Ruthless prioritization & the return to work
Managing expectations. Book progress. Glassdoor for moms.
Two weeks ago, my survey about maternity leaves went live. Within 48 hours, it had hundreds of responses.
Great momentum for the book that signals this topic needs more attention. Some of the topline learnings are below.
But first, a question via 4thmom.com came in about returning to work that felt very relatable.
“I am a first-time mom and am about to return to a high-pressured job. Any blog on making this transition - about managing expectations from people at work and within yourself as I’m poor at maintaining balance - would be appreciated.”
Earlier this year, I came back from a 3-month leave too. I returned to my job as a Senior Director overseeing a few managers and ~15 people across two research teams.
It was my 4th time going back after having a baby.
Here’s what I’ve learned about mentally preparing and maximizing your return to work:
It will be rough at first, but it does get better. Going back after my first kid was the hardest because I saw no end to my exhaustion. All babies are different; mine each took until they were about ten months old to sleep all night consistently. Passing this milestone is game-changing.
Many co-workers won’t realize what you’re managing. If your experience is like mine, most colleagues want things to be like before. Some co-workers over the years called my leave a ‘vacation,’ expecting I’d be recharged. Others would fill my calendar with back-to-back meetings, not realizing that they wrecked my pumping schedule.
I learned to stay calm and be positive in these situations. It’s not intentional. This also taught me a new level of grit and patience. Some valuable skills to practice, as these characteristics are valuable for leaders.
Set expectations and hold them. After my second, I started setting clear parameters about when I couldn’t be interrupted. Family time was 5.30-8 pm, so I’d go offline. Otherwise, days could pass without focused time for the kids.
The habits you create after returning from leave can stick for years.
Ruthless prioritization is vital. Having kids made me a better manager and have a more substantial executive presence.
Here’s why: Sticking to shorter hours required me to distinguish between what was ‘important’ and just ‘urgent.’
This is roughly how I prioritized my work earlier this year:
Source: My application of Eisenhower’s prioritization matrix
Anything lower left-hand side was cut.
Anything urgent but not highly important, I delegated out or declined it.
This focused my limited energy on delivering mission-critical things. It also freed up a few hours weekly for the non-urgent but highly important stuff.
I had more time to develop recommendations for leadership and support the team’s growth through specific feedback and career planning.
In other words, following this framework helped me work less and have more impact.
What would it look like for your job?
For those less familiar, I recently left my job to write about the post-birth experience. This is a big leap and a nerve-wracking gamble.
The goal is to help new moms be better equipped for this life change. And to help change the conversation around parental leaves so it’s clear why they’re so important.
The maternity leave experience survey received great feedback about missed questions, and I’ve already added deeper dives on child care, financial stress, and feelings about the job and career trajectory.
This update will be sent out shortly.
Next up will be to continue researching and getting beta feedback on the first chapters. If you’re interested in seeing the early drafts, reply and tell me!
It’s hard to interpret why more US moms feel supported by their workplace than their friends.
Maybe parents have lower expectations for their company than their friends. Perhaps many friends are ill-equipped to give the types of support new moms want. Or is something else at play?
I’m curious to hear your hypotheses, and it’s something I’ll dig into further.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for advice on how friends can better support new moms, I interviewed a postpartum care expert and shared her perspective here.
Do you have post-birth or maternity leave-related questions you’d like me to explore?
Please reply to this email; I’ll dig in as part of the book research.
(P.S. Missed the survey? Click here to participate.)
(P.P.S. Enjoying this newsletter? If you use Gmail, drag and drop it into your primary tab).
FairyGodBoss. This website is like a Glassdoor + LinkedIn for women, providing company reviews about ‘leave benefits’ and whether women employees feel treated fairly. It’s free, has 9M+ users, and the community chat board is busy.
The Manager’s Path. Camille Fournier’s book traces her tech management learnings, from having one intern to being a Chief Technology Officer. I’m clearly not a developer, and I still found the content relatable and useful.
Leia Postpartum Care App. This app helps new moms track their symptoms, get support, and manage their health in the first year after birth. It’s small, having just raised pre-seed funding earlier this year.
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I would love to see the drafts of your first chapters!