Embracing the New Me
by Nicole Degi
Here I am eight months later still trying to understand and embrace the new me. The new me is a mom, wife and full-time employee. Coming from someone who is an “all-in” type of person, this has been a little more challenging to navigate than I anticipated.
Eight months ago, I became a mom. I had a beautiful, healthy, baby boy who quickly became my world. I was able to take twelve weeks off for maternity leave, which was amazing and just like every mom before me said- — it FLEW by. I soaked in every snuggle, every first, every sleepless night and fully embraced this new season of my life.
I feel extremely fortunate that I was able to have those first few months home with my little man before heading back to work. As I transitioned back into work, it was every bit as challenging as I thought it would be. Being a person who always wants to give my all to everything, I had to learn quickly that boundaries are something I need to implement in my life. To be an amazing mom, wife and employee, I needed to prioritize my focus, communicate and take the support offered to me.
Over the last eight months, I have been reflecting on what helped me navigate this life change and jotted down a few tips that could help you if you are going on maternity leave soon. On the flip side, I also included a few tips for how employers can help employees transition back into work when coming back from maternity leave.
Tips for going on maternity leave:
- Accept the chaos.
I quickly realized that everything takes longer with a kid. I used to be able to get up, get ready and get out the door in 45 minutes, which makes me laugh thinking about that now. My advice: double your time as a new mom!
- Find your tribe.
We all have heard the saying “it takes a village.” I can’t tell you how true this statement is. Find your village and learn to trust them! For me, my village was my family, friends and coworkers. When people ask, “How can I help you?”, tell them. Be vulnerable and tell them what you need. It may be a shower, a nap, or just someone there to listen. Whatever it is for you, let your tribe help you!
- Take a break if necessary.
Rest when you can. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Put breaks on your calendar if you need to, go for a walk if that helps you and get that extra cup of coffee. Scheduling “breaks” in my day has been something that has really helped me navigate this change.
- Don’t always have an agenda.
Let’s be honest, this is very tough for me! I love to plan, love to schedule and love to be organized. I have quickly learned it doesn’t always go that way with a kid and that is OK! What has helped me stay sane while navigating the “loose agenda” is creating a to-do list for home and for work. I then put them on my calendar to get accomplished!
- Always remember tomorrow is a new day.You can’t do it all and do not try too either. You will quickly burn out. If that load of laundry didn’t get done or the house didn’t get cleaned today it is ok because tomorrow is a new day! Have some compassion with yourself you are doing a great job!
Do you have an employee going on maternity leave? Here are a few tips for how to support them:
- Be understanding.
For most new moms, they just left their babies for the first time to go back to work. So, they may cry, they may be late or they may have spit up on their clothes — be understanding! This is all new for them and extremely difficult. They are most likely struggling with how to be the best mom and employee at the same time so having that understanding support system at work will really help with this transition.
- Offer flexibility when you can. If you can offer your employees the option to work remotely or a hybrid style, do it. I know this isn’t the case for every organization or role but if there is some sort of flexibility you can offer the new mom as they transition back into work it could greatly reduce their stress level.
- Offer support.I was very fortunate to have my team constantly ask how can they help me. This one phrase goes a long way! Even if it was nothing, I felt so supported knowing that they asked.
- Plan the before, during and after.Something that really helped me lower my stress level was creating a plan with my team for going out on maternity leave and coming back from leave. As I mentioned above, I am a planner! So having a plan outlined for when I went on leave really helped alleviate stress. I felt confident knowing that things were in place and handled when I left and didn’t have the “oh no- I dropped the ball” feeling.
- Prioritize honest communication.
Have an open line of communication when the employee jumps back into work. Provide updates on things that may have happened or changed while they were out, address any immediate to-dos, and offer weekly one-on-ones if you do not already this will help outline expectations as well as offer an open line of communication for a smooth transition.