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.