As a manager of people, you try to show compassion for what your employees are coping with outside of work. Your team’s personal problems are so out of your control and they affect work from time to time. You try to understand because after all, you may one day need to care for an ailing parent, move houses, manage a chronic health condition, welcome a new baby, etc.
Let’s discuss returning to work from maternity leave. I recently gave birth to my first son and I was unprepared for how gut-wrenching returning to work would be. This article is for the former me who never quite understood my working mother colleagues, the me when I’m 50 and I’ve forgotten what it’s like, and for every boss out there wondering how to show compassion for your employee who is a new mother.
Below are 8 Things New Moms Wish They Could Tell Their Boss After Maternity Leave
#1 “What Am I Doing Here?”
In the first few weeks after returning to work I kept thinking, “What am I doing here? Why am I working?” It feels completely unnatural to be away from my baby. It’s weirdly animalistic. This baby was inside me for 9 months before entering this world. He’s on the outside for 6-12 weeks, and I’m pried away for work. This morning I dropped my baby off with a stranger at daycare, or I left him with my Mom, or with a nanny who I’ve known for 2 hours. My baby needs snuggles, and sung to, and kisses….and someone else is giving those to him. Please pass me a tissue.
#2 “I’m Not the Same Person I Was Before”
Motherhood has changed me more than I ever thought it possibly could. Sometimes I don’t even recognize myself. I look different. I feel different. My relationships with my husband, my friends, my family, have changed. The hobbies that were once important to me do not take a blip of my mental capacity anymore.I know that one day I’ll get back to a better version of “me”, but please know that it will take time.
#3 “Work is No Longer My First Priority”
This does not mean I am no longer a hard worker, or that work is not important to me; it’s just that I am now constantly trying to juggle my priorities in life. Keeping my baby alive is #1. I’m figuring out how to work smarter to be as productive as I was before. Please understand.
#4 “Protect My Time”
Part of working smarter means I need to protect my time. I don’t have time to sit through unproductive meetings, watercooler chit-chat, or entertaining not-so-important clients. I can get just as much work done as I did before, just not in the same way. Please help protect my time.
#5 “I Need Flexibility”
While I may need to take time for my sick child, I’ll get my work done if you give me some flexibility. This does not mean I’m putting in less effort than my colleagues. I’ll get my work done if you will give me some room. If I don’t have flexibility, I might need to find a boss or a job that will give me more work/life balance. P.S. Finding a new job is the last thing I want to do. Please give me flexibility.
#6 “I Am Tired”
I have been running on 5 hours of sleep (max!) for the past 12 weeks, and I don’t know when it will get better. I’m also having trouble concentrating to solve complex work problems, and sometimes I have difficulty focusing in conversations because my mind is running a mile a minute. Please be patient with me.
#7 “I Need Privacy”
TheWorld Health Organizationrecommends that babies should be exclusively breast-fed for the first six months of life. When women are lactating, pumping at work is a necessity, not an option. Twenty-nine states have laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace. Regardless of laws, many employers provide Mothers Rooms as a matter of convenience for their working moms. Pumping is not fun. I would much rather spend my time doing productive work than pumping. Please give me privacy. Preferably not a bathroom, a cube in the corner, or utility closet please. Thank you.
#8 “I Am Working Because…..”
Women return to work for various reasons and it would be wise to sit down one-on-one with me to understand what is motivating me to be here. If you want me to be a productive, happy employee who you can retain for the long term, you will want to know how you can best manage me. I might be here because:
1.I need to earn money
2.I need health insurance
3.I want to maintain my career
4.I want to be a working role model for my children
5.I want to get out of the house for my sanity
6.And many many more
If you can support me through this amazing, beautiful, challenging time in my life, you will build loyalty from me and I can be a better employee for you than ever before.
Olivia DeLuca is a working mother of a 7-month old and Associate Partner at Talentfoot Executive Search. In her free time, she used to enjoy exercising and mani-pedi’s. Today, she enjoys a hot cup of coffee at her desk and coming home to baby snuggles.