Mouse | Paid Parental Leave Made Me a Better Employee, By Julia…
She is our Learning Design Director of Network Success, Julia

October 10, 2019

Paid Parental Leave Made Me a Better Employee, By Julia Barraford-Temel

Today I met a woman at an event, and while we were discussing our work, she mentioned she had a six-month-old baby. When I congratulated her, there was a deep sigh and delayed thanks. Then I remembered. The first few months of parenthood are amazing, and really terrible. Then you go back to work and it is even harder. I love being a parent, but the first few months were a mix of exhaustion and panic, and then I went back to work and it was exhaustion, panic, pumping, and panic. Because then you are not only scared of not parenting correctly, or failing your baby, but also failing at work.

I happen to work for an amazing non-profit, Mouse that does good and IS good. Mouse is a national non-profit that works to empower youth and educators to engage with computer science and creative technology. We are committed to fostering greater equity, diversity, and humanity in STEM. In the commitment to foster equity, we also practice it, Mouse offers a four-month-long paid parental leave for all parents, on the birth or adoption of their child, an amazing and unprecedented benefit in a non-profit of our size.

My four months of paid leave allowed me to afford luxuries like health insurance, lactation support, and chiropractic care to recover from the 42 weeks I was pregnant. It also meant I was completely healed physically from my birth, had a head start on a milk stash and was able to join a community of new mothers in my neighborhood, who still sustain me. In those four months, I was able to wrap my head around parenthood and was ready to go back to work and able to actually concentrate.

Mouse was incredibly supportive. When I had my baby, I was the only parent on staff. This was a whole new world for us. When I turned off my video during conference calls they were gracious enough to not complain about the rhythmic whooshing of my breast pump in the background. When I declared a hard stop at 4 pm for meetings, because my son went to sleep at 6:00 pm, they were respectful of my time. When I asked for promotions based on my performance, buoyed by sharply honed efficiency and time-management skills that only a newborn can foster, I was able to create a path of growth and success for myself, supported by my directors.

At times I had to travel for weeks at a time for work, Mouse reimbursed me not only for my accommodations and per diem, but for my childcare, which meant I could bring my baby on work trips, relieved of the struggle to balance success at work and at home. This made me a more invested employee, as my needs as a working and breastfeeding mother, were understood, respected and accommodated. I woke up ready and excited to do the work I do, rather than feeling split between two worlds.

"When company policy and culture work in tandem, it creates a space for employees that inspires personal and professional growth."

As a mother with a career, I work for an organization that allows my roles as a mother and a professional to improve each other. The two are not mutually exclusive but certainly can create challenges. This is why company culture needs to support company policy. Many mothers feel forced to take a step back from the workforce. Even if a company has good policies, if the company culture does not support them, it will not work.

Over the past two years, I have been excelling at my work, but not despite being a mother of a small child. When an employer provides not only generous benefits, but also a supportive culture that treats employees as worthy individuals, employees develop an intense dedication, and commitment for their company, which drives them to perform their best. I am not succeeding at work although I am a working mother, or because of it, but because I am a professional with love for what I do. But I also work with a fervor for Mouse, because I believe in it, and company culture and policy has shown that it believes in me.

My passion lies in my work at Mouse, working to create equity and diversity in STEM and Creative Computing and empowering youth to solve real problems and make meaningful change in our world. Each day I go to work with the sole purpose of making a positive impact in our society by serving under-resourced educators and students. My passion lies in my family. I come home each day with the purpose of raising a child that will create change and do good in this world. I can do both, have both, because Mouse doesn’t make me choose, and I can succeed in both because our leadership has the vision to practice what we teach.

By Julia Barraford-Temel, Mouse Learning Design Director, Network Success

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