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Samara Remmie
Samara Fischer | 21 August 2019

Three things I learnt about returning to work after Parental Leave

How hard could it possibly be?

I joined Kin, as an on-demand Talent Specialist in January 2019, having been on parental leave for the preceding 15 months. At the time, I remember feeling a range of emotions simultaneously - nervous (would I be able to do the work?), excited (yay! adults to be around!), slightly scared of the change on my life situation but totally ready. For me, it was definitely time to return to work. 

How hard could it possibly be? I thought to myself with naivety. Plenty of women return to work after maternity leave. In 2009, Heidi Klum shocked the world by returning to the Victoria’s Secret runway 5 weeks after giving birth to her daughter! Supermodels aside, our own Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was back at work six weeks post-partem. Baby Neve was born in June 2018, and by August, the PM was back in charge of Government. In the year she’s been back, we’ve witnessed her take her baby to work - at a meeting at the United Nations no less - and demonstrate exemplary leadership in the wake of the Christchurch attacks.

For me personally however, the return to work has been anything but straightforward. Following are my top three personal reflections on the journey:

1.   How to manage your time effectively

Pre- baby, if I had an un-moveable deadline, I’d just work until it was met. I would come in early, stay late and work as long into the night as I needed to get the job done. Post-baby, time is limited. They must be picked up from day care by a certain time. They need to be fed, bathed and put to sleep at a reasonable time - blocking out periods you could otherwise work. Throw in some unexpected illness (this year we’ve experienced hand foot and mouth disease, several bouts of gastro, conjunctivitis and the common cold - which really lived up to its name).  I’ve learnt that when you have time to accomplish a task - just do it! You really don’t know when you will get this time again.

 

2.   The Importance of Flexible Working Conditions

Flexible working conditions can be a contentious topic, with far reaching organisational and policy implications. Flexible work practices ensure equal opportunity in the workplace. There is a strong business case for all employers to embrace flexible work conditions wherever possible.

 

At Kin, I have been incredibly lucky to work for a company that not only adheres to, but passionately embraces flexible working. As an on-demand team member, I have the flexibility to work from home, and as needed, after core work hours and on weekends. I’ve taken advantage of this opportunity a few times, including during periods of illness. It has been a lifesaver - enabling me to perform my duties and not let my clients or candidates down. I, like many working parents, could not perform in my current role if I wasn’t provided with flexibility.

 

3.   Having it all

My generation has been raised on the premise that if we work hard enough, and put our mind to it, we can “have it all”.  “All” in this case refers to a successful career balanced by an exciting social life. These two components are further paired with a well-rounded family life: raising well-behaved children who eat what they are meant to, sleep when they are supposed to and listen to every word you say. I’ll be honest - I don’t have it all. To be completely raw, I often feel like I’m struggling to have even one of the above. During busy periods at work, my home-life is neglected and my almost 2-year-old is given more access to screen time than is ideal. When my son is ill and needs me as a mum, my work takes a momentary back seat. This pendulum swings back and forth, only occasionally achieving equilibrium.

 

Most importantly, returning to work as a parent has given me a new-found appreciation for all working individuals with additional responsibilities outside of the paid workforce. They may be mothers and fathers looking after children, people looking after their parents, siblings looking after a brother or sister, aunts and uncles and foster carers. This type of work can be hard and relentless - especially when you must leave it in the elevator as you enter your paid role - and often goes unnoticed.  I absolutely applaud you for all you do to contribute to a diverse and vibrant workforce.