How Northwestern Mutual Helps Me Succeed as a Working Mom

Sponsored by Northwestern Mutual – Corporate Careers

Toni Lee

Photo courtesy of Northwestern Mutual.

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Being an employee at Northwestern Mutual means having the keys to determine your growth and future in your profession,” Toni Lee, a Manager in the Identity and Access Management (IAM) Engineering space at Northwestern Mutual, tells us.

Throughout her eight years at Northwestern Mutual, Toni has been empowered to try different roles in various departments. Currently, as a people leader in IAM, she leads three identity security teams consisting of approximately 26 people.  This career growth and support has been constant throughout all of Toni’s significant life events, including navigating motherhood as a first-time mom and in the last few months as a mom of two. Toni shares that she recently took the 12 weeks of maternity leave offered by Northwestern Mutual to recover and bond with her newborn. 

Creating a welcoming environment for working parents is the norm at Northwestern Mutual. Toni says the company is a great place to work as a parent, full of daily support both, “from those you work with every day, as well as complete strangers,” she states. “My leaders were more than supportive and wanted to ensure that I had the flexibility needed to take care of work and personal obligations in preparation for my maternity leave.”

Learn more about Toni’s career as a working mom, how she finds balance and her tips for working parents!

What type of programs does Northwestern Mutual offer to new and expectant mothers?

Northwestern Mutual offers a variety of programs and benefits for new and expectant mothers. There is a breast pump benefit for mothers to receive a new breast pump through health insurance. The Employee Assistance Program offers solutions and support for many family concerns and topics such as: starting a new family, caring for a baby, parenting, postpartum depression and more. 

Our company’s concierge program helps with organizing and scheduling services such as finding childcare, running errands and finding fun activities for your children. 

Other benefits that Northwestern Mutual offers include a Dependent Day Care Account to contribute pre-tax dollars to pay for daycare expenses and dental benefits for extra cleanings throughout the extent of your pregnancy.  

All of the above benefits helped me plan for the arrival of my baby as well as make a seamless transition back into work.

For individuals working onsite, how does Northwestern Mutual provide a comfortable environment for new and expectant mothers?

Northwestern Mutual provides a Mother’s Room that is equipped with a refrigerator, sink, microwave and storage areas for your pumping equipment. Having somewhere to go that offers amenities, comfortable seating and equipment in case you can't bring in your own is an amazing benefit that Northwestern Mutual offers.

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

Give yourself as much time as you can for planning because you never know how your pregnancy will evolve. I started with familiarizing myself with our company’s parental leave benefit. With this being my second child, I was particularly interested in how the benefit may have changed. I planned to share my pregnancy with my supervisor and team after I’d gotten through my first trimester to be on the safe side, and once announced, I started to work with my manager to identify a backfill for my role and responsibilities. Since my job was managing my team’s backlog and facilitating many team ceremonies, it was important to identify someone who was comfortable leading and being out front. Once we identified a backfill, I spent time documenting processes, building a playbook and using it to bring them up-to-speed. 

A piece of advice I would share with a mom expecting her first child is to speak with HR to understand your benefits fully, and spend as much time, as early as possible, planning for a smooth transition into maternity leave

In what ways were you supported when you returned from maternity leave?

Interestingly enough, I actually secured a new position (my current position) upon my return to work. My goal when returning was ensuring that my previous team was prepared to trek on without me, and they were more than prepared. My team was very supportive throughout the entire process!

What kinds of boundaries have you established to separate work and family time?

If I am working from home, I always shut down my computer at the end of the day. I know that if I do not lock my computer and walk away — I will come back. To establish boundaries, shut your computer completely down, and, if you have an office, shut the door. You’d be surprised how those two small activities will add so much balance to your life. 

Speaking of balance, what does “balance” mean to you, and in what ways do you feel like you’ve achieved it?

Balance, to me, means devoting your consciousness, time and resources to things that make you feel stable, satisfied, full and content. It requires consciousness of all your options and priorities. It is the act of determining the value proposition and if the value is greater for something in a particular moment, you do that — and feel good about it. That, to me, is balance. 

What’s one misconception you think exists around work-life balance today?

I think one misconception is that balance means an even split 50/50, and your time must be evenly distributed between work and personal every day. It’s not always possible to stick to the fixed hours of the day. There will be days when you have to dedicate more hours to work to get tasks completed and other days where you have to leave early to take care of personal and family matters. Understanding that sometimes one may require more time than the other is key. Since the pandemic, we’ve learned that balance comes in many shapes and sizes.

What’s your #1 tip for new moms who are navigating the delicate balance of working and mothering?

Take one day at a time; focus on what’s at hand.

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