Over the past few years, we've started to see large organizations openly embrace a more holistic view of what it means to be a working parent. We’ve seen Mark Zuckerberg, Chairman and CEO of Facebook take paternity leave, as well as Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould make history by becoming the first federal cabinet minister to take maternity leave.
At TELUS Digital, one of our core principles is to enable our team members to do what they want to do easily. Working with such a diverse team, we are continuously looking at ways in which we can support and accommodate everyone. We want team members of all ages who are in different life stages to know that they have equal opportunities to excel in their role, regardless of their commitments outside of the office. For us, this means building a culture that understands and respects the time they may need to spend with their families. We wanted to spend some time to reflect on real working parents in our own team and share some of their experiences. Leading this three-part series, we have Elaine Oei, mom of 2.
Elaine Oei, Director, Digital Platform and Products, Mom of 2
I have two boys under the age of five that continually keep me on my toes. Being a working mom is a juggling act and it can be hard sometimes -- ok, most times! There will always be moments of doubt and times when nothing seems to be going according to plan, but it’s a learning experience and it has most definitely helped me grow in ways I could not have imagined.
A few main things I’ve learned along the way:
Guilt comes in many forms. Mom guilt, work guilt - that feeling you get when you think you are underperforming against expectations. It’s important to realize that these expectations you feel are set primarily by yourself. All too often, I meet new moms that feel they can’t be who they were before kids, having to change working hours, split their focus at times, but in actuality, who they are now and how they are performing is often better. Guilt is an unproductive feeling, say that with me - “unproductive!”, and its energy is much better spent focusing on moving forward and achieving bigger and better things.
2. Flexibility and balance
Coming back to work made me appreciate the flexibility I have here at TELUS Digital. I can drop-off and pick up my kids when I need to, stay home with them when they are sick, and balance my life and work commitments in a way that works for me and my new life as a mom. I am thankful I have a team that appreciates life with a family and appreciates my need to set my working hours that makes sense for me and my family. I’ve learned to embrace this flexibility and have come to terms that my working hours may not always match a traditional 9-5.
It’s important to set boundaries for work and family time. I used to think that multi-tasking was achieving more for both my work and my family, but in fact, it was mentally draining me to be replying to emails and messages while trying to get dinner on the table and two little monsters fed. Putting my device in a place out of reach limited my temptation to get to that next thing in my Inbox/Slack and focus on being present with my family. While this sounds like a little action, it has huge impacts on demonstrating my presence with my family, giving my mind a mental break by helping me focus on what is important at the moment.
While I’ve outlined a few ways in which working moms can cope with the transition to work-life, I feel that it is also the responsibility of organizations to set up the appropriate support structures for moms at all stages of motherhood. In order to continue to foster gender diversity and an inclusive work environment, we need to ensure we are setting up returning mothers for success. This can be achieved through assigning buddies while on maternity leave to keep new moms connected as much as they want to be, to welcome them back and provide the right level of coaching, and to ensure new moms are able to set up the appropriate transition plan back to work, whether that be shortened days or a few days a week to start. The buddy system is something that I’ve already implemented on my own team here at TELUS and it is something I hope to help support and implement throughout the rest of TELUS Digital as we continue to grow and evolve.
Transitioning to work life from maternity leave and learning to adjust to life as a working mom is a process. While many people will say it gets easier - this isn’t a cliche saying, it really truly does get easier! Becoming a mother has taught me not only how to tackle problems differently, but also how to recognize when it’s simply time to take a step back and re-evaluate situations, reset, and not to sweat the small stuff.