How ASICS Digital welcomed me back to work after having my first child
The day I found out that I was pregnant, I went out and bought every book on pregnancy I could find. I downloaded multiple pregnancy tracking apps (I looked forward to each week when I would learn what type of produce my baby had grown to be the size of), I asked my doctor every single question that popped into my head (probably to the point of exasperation), and I texted my sister (who had given birth the year prior) “is this normal?” every single time I had a weird pain or twinge. I sat up night after night researching what to expect during the first year. I knew probably more than I should about the colors of baby poop and what was normal versus not normal, and I prided myself on learning and memorizing all of the developmental leaps babies go through during their first year of life.
Then came a startling realization the minute my daughter Pearl was born: in 12 weeks (ASICS Digital has a very generous maternity leave policy for which I am so very thankful), I will have to leave this tiny human all day, for multiple days a week and I didn’t know how I would be able to do it. I began counting down the weeks/days/minutes I had left of maternity leave before we even left the hospital. It wasn’t because I was dreading going back to work. I love my job, and I love my colleagues. I just couldn’t fathom leaving her for more than 10 minutes, let alone all day. I did not feel prepared for this at all.
The reality is that millions of mothers return to work after their maternity leave, every single day. There are so many resources out there for working moms, but I didn’t tap into a single one of them while I was on maternity leave. All I was focused on for those 12 weeks was getting as many snuggles in with my baby as humanly possible. In hindsight, I really wish I had done more to mentally prepare myself for my return to work because not only was it a life adjustment for me, but it was also an adjustment for Pearl.
Here are some ways you can help prepare for returning to work as a mom. Not a mom? Don’t worry! I’ve also included ways I believe you can help support working moms as a boss, colleague, and company.
Returning to work as a mom
Do some trial runs with your childcare provider before you return to work
My husband and I talked about our options for childcare at the very beginning of my pregnancy and decided that we would hire my sister to be our nanny. She has a 2-year-old son so Pearl would get to spend the days with her aunt and her cousin, which made us both feel great. But, even if one of your family members is going to be your childcare provider, you still should do at least a couple of test runs so everyone can feel more prepared for the real thing. I did not do this and I think it made that first drop-off so much harder because the fact of the matter is that you still need to get a sense of what it is like to leave your baby for longer than a few hours. My first day back to work was my first time ever being without Pearl for more than two hours, and it was very jarring.
Practice your new morning routine
Remember, your return to work is not just a new routine for you, it’s also a new routine for your baby. My daughter and I got into a routine every morning of my maternity leave consisting of waking up around 6 a.m. and then snuggling, feeding, snuggling, napping and repeat. Once it was time for me to return to work, I suddenly had to be up at 4:30 a.m. and she had to be up at 5 a.m. to eat, get dressed, get in her carseat and get out the door. Our first day doing this, I remember her looking at me as if to say, “Uh, mom what is going on? Why are you getting me dressed right now? Where are we going?!” Do a few trial runs of this routine so you see what works and tweak it as needed.
If you have the option, return to work mid-week
My first day back was on a Wednesday. Having a short week as my first week back made it immensely easier, emotionally and physically for me. Instead of five, I had three days of adjusting to this new and very different schedule. I was able to regroup over the weekend and figure out what worked and what didn’t work.
Be honest and upfront about scheduling needs
Most organizations want to support working parents and are looking for them to ask for what they need. Block time off on your calendar if you plan to pump at work or if you need to leave at a specific time to pick your child up. It is OK not to be flexible around these times. I made sure to have this conversation with my manager at the time when I returned and he was very supportive of my new scheduling needs as a working mom.
Find support among other moms at your organization
I am lucky to work with some amazing fellow moms at ADI. Every one of them has helped me in some aspect or another, whether it be suggestions for some easy weekday meals, sleeping tips, or just to share words of support and encouragement when I am feeling stressed. Ask some of your fellow moms out for coffee, start a mother’s Slack channel, or schedule a mum’s lunch! Just being around moms who know what you’re going through can be very helpful and therapeutic.
