Learning you’re pregnant for the first time comes with changes and considerations expectant parents never anticipated. But the one thing Tara Kurada didn’t have to give a second thought to was how to navigate coming back to work after maternity leave.
“When I shared my pregnancy news with my boss, HR and others on my team, they were excited and happy for me. The health of my baby and me came before everything else for them,” says Kurada, a Supply Chain Systems Analyst who has worked at XPO Logistics for three years.
Kurada’s boss jumped into action, her coworkers stepped up to cover for her during maternity leave, and Kurada and her husband were free to focus on preparing for the arrival of their daughter—a process that was made easier thanks to XPO’s generous family-friendly benefits, including paid pre-natal leave, paid bonding leave and schedule flexibility.
After her 14-week maternity leave, Kurada returned to work feeling set up for success. And, now that she’s back at work, she feels that the lessons she’s learning as a new mom have made her more confident of her contributions at work.
“I’ve become more mindful of my actions, more effective at planning and organizing, more detail-oriented and I’m multitasking like never before,” she shared, adding that work isn’t the only area where she’s growing. “I’m just glad that I’m getting better at this ‘mom’ thing, too, which is proven by my daughter’s smiles. It’s all I work so hard for.”
Recently, Kurada chatted with Fairygodboss about what has helped her navigate her new identity as a working mom, how she’s being supported at work post-birth and what her number one piece of advice is for women who are balancing work and family goals themselves.
How did you prepare for your maternity leave?
When I found out I was pregnant, I thought about (other than praying for a healthy pregnancy and baby!) how I’d need to be off work on maternity leave to take care of a newborn.
I reached out to HR to learn about my available leave and other benefits. Then, I planned my time off work accordingly and conveyed it to my boss. He supported my plans and shared information as necessary to others on my team to organize the work while I was away. Having taken care of all that, my husband and I only had the preparation of our home left for the arrival of our daughter.
How long were you on maternity leave and what was it like to return to work?
I was on maternity leave for 14 weeks, and I couldn’t believe how fast they went by. It wasn’t easy to leave my 3-month-old at home and walk out the door to be away for eight hours straight. However, an understanding team of coworkers, supportive boss, considerate HR, a wonderful nanny and, most importantly, my lovely infant daughter made it possible for me to get my work routine together.
What type of programs does your company offer to new and expectant mothers?
XPO introduced some wonderful pregnancy and family benefits for new and expectant moms and parents in 2019. I had my daughter in January 2019, so I was one of the first employees to use these benefits. XPO now offers 10 days of paid leave while you’re pregnant that employees can use for things like doctors’ visits, pregnancy-related prenatal health issues, setting up a nursery, or starting maternity leave early. We also have access to a virtual health clinic called Maven Clinic that new and expectant parents can reach out for pre-natal, pregnancy and post-natal support. Also, I was able to modify my work schedule to better suit my needs while pregnant.
Then, we get six-weeks of short-term disability leave after our babies are born, plus another six weeks of fully paid family bonding leave for primary caregivers.
After we come back to work, XPO provides accommodations like a Mom’s Room and breastfeeding space and paid breaks to support your breastfeeding goals.
How has your morning routine changed since becoming a mom?
My mornings now include a lot of very heartwarming smiles, the sweet scent of my baby and a lot of tea amongst a rush of things like diaper changing, baby bottle making, looking through work email and gathering things to be at work.
What kinds of boundaries do you follow to separate work and family time?
People think of boundaries as a hard stop. But it does not always work out to have fixed boundaries. For me, my goal is that I don’t let my family suffer because of work and that I don’t let my work suffer because of my family. And XPO supports this by having prearranged work schedules that help me plan and organize work and family goals, as well as flexible work schedules for when things don’t go as planned.
Why do you think your company is a particularly great place to be a working mom?
A baby is a joy for everyone, but a lot of effort goes into raising a healthy and happy baby, particularly in caring for a newborn. New parents need all the help and support, anyway they can get it. Paid parental leave offered by XPO gave me the reassurance I needed that taking care of my baby wouldn’t take away from my family’s income. After I returned to work, XPO made accommodations so that I could have the time and privacy to pump for my baby. Also, for those times when my daughter was sick or feeling under the weather after her vaccines, I was able to be by her side without missing work, as I was able to work from home. I’m grateful for all the benefits that I’ve had to for the birth and care of my daughter.
What are you especially good at as a mom? What about at work?
I’m just glad that I’m getting better at this “mom” thing, which is proven by my daughter’s smiles. It’s all I work so hard for. At work, I can say that I’m good at tackling changing priorities and analyzing data.
What’s your go-to stress-relief activity or routine?
I like to sing, a lot. When I’m stressed I put my headphones on, start playing my favorite tunes, sing-along and finally turn it into a karaoke session.
What’s your number one tip for new moms who are navigating the delicate balance of working and mothering?
I’ve realized that when a woman becomes a mom, it unleashes this mental strength and physical dexterity from within that she never knew existed in her. For one, as a new mom, I’ve become more mindful of my actions, more effective at planning and organizing, more detail-oriented and I’m multitasking like never before.
It won’t be easy, but you’ll do it. You’ll do it the way that works for you, your family and your company, and it may not be the same as another working mom. Plan ahead by researching resources that can support your work and family goals. Talk to your HR. Use any and all benefits that are available to you through work as permitted and needed. Talk to other working moms for advice. Organize but remember that with a baby around, all may not go as planned, so be open to changes in plans. It will seem tough at times, but remember that time will pass. Your baby will not be a baby forever. So savor every moment that you can. Other things can wait for just a second longer.
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