For Working Moms Like Me, Supportive Company Policies Don’t Matter If This 1 Thing Is Missing

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Helen Daly

Photo courtesy of Helen Daly

Fairygodboss
Fairygodboss
May 29, 2024 at 12:26PM UTC

Helen Daly didn’t do anything specific to prepare for maternity leave. Despite the amount of guidance (or, as she semi-jokingly put it, “opinions dressed up as advice”) that first-time moms are showered with, Daly had access to something that no number of “What to Expect” books can offer: a workplace that truly gets and supports parents. 

“In many ways, an understanding company meant I didn’t feel any need for special programs: I already had all the help and support I needed,” Daly, a Development Manager at Informatica, said. “Bosses and colleagues have always been understanding about the need to fit in family life as well as work. I took six months off for maternity leave, and honestly, returning to work was amazing.”


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That’s not to say that Informatica doesn’t offer special programs for new parents. When Daly last took parental leave six years ago, she says management was “very proactive” in ensuring she’d have a smooth transition back to the office. Today, the software company’s family-friendly benefits and programs have only become more robust. But company policies alone can’t create a trusting, supportive work culture. For that reason, Daily is grateful to the individuals she works with.

“The company can only do so much — you need the understanding and respect of your colleagues when trying to manage the day-to-day demands of family life. And that comes from having coworkers who’ve been there and get it,” she said. “We have an environment where people know it’s OK to rearrange a meeting to fit in the kids’ Christmas Concert or to start your work day after the school run at 9:30 a.m. It’s having people at every stage of life that results in that attitude, and that’s what has made Informatica a great place to be a parent.”

Recently, Daly shared with Fairygodboss how she’s developed as a professional and as a mom at Informatica, as well as her No. 1 tip for working parents who are trying to build better work-life boundaries.

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

I’ve been a Development Manager at Informatica for six months, and prior to that, I was a software engineer here.

How did you prepare for maternity leave and what advice can you offer to other moms who are expecting their first child?

I didn’t do anything specific to prepare for maternity leave — was I meant to? It kind of just came and went! Advice: Ignore all the advice you’re given, as the vast majority of it is nonsense. Pregnant women are constantly showered with opinions dressed up as advice, and you have to learn to tune it out. If that ever gets too hard, just tell people to back off.

How long were you on maternity leave and what was it like to return to work?

I took six months off for maternity leave, and honestly, returning to work was amazing. Not that I don’t love my children, but I missed adult conversation, problem solving, pub lunches, etc. It was great suddenly having a purpose beyond being a giant walking pacifier.

What type of programs did/does your company offer to new and expectant mothers?

The office manager was very proactive about reaching out regarding things like work-station assessments and whether or not I needed a place to pump milk after returning. Bosses and colleagues have always been understanding about the need to fit in family life as well as work.

In many ways, an understanding company meant I didn’t feel any need for special programs: I already had all the help and support I needed. And in the six years since I last did it, they’ve become even more proactive in terms of support both whilst expecting and in returning to work.

How has your morning routine changed since becoming a mom?

Let’s compare! Old routine: Get up, cycle to work, shower, eat breakfast, job done.

Current routine: Get up, make packed lunches, pull children’s clothes on whilst they’re still asleep because they just won’t wake up, make breakfast, manage complaints about breakfast, manage complaints about packed lunches, make a second breakfast, tell children to smother daddy so we can’t hear his snoring anymore (why is he still in bed!?), get football kit ready, hunt out guitar, lose cycling things, pack car, check that there are two children in the car, set off for school, realise we’ve forgotten the homework bags, go back home, grab bags, get back into car, stop car in middle of road and tell children that we’re not moving until they stop fighting, eventually realise that’s not going to stop them and just turn radio volume up to drown them out, get to school, leave oldest child at school door, carry youngest over shoulder screaming and kicking to classroom door, smile politely at other parents as if this is all completely normal and return to car, take a deep breath, and remember it’s all great practice for management: the children in the office have nothing on the ones at home!

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

The kids are covered on our healthcare and we’re entitled to parental leave. But to be honest, I think one of the most important things is a diverse work environment. The company can only do so much — you need the understanding and respect of your colleagues when trying to manage the day-to-day demands of family life. And that comes from having coworkers who’ve been there and get it. You have the newlywed thinking about what car to buy. The mum-to-be showing off her bump. The dads working from home because the baby’s sick. Parents all excited about their child’s first day at school — or college! Water-cooler conversations about menopause.

We have an environment where people know it’s OK to rearrange a meeting to fit in the kids’ Christmas Concert or to start your work day after the school run at 9:30 a.m. It’s having people at every stage of life that results in that attitude, and that’s what has made Informatica a great place to be a parent.

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

Soccer. We’ll have office soccer on a Friday during lunchtime, which is a great stress reliever. After that, cycling or running.

What kinds of boundaries to you follow (if any) to separate work and family time?

I often have to leave the office early to pick up the kids, so I log-in from home to make up the time. If I do that, I’ll set myself a specific task I want to accomplish from home before leaving the office. That way, I don’t just spend hours on the laptop in the evening, and I have a sense of achievement from the extra time put-in.

What’s your No. 1 tip for new moms who are navigating the delicate balance of working and mothering? 

Two tips: Stick up for yourself, and don’t assume that it’s just the women around you who will be understanding and helpful. The dads out there get it, too!

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