Be gentle on yourself and hang in there
Something I learned very quickly once I returned from maternity leave was that it was going to take a ton of work and time to start feeling like I had things even remotely under control. Every mom is different, but for me, those first three months back to work were by far the hardest three months of my life. Not only had I just become a mom, but we also bought a home in the suburbs, which added a new 90-minute commute to and from work. I had many, many moments when I thought “I can’t do this”. You will never feel like you’ll be able to fully give 100 percent of yourself to your job and to your child. (And if you do, please share your secret with me!) This will drudge up feelings of guilt, despair, and inadequacy as an employee and as a mom. Hang in there, mama. I promise you, it gets easier.
Welcoming your employee back from maternity leave
As a colleague, manager or employer, there are many ways to show your support for your employee’s return to work. ADI welcomed me back with open arms and it truly helped to make my transition post-maternity leave much easier.
Decorate her desk
I’ll never forget the way my colleagues welcomed me back to work. I walked into my office, and on my desk was a box of donuts and every single picture of my baby that I had shared on Facebook printed out!
Their kindness brought me to tears. They knew how hard my first day away from Pearl was going to be for me and they did whatever they could to make it easier.
Be understanding during the transition
You may be so excited to take a returning mom out for drinks right away to catch up on the last few months, but give it some time. The first few weeks, most moms will be practically running out the door at the end of the day to return to their babies. Don’t take it personally. Offer a welcome back lunch instead! I was desperate for some adult conversation my first few weeks back and couldn’t wait to catch up with my colleagues, but at the end of the day I was really excited to get back to my daughter.
Be supportive of pumping needs
ASICS Digital is extremely supportive of breastfeeding mothers who need to pump while at work. They have a beautiful mother’s room, equipped with a mini fridge and a white noise machine. Having a comfortable room to pump in made a world of difference for me. (I’ve heard of mothers who have had to pump in the corner of a supply closet, or in a conference room with the windows taped up).
Additionally, respect the times that moms need to pump at work. If they have it scheduled on their calendar, do not schedule meetings with them at this time. A lot of moms have a strict pumping schedule from which they cannot deviate.
Help her ease back with a modified on-boarding or orientation session
A lot can happen in a few months at a company. For a mom who has been totally isolated from an organization, having some sort of modified on-boarding or welcome back orientation can be immensely helpful. When I returned to work, there were so many new developments in the company. Even the company name had changed! Setting aside a dedicated time to go through everything that has happened while a new mom was away is a great way to welcome her back and get her caught up.
Add some perks for working moms to your employee benefits package
The workforce is filled with working moms these days. There are now some pretty cool benefits you can add to your benefits package to attract top talent.
Here are just a few:
Pay for Milk Stork service
Milk Stork makes it easy for moms to ship breast milk home when they’re away on business and still breastfeeding. This can give moms peace of mind when traveling for work.
Flexible work schedule
Taking the pressure off of paying for full-time daycare by allowing moms to work from home once a week can sometimes mean the difference between working and staying home for some moms. This flexibility to work from home allows families to save on childcare costs while remaining in the workforce.
Unlimited paid time-off
Many tech companies are moving toward an unlimited time-off policy. This kind of policy is very attractive to working moms (and dads!) because it allows them to attend doctor appointments, recitals, meetings with teachers, or being home with sick kids. This benefit relieves a monumental load of pressure off of working moms.
In summary, I can say with absolute certainty that my transition back to work was made much easier because of the support I received at ASICS Digital. I have been able to watch both my daughter and my career grow simultaneously. I have never been made to feel guilty if I had to leave early to attend a doctor visit, or had to miss an after-work event so I could get home for dinner and bath time. It is a balancing act that I have not yet perfected, but working at ADI makes me feel encouraged, supported, and valued as a working mother.
Do you think ASICS Digital could be the right fit for you? Check out our open roles: https://runkeeper.com/careers/openings