Three lessons I learnt about work whilst on Maternity Leave
This week, we threw open our arms to welcome back our Head of Consumer, Elena Massucco, who returned to KD after taking time off to look after her new-born. Reflecting on the last six months, Elena shares three lessons she’s learnt about work during the special time she has spent embarking on motherhood…
This week marks my last week of maternity leave. I’ve spent the past 6 months with my daughter Allegra, 180 days of round-the-clock learning. From winter nights spent breastfeeding a newborn through to spring afternoon walks with a baby discovering the world, I had, for the first time in a long time, the time to think.
Amongst these thoughts there were a number about work, being such a key part of what defines me as a person. Becoming a parent is a life changing experience and, whilst dads are mostly sent back to work after two weeks (full of adrenaline and sleep deprivation), mums must reinvent their working lives as they knew it.
I think it’s important to have honest conversations about being working mothers so here are three things I’ve learnt about work whilst being on maternity leave:
1- The importance of feeling ‘full’
As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie suggests in her book “Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions” motherhood is a glorious gift but we should not be defined solely by it. I have decided to be a full person as I want Allegra to benefit from that. I shall never apologise for the decision to work. I love what I do and loving what I do is a great gift to my daughter. The confidence and the self-fulfilment that comes with doing and earning is something I love and I hope I can pass on to her.
2- Gender expectations are there to be challenged
As a mum and main carer I am expected to spend 100% of my time with my little one for a year. Allegra’s dad was expected to be in a supporting role and an efficient working man after two weeks. This is why we both agreed for me to go back to work after 6 months and for him to take unpaid extended paternal leave to look after our daughter. We both want to set a new model for the next generation, a model of equality and responsibility for parenthood – a model where we are both equally expected to look after our kids and to be accountable for it. We want things to be better and we want things to be different. We want the government to encourage working families and provide better childcare support. We also expect businesses to support their employees and provide serious alternatives to the current leave quotas.
3- Sacrifice will (hopefully) pay off
Sadly, we hear often that “it’s not even worth going back to work” because of the ridiculous cost associated to childcare. I believe in the solidity of life’s stock market and everything I’m investing in now will eventually pay back. Training, learning, being challenged, keeping up to speed with my industry’s trends and challenges is hard when sleep is little and baby food is all over your laptop. However, I am only as good as I can be right now so I feel the urge to get back in the game again, and to feel accomplished as a thinker – not as a milk producing machine.
I’ve an incredible amount of respect for my fellow mums who take longer leave as I know that being a full-time mum is the world’s hardest job. Over the last few months I’ve met an incredible bunch of talented, driven, motivated women who have taught me how smart and caring human beings can be and I’m forever grateful for having the chance to experience that.
The conversations around work-life balance are complex. But what I hope is for Allegra to read these thoughts one day and understand the mindset that determined my own choices. Above all, I hope she will be full of her own opinions, coming from an informed and broad-minded place. May her life be whatever she wants it to be.