Head of Office
I was living my work-life philosophy, which was to work hard while the children were young and in protected environments, and to create flexibility as they got closer to the teenage years.
I was working toward a director-level impact at my prior company when I went on maternity leave with my second child, Ariya; my company had a six-week maternity policy. While it was very hard to consider going back to work so quickly, I returned to work thanks to the help of my wonderfully supportive husband and parents. I was ready to give life and work my all.
There were many potential conflicts between my parenting goals (e.g. nursing Ariya for her first year) and work goals (e.g. travel needed to meet with clients). It led to out-of-box resolutions like travelling with Ariya, finding local babysitters, and nursing her between work meetings. I was living my work-life philosophy, which was to work hard while the children were young and in protected environments, and to create flexibility as they got closer to the teenage years.
My next performance review was surprisingly mediocre; it was clear that my impact wasn’t fully appreciated. This opened the floodgates of doubt. Is this really worth it? Ariya is almost a year old. I haven’t spent any significant time with her. Is this the right organization for me? Do I have what it takes?
My first action was to take Paid Family Leave that allows for additional six weeks of partial paid time-off to bond with a newborn baby. I loved every moment with Ariya. I also thoroughly enjoyed the time with my three-year-old, Ashna and with my husband. I also took the time to reflect on my work, what it meant to me, and how my overall role fit in the organization. I concluded that I loved my work, related to the company’s mission and deeply admired my co-workers. I knew I had to go back.
I had worked hard to build our business over the past several years; it was time to show that I had what it took to rise to the top. I spoke with my manager about how I visualized the next six months and beyond. I explicitly shared my assumption that upon my return, he would be my worst critic and biggest champion.
I came back energized and focused on transformative impact. I led the business through the next phase of growth. We launched new products, made acquisitions, invested in our talent, nurtured our culture and tackled challenges along the way. At the end of six months, we looked back on a period of measurable value created for our customers and for the business.
Personally, I saw that time as one of huge learning, growth and impact. The director promotion came soon after. Ariya was one and a half years old by that point; Ashna was four. While they don’t remember that specific promotion, I know they are proud of what I do today. I also know I can connect priceless experiences we have had as a family to decisions I made to lean in to my work at critical junctions.
A magazine exec steps out of her comfort zone and finds success in the unknown.
Wenda Harris Millard
Learning new skills on maternity leave helps a consultant make a deeper impact at work.