Mother’s Day feels a little different for me this year… Because next month I return to work after being on parental leave since last October!
So, in celebration of both, today I’d like to share two things with you:
- My return to work story
- My 4 tips for preparing yourself for returning to work
As the mum of a newborn (my second child), I am extremely excited to come back on my originally planned return-to-work date. Unlike the last time I took parental leave (6 years ago), I don’t have to push back the day the ‘mummy returns’.
What’s my ‘return to work’ plan? How do the wheels spin into motion for me soon after a few months of parental leave? How did I unearth a solution that’s magical enough to create a win-win-win situation for PaperCut, myself, and my newborn?
That’s my story today: a non-adventurous, not-at-all horror, no white mummy wrappings, nothing to do with Brendan Fraser at all, not-so-epic tale.
Even if you’re not a working mum or dad I think you may still find my story relatable. Why? Aha! That’s where my Bollywood twist will come into play…
How parental leave should be
The Australian government offers 18 weeks of paid parental leave to primary caregivers. Some countries offer more, others less. But different workplaces have different cultural approaches to parental leave. As I know firsthand…
Becoming a parent is one of those big ticket items in life. It comes with a ’no u-turn’ sign and a never ending checklist. No matter how much prep work you do or what advice you follow, getting ‘it’ right always remains a challenge.
Add a pandemic on top of being an expecting mummy, it should have been a very bumpy ride. But I was blessed to be a PaperCutter.
I say ‘blessed’ because I found myself able to honestly express my aspirations to grow horizontally within the business. Being prego in a pandemic while thinking about growth, career aspirations, new avenues… How’s that possible? That’s the point! Not only was I able to think about these things, but I was confidently able to have conversations around them.
Such is the culture at PaperCut - non-judgemental, boundaryless, and very open-ended. My managers and People Experience team didn’t just support the usual parental leave journey, they provided me the green light to carve a new pathway in the business for my return.
Before I went on my parental leave I was able to work part-time in two different teams. I was able to hand over my old role, set up my new career aspirations, and plan my future years at the company. Working part-time gave me the flexibility I needed as a second-time ‘mummy to be’ and it also gave me a sense of what my return-to-work plan could look like.
The turning point…
Planning my parental leave with our People Experience team was a breeze. Everything was straightforward. Not a single scrap of paperwork was dumped into my inbox without explanation. I was taken through all relevant documents and was ensured of all my entitlements and benefits: one of which was 10 paid check-in days.
I’m so proud to say I am the first PaperCutter to utilize our new improved parental leave program. This includes crafting a flexible employee-friendly plan for using my ‘keeping in touch days’. So I’ve been looping in with my team for 1 day over the past few weeks. It may sound ’not-so-wow’ to a few but somehow leveraging these check-in days gave me the confidence to experiment with a few options down the track.
After about 3 months off I started to slowly say ‘Hello’ to my colleagues - just checking in to see how things were going. I came across all the big comings and goings professionally and personally of my old and new team members. I was even able to use my ‘just-a-check-in day’ in the most productive ways so when I return I won’t feel like a fish out of water.
If I wasn’t in touch at all I would have surely missed opportunities to feel like a productive member of the team. Simple chains of events linked together and even plain old virtual coffee catch-ups turned into meaningly small projects for me: a win-win for everyone.
All of this helped me (in fact is still helping me) to warm up for the ‘big day’ I return to work. I am slowly introducing my newborn to child care and sitter arrangements, and I’m conducting experiments to see what’s working well and what’s causing a toll on me. Plus a whole heap of other ‘mummy stuff’ that I need to sort out. The beauty is it’s all happening very slowly in a controlled environment where the risk for failure is extremely low.
Thanks to PaperCut, the idea of coming back from parental leave isn’t a scary one. I’m able to plan my return to work in line with business requirements and my career aspirations, which is such a wonderful blend!
It’s armor protecting me from overwhelming situations. I wish I had it 6 years ago the last time I took parental leave… Ouch, I don’t want to get into it, but those scars still cut deep!
This time though, the whole experience reinforced some learnings on how to tackle life’s unexpected (or expected, haha) challenges.
4 returning to work tips from a two-time mummy
1. Utilise every opportunity - see what you can unearth to create a win-win for yourself and your workplace.
2. Accept that you can’t control externalities - best to manage them as early as possible and slowly evolve.
3. Don’t underestimate the impact of social interaction - have lots of conversations! Virtual social coffee calls with my colleagues started off as casual chats, but some of those conversations led to initiatives and projects. Just being in touch socially with my colleagues has already made a huge difference, I don’t feel out of the loop and no rapport was ever lost.
4. Fill gaps rather than pitch yourself - in the build-up to your return, look for where there are the gaps in the company that you can fill with your skillset, rather than telling people you want to help, take an initiative and identify where you can help, then make it happen.
My mother’s day gift…
Here’s that plot twist I promised…
Whether you’re a parent or not, all working professionals are natural jugglers. Over a period of time we get used to rolling with the punches. But sometimes challenges like ’new parenthood’ or ‘sick family member’ take a toll on your mind and body.
In my case the challenge was being a second time mum passionate to return to work (as soon as I possibly could) but feeling stricken with heaps of challenges.
So for Mother’s Day, I would like to congratulate everyone who continuously juggles personal and professional life, manages their priorities, and aspires to strike a fine balance in their lives.
All of you are true heroes.
And, of course, to my fellow mummies - Happy Mother’s Day! Time for breakfast in bed!