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Mission to achieve a work-life balance after returning from parental leave

  • Posted on March 25, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes

I’m sitting on the bus alone for the first time in over a year. I don’t have to wait for a good Samaritan to help me with my pram, or hope that the bus driver stops closer to the curb so my little baby won't wake up while I wheel the pram on the bus. As I sit here, I think about all the colleagues who shared their experiences about their first day back at work after being on parental leave. Today is my turn, so here goes.

 

The questions I’d ask myself before returning back to work were: How do I stay relevant within the company whilst on leave? Will I remember how to do my job? Will I have time to maintain a healthy lifestyle? How will I make the most of the time with my family?  

 

Before having a baby, the work week would begin by having a big cooked breakfast at home, followed by a leisurely walk to the local wharf, from where I’d catch a refreshing ferry ride to work. I’d spend the day in the office and make myself available to work late if I needed to meet a deadline. Sometimes I’d even catch up with a friend for drinks after work at a trendy bar in the city.

 

Raising a baby is a full-time job in its own. Feeding, cooking fresh food, sleep schedules, play time, development time and nappy changing – the list goes on. How are people able to manage all of this (some with multiple children!) and resume work in a demanding career? I wondered this as my return to work approached.

 

You may have thought that the lifestyle I described above had to completely change when I added a 1-year-old to the equation, but I am happy to report, that it hasn't, not entirely. Yes, I have had to make some modifications – like making sure that I am home by 6 p.m. for bath time. At the same time, I have committed to continue doing the things that are important to me and that make me – ME. I love the time I spend with my baby, but I also love my career and like to take time out to take care of myself. I know that the more “ME” I am, the better mother I’ll be. This commitment was of course followed by a lot of communication (and negotiations) with my partner and an incredible support system including superhero grandparents.   

 

So how did returning to work turn out? My first day involved new faces, familiar faces, same desk, same team, new managing director, new leaders. The things that I find have helped me settle back in and remain committed are as follows:

 

  • Create support network. As they say it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes that village to support the parent. Surround yourself with people that inspire you and can support you when you need. Join groups – in parents’ group, I met a lovely fellow mother, and we would babysit each other’s babies to have a swim at the beach. With the time I was spending at home, I got to know my neighbour’s high school daughter who now babysits for us when we want a date night. At Avanade, there are ample opportunities to join mentoring groups and support networks. I think it is true that you are the average of the people you spend most your time with.
  • Filter out the noise. Acknowledge that change is hard. It will be messy as you go through it, but in the end, it is worth it. If we focus on the challenges, it's very easy to fall into a rabbit hole and be overwhelmed by the amount of responsibilities we may say yes to. You can train yourself to filter out the noise, focus on each day as it comes, each task, each email, each nappy – one by one, you will be able to get through it without being overwhelmed.
  • Working part time means working part time. It's not just about ticking a box. Find a company that walks the walk. Be clear with your working days and availability. If you have a deadline or something is time sensitive, communicate and be open with capacity to deliver. I’m not available on my days off, but if the team desperately needs me, I can take the odd call only during my daughter’s nap time. I do not have alerts set up on my phone when I receive a new email. It’s also about both parties being flexible, on some days I need to start work a bit later for drop offs, but then I may have to jump on a late-night call with someone in the UK.

 

It is only the beginning of my journey of balancing (juggling) parenthood and maintaining a professional career as well as my hobbies (at least some of them). I continue to gather tips on balancing the moving pieces of my life and appreciate my colleagues and friends sharing their best practices (feel free to leave a comment with your own tips!).  I am inspired by, and learn from, my Avanade tribe, a tribe committed to change things for the better. 

Kiley Surma

You are an inspiration, Herjit - so lucky to have had the opportunity to not only work with you, but also consider you a friend. Sending lots of love your way as you continue to find your way as a mother and a woman in leadership. 

March 31, 2020

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