Fresh off maternity leave of four months, I expected coming back to work to be incredibly challenging. It was a rough transition, but after only a few missed meetings and unmet deadlines, I was able to get back into the swing of things. While my days take more planning and preparation, I’m glad I came back to work and I’m starting to find that becoming a parent is actually making me better at my job.
Decide What’s Important
In PR we are all overwhelmed with reading. Whether it’s the daily news scan of headlines and industry news, then digging into trades that are relevant to client news, tackling the unending stream of Google and/or TalkWalker Alerts and just staying up on email – there is a LOT to read. I used to skim, skim, skim – but now that I have less time and can’t be constantly reading on my phone, I find that I need to be more focused. Upon returning to work I did a complete makeover on my news alerts, purging old and irrelevant terms and signing up for new and more timely alerts. I did the same with newsletters, unsubscribing from anything that I found myself hesitant to spend time with. I got rid of the New York Times Daily Brief, swapping it for the podcast that I can listen to in the car on my commute. Now that I have fewer and fresher options for reading, I take the time to read through more carefully.
Come From a Place of Compassion
Once your little one enters the picture, gone are the days when all you had to worry about was yourself. Suddenly you are so focused on doing a good job with your baby that you don’t even worry about the things that once seemed essential to you (pedi-what?). This kind of perspective may seem unappealing at first, but I found that upon re-entering the world of PR I was a much more compassionate and empathic leader for my team. Once a strict enforcer of deadlines and aggressive emailer, I now take a softer approach, thinking much more about the unique perspectives and experiences of my team members. I find that bringing compassion into the work place is quite effective and makes for a less stressful experience for everyone – myself included.
Turn it Off
I remember the first time my infant reached for my phone, mesmerized by the glowing screen. I immediately realized that I could no longer multitask while caring for her. Okay, I still take a thousand pictures of her a day, but I have to resist the urge to check email while sitting on the play mat batting a rattle around. Forcing myself to set boundaries on my day – like “don’t roll over and check email before I even get out of bed” – makes me a more effective communicator. It has made me realize that not everything needs an immediate reply. I have found that not firing off thoughts into the email-sphere or hastily answering a client question while stirring a pot of pasta means I think more carefully about my communications and am more thoughtful and thorough in my responses. I also find that I am answering more emails in person, by swinging by coworker’s desks or giving them a call on my commute home. This kind of communication is in fact much more impactful.
Being a parent is the most joyful and difficult job in the world. PR seems easy in comparison, but being able to do both has been an unexpectedly fulfilling challenge.