Adjusting to Parenthood is Hard – Here’s How My Employer Helped Me and My Husband Adjust

Kelly Zarzycki, COE Analyst-Ford Talent Center Lead - Talent Acquisition. Photo Courtesy of Ford Motor Company.

Kelly Zarzycki, COE Analyst-Ford Talent Center Lead - Talent Acquisition. Photo Courtesy of Ford Motor Company.

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April 13, 2024 at 12:36AM UTC

In the fall of 2018, Ford Motor Company rolled out significant upgrades to its already-strong parental leave policies. In addition to fully-paid disability benefits for birth mothers and up to a year off for all new birth and adoptive parents, Ford now also offers eight weeks of paid New Parent Days (which can be taken by birth or adoptive moms and dads any time in the child’s first year), a 4-week “New Parent Ramp-up” for new parents to work part-time at full pay as they adjust to being working parents, 10 days of paid Flexible Family Care leave annually for care of older kids or other relatives, and the shipment of expressed milk for nursing moms who are traveling on company business. These policy enhancements have met with rave reviews from new parents, and are helping develop a happier, more engaged workforce. 

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 “We are tipping the scales in favor of more flexibility, giving parents a better opportunity to secure the bonds that are so essential to a child’s future well-being,” said Kiersten Robinson, Ford Group Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer.

Kelly Zarzycki, COE Analyst-Ford Talent Center Lead - Talent Acquisition, has benefitted from these new policies. Fairygodboss spoke to her about how Ford has empowered her during her first few months of motherhood. Then, she shared how she de-stresses, how she’s helping her husband adjust to parenthood and how being a mom has made her a better employee. 

How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously? 

I started in my current role in March 2017. Prior to that, I was facilitating offers and partnering with potential new hires through their pre-employment and on-boarding. 

Why do you think your company is a particularly great place to be a working parent? 

I have always felt Ford is a family, but their actions truly speak louder than words. When I was pregnant, I was able to work from home on those days that I just couldn't imagine putting my shoes on over my swollen feet. And when needed, I was able to use some personal time with no questions asked. The support my coworkers and supervisors provided was priceless. Throughout my pregnancy, my department was flexible with all my appointments — and eager to hear about our progress! The medical plan I chose contributed towards my health savings account, leaving me with no worries about any medical bills. And with our New Parent Days, I was able to spend quality time with my daughter without the stress of not receiving pay. I will forever be grateful for the experience Ford provided me as a first-time mom. 

How did the New Parent Program help you adapt to working parenthood? 

To be honest, I don’t know what I would have done without it. The standard disability time for my c-section sounded like enough, but the eight weeks flew by. The extra eight weeks I received from Ford was when I was truly able to enjoy being a mom. 

Also, newborns need what they need, when they need it. But as they get older, you become in sync with their needs, and returning to work abruptly can shake things up. With Ford’s Ramp-up period, my daughter and I were able to ease into our new routine. This helped with transitions in our sleep schedule and breastfeeding schedule. Plus, it helped our emotional readiness — for myself to return to work and for my daughter to be under someone else's care. Receiving my normal pay through this whole experience kept my mind at ease. 

How do you feel like your job has helped complement your function as a parent? 

With Ford’s options, I can still be productive and effective in my job without being physically in the office. Children are unpredictable, and I have the ability to be flexible to suit the needs of my daughter and our family. With remote capabilities and flexible work schedules, I can work from home or adjust my day if my husband has to go in early or has to work late. 

How has your role as a parent made you a better employee? 

Becoming a mom has changed my perspective on the world. I now view every person as someone's child or someone's parent, and understand the sacrifices they have gone through to be where they are now. On a daily basis, I work with candidates that are seeking employment at Ford. Anything I can do to better their day and make them comfortable through our candidate experience is how I would want someone to treat my daughter in her future endeavors. 

What’s your no. 1 tip for new parents who are navigating the delicate balance of working and parenting? 

Being a new working parent is truly a delicate balance, so you need to surround yourself with support. This can be found through many different avenues; support at work from your coworkers or supervisors, support from childcare or support from family. It is always okay to ask for help. I've always heard that it takes a village, and I’ve found this is very true. Thankfully, Ford has become part of my village. 

What’s your go-to stress-relief activity or routine? 

There will always be good days, but there will also be days that you struggle. Ford has provided training to learn and practice mindfulness. I’ve learned that it’s important to take a few minutes to concentrate on your breathing, to recharge and to refocus. Because I have a long commute to work, sometimes I just turn off the radio for silence and focus on my breathing, my goals for the day and what it’s going to take to accomplish those goals. We also have a Mothers Room (Lactation Room) in our office that I can pop into for five minutes to recharge. Keeping the latest video or photo of my daughter on my phone always helps, too! 

How have you helped your partner adjust to their new parenting role? 

My husband is very supportive of my desire to be successful professionally. We struggled a bit with finding the financial balance of returning to work versus staying home with a newborn. But the extra two months of paid time off took stress off of our family by allowing me to stay home and enjoy extra bonding time while still feeling secure in my career. 

What’s your favorite part of your work day (or your favorite aspect of your job)? 

Throughout your employment, you have a few "moments that matter.” In my role, I am working face-to-face with candidates on a daily basis, and I get to help provide them with a positive experience during one of those moments. I feel like my role — helping them through their interview experience – sets the expectation of how they can expect to feel as part of the Ford family. 

What do you love most about your company? 

Ford truly has a focus on people. I am proud to be a third-generation Ford employee, and to be contributing to a company whose culture embodies everything I stand for. 


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