Ask for What You Need and Take Your Time — Advice for New Parents Returning to Work

Sponsored by Peapod Digital Labs

Katie Idenn. Photo courtesy of Katie Idenn.

Katie Idenn. Photo courtesy of Katie Idenn.

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Fairygodboss
June 23, 2024 at 8:9PM UTC

Planning for your parental leave can be intimidating and, at times, overwhelming. But, as Katie Idenn, a Strategy Manager on the Commercial Strategy team at Peapod Digital Labs (PDL), tells us, it’s important to remember to bring your own needs to the forefront. 

“Work is important and your team is important, but this is your time,” she says. “You shouldn’t be worried about work; you should take the time if you have it. Not everyone gets maternity leave, so if you’re one of the lucky ones who does get this time, really disconnect and take the leave.”

During her own maternity leave, which happened right after she started a new role, Idenn was sure to follow this advice. One way she did so was by ensuring that she had open communication with her manager beforehand. Through this, Idenn was able to make sure projects and tasks were in order and everyone knew where to find the information they needed. As a result, Idenn could focus on taking time for herself and her family during her leave. 

Idenn’s leave lasted for almost 16 weeks, and her return to the office experience made her realize that all parts of the parental leave process require giving yourself grace. “Returning to work was challenging,” she recalls. “Coming back from leave, I quickly realized that I had to figure out a new way of working. Working from home was a lifesaver, but it was a challenge to strike a balance, which surprised me. I was also nursing and pumping, and I had some self-imposed guilt about stepping away from work during the day to do that. Luckily, PDL is a place where no one makes you feel like that is a problem, but I had to come to terms with my new reality — juggling the person I wanted to be as a mom and the person I wanted to be as an employee.”

In order to find this new balance, Idenn emphasizes the importance of taking the time you need, even if this can be challenging advice to follow. “When you’re coming back to work from leave, you might not feel ready to jump back in fully,” Idenn notes. “Don’t feel bad about asking for what you need. It was really hard for me to learn how to balance being a mom and being an employee, and a big part of finding the balance was learning to ask for what I needed — both from my work and from my partner.”

Additionally, therapy can be a helpful tool for new parents adjusting to their new lives. “I started therapy when I came back because I felt like I needed some direction on navigating all of this and on learning to ask for help when I needed it,” Idenn says. “It was incredibly helpful.”

In this article, Idenn tells us more about her journey as a working parent, her strengths as a mom, and how PDL supports her and her family!

To start, how has your role as a new mom made you a better employee?

My role as a mom has made me more understanding of people’s various working styles. Before I had kids, I didn’t really stop and think about why others might be working differently than me. Now, I realize that someone may send an email at 11 p.m. because that’s when they’re able to carve out time for themselves, not because they expect me to reply at that time. 

I also have better time management now. I have a more concrete approach to my workdays, and I don’t let it bleed into my mornings or evenings as much. This is, in part, because my attention is needed at home; my husband works in the restaurant industry so, many nights, I am caring for our daughter while he’s at work. But, it’s also because I want to be at home.

I’ve also learned to create better boundaries between work and home. The time between work and my daughter’s bedtime goes so quickly, and I want to be fully present during that time with her. My husband and I try to stay off our phones in the mornings and evenings with a no-phones rule in order to avoid the temptation of replying to emails or Teams messages. This boundary enables us to focus on our time as a family. And, at home, my office really is my workspace. I try not to bring work outside of this room, which really helps me mentally shift from “mom” to “employee.”

Speaking of being a mom and an employee, what are you especially good at as a mom? What about at work?

As a mom, I’m good at being patient when things are difficult or challenging. I try to remind myself that my daughter’s not giving me a hard time, she’s having a hard time. 

At work, I’m good at being a team player. Our team handles a wide variety of projects, and I’m good at pivoting between the different skill sets required to complete my work within those projects.

Finally, why do you think PDL is a particularly great place to be a working mom? 

PDL is a great place to work as a new mom because of our generous leave policy (in comparison to other U.S. companies), which gave me a lot of time to spend with my daughter before coming back. 

We also have plenty of benefits and programs to support new and expectant mothers, such as medical coverage that offers lactation consultations and free breast pumps; an EAP program that offers work-life balance coaching, assistance with locating care, and childcare discounts; and Mother’s Rooms at every location.

I’m also so thankful for the hybrid work policy, which allows us to work from home a few days a week. I truly can’t fathom how working moms go back to work without a remote work option and am so impressed by those who manage it. For me, every time I go to the office, it takes so much mental and physical preparation. I see the value in both work environments, because it’s also nice to be around other adults and have those interactions, but I am grateful to be working for a company where I have flexibility in where I work throughout the week. 

We have a very understanding culture where people trust you to do your work when you can and take care of your own life as needed.



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