9 Lessons Learnt on Maternity Leave
As I transition back into the workforce I reflect on the past nine months of maternity leave. I have learnt so much from my precious time with baby Ethan and thought I’d share the stand out learnings that may inspire others.
#1 Accept and ask for help. Having grown up priding myself as an independent woman it does not come naturally to ask for help. However, with a new baby and our immediate family overseas it became essential to both accept help and ask for it. I’ve found this process liberating as I’ve gotten more used to it and see it as a win-win. People don’t generally offer help unless they’d like to and choosing not to feel guilty about it as written about here allows you to be more present with your experiences.
#2 Embrace community. We are very fortunate to be part of a wonderful triathlon community which has welcomed Ethan with open arms. Whilst on maternity leave we have also met a wonderful network of mums and gotten to know our local business community (Ethan is the lululemon store mascot!). I believe in the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ and feel fortunate he has so many great role models around him.
#3 Laugh lots. – Hanging out with Ethan who giggles tens of times a day is contagious. My husband Owain and I have laughed through the highs and lows of parenting. As my friend the Fonginator says: “If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right.” I’m inspired to not take things too seriously heading back into the workplace and laugh even more.
#4 Learn from strangers. Growing up kids are often taught not to talk to strangers, as an adult however this can be very insightful (whilst keeping your wits about you!). In the past nine months I have spoken to more strangers being out and about with Ethan than ever before. This has enabled me to learn about different cultures, countries and experiences. Having a baby has been a good excuse to initiate these conversations as I’ve heard having a dog is too. I plan to take this forward when he’s not around including on my commute, in the coffee line and lifts and try to avoid too much time glued to the phone!
#5 Learn to say no – With one of my top strengths being ‘maximising’ I’ve had an action packed maternity leave filled with coffees and lots of new experiences. I’ve learnt along the way however that with a new baby a balance is needed and less can be more, especially when establishing a routine. Tim Ferriss shared some memorable thinking on this subject inspired via an essay by philosopher-programmer Derek Sivers. His rule of thumb is thinking “hell, yeah” or “no” when deciding on what to do. I’ve learnt that your gut instinct will let you know pretty soon whether something is a ‘hell yeah’ opportunity, follow it!
#6 Appreciation versus expectation – This is perhaps the biggest and most life changing lesson learnt on maternity leave which came to me during a trip to Hawaii. Inspired by a Tony Robbins quote: “Trade your expectations for appreciation and your whole world changes in an instant.” I devoted a blog post to it which can be read here. An example is dropping the expectation to write this blog in one setting and appreciating the interruptions from the little man!
#7 Patience is a virtue – As any first time parent will know raising a baby has its tests of patience from settling them to sleep, to starting solids to the transition to crawling. When I was younger my dad regularly said to me ‘patience is a virtue’ which I now understand…..to wait calmly, without getting agitated or angry. My mindfulness teaching and practice has definitely helped with this. I believe you can turn your frustration into a meditation opportunity by focusing on the agitation 🙂 A great example I heard was a screaming baby on a flight. Sounds are a great reminder of the present and being alive, however agitating. I use this with sirens.
#8 Look around with curiosity – I have loved watching Ethan look at the world in wonder and discover things from his hands, to his feet as described in How can we bring wonder back into our lives. Heading back to the workplace I have a blank journal ready to scribe my curious thoughts in, looking at things with fresh opens.
#9 Know your value – As Sheryl Sandberg advocates in ‘Lean In’ I believe maternity leave is an opportunity to move forwards not backwards in your career. Recognising your worth and value is key to this including the transferable skills acquired during your time out. I feel that I will return to the workforce more worldly and productive having had a baby. I am excited to be going back to IECL in a new role to continue to learn and grow.
Now ready to embrace the next chapter of a working mum and daddy day care taking forward these lessons learnt. I’d like to finish by taking the opportunity to say a big thank you to all my helpers during maternity leave (you know who you are xxx).