those times was the roll-out of this Nestlé Parent Support Policy. It wasn’t just the policy itself, but hearing our senior global leadership talk about the importance of paid parental leave. It’s not just about making Nestlé a competitive employer, though it does, but really prioritizing the first thousand days of life and the importance of breastfeeding and supporting parents. The way that we treat our people has to be consistent with those values. I’m really happy to work for a company that embraces those priorities.