‘We Are Not Perfect and That Is Perfectly Fine’ — Advice for Working Parents From a DI&B Manager

Sponsored by Navy Federal Credit Union

Kelli Green

Photo courtesy of Navy Federal Credit Union.

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Kelli Green manages the Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging strategy team at Navy Federal Credit Union, after originally joining the organization as a leader in Employee Relations with 13 years of experience in various Human Resources leadership roles.  

In addition to her professional expertise, Green is first and foremost a mother to her 15-month-old daughter — and she feels fortunate that Navy Federal leaders acknowledge and appreciate that. Working for a company that supports her as both a professional and as a mother has been key to her success — as well as to her work-life balance, which she believes is all about “setting boundaries and identifying a few non-negotiables,” and “the rest will ebb and flow.”

Here, we caught up with Green to learn more about what that balance looks like and how she’s been able to achieve it. 

What are you especially good at as a mom? What about at work?

Until I was asked this question, I never connected the similarities between being a mother and my DI&B work.

As a mom, I do well at acknowledging my daughter’s feelings by using patience and compassion, helping her develop new skills, anticipating her current and future needs and my personal favorite, instilling a love of music and dancing.

At work, I’m a natural coach, and I’m great at listening to employees and acknowledging their feelings and experiences. Being able to anticipate needs helps me solve organizational challenges. I’ve yet to break out any dance moves, but I have been known to open team calls with music.

Attaining work-life balance can’t be done solo. What people, resources, and tools do you rely on to get it all done?

Having a child at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic was challenging. I was and continue to be extremely fortunate to have an actively involved husband; however, we were cautious about how much we exposed our daughter to the unknown, which meant no babysitters, no nights out and a lot of togetherness. It was tough. We felt she was exposed to enough at school and, with my husband still going into the office every day, we didn’t need to add additional variables into the equation. 

Three things really helped in finding balance:

  1. Daycare: My husband and I both have a lot of meetings throughout the day and need focus time, so it was essential that we find care for our daughter outside of our house. Before our daughter was born, we added her on multiple daycare waiting lists in the area. We were so grateful to receive a call from a new school a block from our house before she made her grand entrance. Tip to new parents: Get your name on that waiting list early!

  2. A dog walker: Hiring a dog walker meant my dog was still getting the undivided attention she deserved while we all adjusted to life with a newborn. The dog walking company was so great, we still use them today, which has been helpful now that I’m working a hybrid schedule. If you don’t have a dog, think about something else you can outsource, like a laundry service.

  3. A shared calendar: My husband and I began using a shared calendar to ensure that we are clearly communicating appointments, who has pickup/drop-off duty, when we have work trips, the occasional date night, etc. Being organized has helped us tremendously!

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

When I think of the word balance, I think of two sides of the scale equally hanging — but we all know that is not the case when it comes to balancing children, work, marriage, family, friendships, hobbies and more. It’s more of an ebb and flow. There are days where I may have to work a little later, so my husband will do school pick up duty. And there are days where I’m able to leave early, run errands and pick up our daughter early from school for some extra giggles and dancing. Just acknowledging that “balance” can look entirely different depending on the day or month helps me feel more confident in my ability to achieve it. 

One thing that I continue to learn every day is that I have to set and maintain boundaries.  I’ve learned to say no more, whether it’s work-related or personal. 

Can you tell us more about these boundaries? What kinds of boundaries have you established to separate work and family time? 

Morning and evening routines are non-negotiable. I put my work phone and laptop away and won’t check anything until after my daughter is off to school or in bed. These early years go by so quickly, I want to be present for as much as possible. Even if it’s just dancing around the living room to, We Don’t Talk About Bruno from the Encanto soundtrack before bath time. Lately, I’ve noticed there are more nights that I don’t even pick my work phone back up until the next morning. It’s a big accomplishment for me because I used to be the person who would respond to emails before bed every night.

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

There is truly no way to fully prepare for what’s to come! Create a transition document but know that the work you plan to get done before the baby comes most likely will not be finished entirely. The advice that I will give is, do not stress, and trust that your team will cover while in your absence.

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

I took advantage of the full three months of maternity leave (we’ve since enhanced our benefits to be sixteen weeks!). Upon my return, I absolutely loved connecting with other adults and talking about things other than feeding schedules, milestones, etc. The first few weeks I was back, my daughter was sleeping through the night! But then the four-month sleep regression hit, and then came the daycare colds. I was so fortunate to work with a team that welcomed a baby in our virtual meetings and let me flex my hours how I needed to take care of my child’s needs

Let’s talk about the Navy Federal’s culture. What’s your favorite aspect of it, and how does it aid you in achieving balance?

I appreciate having dedicated no-meeting times and the flexibility to work from anywhere – whether it’s from home, the office, or even my parents’ house – depending on our family’s needs.

I also work for a leader who respects that I consider myself first and foremost a mother to my little girl. My leader gives me the grace and space to manage my day as I see fit. 

What type of programs does the Navy Federal offer to new and expectant mothers?

  • Parental benefits, which are listed on our Fairygodboss profile.

  • Newborns are eligible for health insurance if a parent is under Navy Federal’s health insurance.

  • We are eligible to open a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (FSA) and Medical Flexible Spending Account (FSA).

  • We can open a Membership Share Savings account for the newborn once they receive their SSN.

  • Parents can participate in Navy Federal’s Friendship Fund. In this, you’re eligible to receive an award for the birth of a child. Choose from either a monetary donation or monetary donation toward enrollment in a 529 College Plan.

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

Give yourself grace. Recently, a coworker with a sick baby at home was being really hard on herself for making what she felt like was a big mistake. Having been in her shoes, I took the opportunity to remind her to give herself grace. It’s important that women (especially new moms!) support each other in the workplace. Sometimes we need a reminder that we are not perfect and that is perfectly fine.

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