Becoming a mother is one of the most momentous, joyous occasions one will ever have the chance to experience in life. Maternity leave policies are in place to allow mother & child bonds to not only be formed, but cherished. However, having the opportunity to savour those precious moments with your newborn child in the weeks following birth is a benefit that some are unable to afford.
Millennials are career-driven and hard-working, and in trying to survive out in the concrete jungle, it is imperative not to allow competition to get the leg up on you in the workplace. Taking a maternity leave of 8-12 weeks can push you out of the professional loop fairly quickly. Arguably, spending time with your child and strengthening your bond is more important than losing a few weeks at your job; you can never go back and make up for time lost with your child. What if taking the full maternity leave impacted your career and ability to care for your child, not to mention your fulfillment in your career (which contributes to your overall happiness) – how would you decide which is more important?
Spending time with your newborn shouldn’t have to equal sacrifices to your career, but it very well may; something similar happened to my friend Alyssa.
Alyssa is a driven, extremely motivated self-starter, who is an absolute rock star in her industry. Accolades and promotions were poured upon her so regularly, she may as well have bathed in champagne. She was surprised when she discovered that she and her husband were expecting, but it was a happy surprise. Suffice it to say, she didn’t think twice about taking the maternity leave offered, as her confidence in herself and her abilities had obviously spoken for themselves multiple times. As such, she gave birth in much the same rock star manner, and enjoyed every single minute she spent with her baby.
Returning to work is an emotional, difficult experience for a new mom. This sweet, tiny part of you now exists, and it physically feels like you are leaving a part of your heart behind when you are separated. However, after all the initial tears and sniffles, Alyssa adjusted her power suit and stilettos, tipped up her chin, and felt the familiar spark of excitement as she approached her office. Being a mother is without a doubt one of the most rewarding jobs you can have, but being a kickass #girlboss is pretty thrilling, as well.
Imagine Alyssa’s surprise when she walked in her office and saw a new face sitting behind HER desk. “Oh hi, I’m Jenna!” exclaimed the pretty, svelte brunette, extending her hand. Reeling from the post-pregnancy hormones, Alyssa took stock of this girl, who was a good 5-7 years younger, and was basically painted into that pencil skirt; meanwhile, Alyssa struggled to even button her blazer over her postpartum belly that morning. Jenna (and Alyssa’s boss) went on to explain that she had been hired to assist with Alyssa’s workload during her ‘absence.’ “So, Jenna was hired just for during my maternity leave, you mean?” Alyssa stuttered, trying to better understand her role.
“Well, no,” her boss hesitantly began. He went on to explain that Jenna is as much the rock star that Alyssa is, and he thought it would be a shame to lose her, seeing how quickly she caught on (and kept up) with things while Alyssa was out of the office. He created a special position to keep her on board; a position equal to Alyssa’s. Seeing how Alyssa is a new mother, he asserted that Jenna would be available to “pick up the slack” and help out whenever she was needed.
While Alyssa’s boss was just trying to be sensitive and considerate to her needs as a new mother, he (unknowingly) overlooked her already-proven abilities as a professional, and undermined her talent. Confident or not, these gestures made her feel very small.
Alyssa spent her lunch hour that day in tears, in the bathroom, like something out of a scene of Mean Girls (she actually described it more like how Rachel felt in Friends, finding Gavin upon her return. Except she didn’t want to f*ck Jenna – just wanted her to GTFO).
Welcome back! What a great first day back to the grind.
Alyssa managed just fine afterwards; she truly is a rock star that was able to go in and pick up where she left off, all the while juggling motherhood like the bad ass b*tch she is. However, her time away from the office did invite Jenna into her professional life, and I’ve heard she is not the only one to experience such a thing. Alyssa is a confident, professional woman in her career and life, and is not threatened by others or their success; but Jenna remains a very viable, active competitor to this day.
If you’re preparing for motherhood and are equally as career driven, remember this important piece of advice:
The ‘Jennas’ of the world provide a needed reminder that no one is ever untouchable, and to be the best, you have to constantly strive to rise above and meet each new challenge with a smile on your face, and solutions in your back pocket.
Never let late night office hours replace laughter, cuddles, and bedtime stories. You are confident and capable, and ‘Jenna’ cannot change that. No one is you, and THAT is your power.
So, you want it all? My dear, it’s totally possible to DO it all – with sharp heels AND a baby on your hip. So, throw on that lipstick, climb that ladder, and conquer your goals like the superstar you already know you are.