Norah Black—VP, Marketing & Communications, IBAO
I’m halfway through maternity leave.
In April, we welcomed our daughter Kylah to the world which, needless to say, has kicked my learning and growth into high gear. This could be said for any major life event. But since growing a human and trying my darndest to keep her alive and well is fresh on the brain, I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned these past few months.
BE YOUR OWN TEST CASE
The amount of information available on any particular topic can be overwhelming. Info on babies and parenting is no different. While my Google search history is wildly embarrassing—how to make a baby stop crying, can a baby choke on its own foot—results and recommendations appear useful. But I’m learning how different babies can be, and applying broad advice doesn’t always work.
Sometimes the best solution is a hybrid of many ideas—you can’t always find it on the first try. So don’t be afraid to try something and fail, and be confident doing what works best for your team and situation, even if it doesn’t go well that first time.
DON’T TAKE THINGS AT FACE VALUE
Sizing of baby clothes is… ridiculous. My daughter’s almost six months but currently wears 3, 6-9 and 9-12 months depending on the brand. When I sorted generous hand-me-downs before Kylah was born, I sorted by label. To my dismay, she’s now outgrown adorable outfits because I didn’t try things on for size.
When it comes to work—keep a critical but open mind. Do your research, sign up for free trials and ask colleagues who’ve used the systems or processes you’re considering. Be cognizant that, despite appearances, not everything is what it claims to be.
PATIENCE IS QUEEN
I’ve always been impatient. At work I struggle with inefficiency and administrative bureaucracy. But my time at home has shown me the value of patience in a clear and obvious way. Because babies are insane! They’re one way today, another tomorrow. When you think you’ve figured them out, they take you right back to square one—which is the square with screaming and no sleep, for the record.
So just as content is king, patience is queen. Recognize the moments you need to stand back and start again. Identify when a knee-jerk reaction will lead to a negative outcome. Approach every day as a new one—forget the frustrations of yesterday, bring new energy and perspective today and hope for the best tomorrow.
A LITTLE WHITE NOISE GOES A LONG WAY
Before Kylah was born, we envisioned our favourite 90s playlist as the soundtrack of her naptime, thinking we’d adopt the noisier-the-room-the-more-she’ll-adapt approach. Then we had Kylah who flinches when our cat yawns in the next room. We’re currently on our third white noise machine and we’ve finally nailed it.
At work, as in life, there are endless distractions. Reacting to the seemingly endless flow of information at our fingertips can be unproductive. Strategically deployed white noise can go a long way in quieting those distractions, helping to stay focused and closer to that end goal.
HARD BOILED EGGS FILL THE TANK
Your brain needs fuel to function properly. Perhaps an obvious point, but one that’s become abundantly clear these past few months. Prior to mat leave, I was notorious for grinding until 3:00PM without eating, only to wonder why I was cranky and unfocused. My amazing team would politely slide snacks across my desk or ask if I had emergency almonds in my purse.
At home with Kylah, it was much the same until I realized how a simple hardboiled egg midday keeps my mood and attitude up. So skip the sugar and include a few hits of protein throughout your day—your body and demeanor will thank you for it.
GET OFF YOUR DEVICES
Overstated but needs to be included. At work, I feel the pressure as a marketer to keep up with social media and not miss any developments. But on mat leave I’ve been trying to limit screen time to be present with and for Kylah. It’s made me realize how much we no longer spend time just thinking, contemplating when we’re constantly being entertained, informed, distracted.
We all need a break from technology throughout the day. So shut the laptop and put the phone down when you can. Close your eyes, meditate or simply take a beat from the grind. You’ll set yourself up for a productive and focused remainder of the day.
SET A GOOD EXAMPLE, ALWAYS
Being on mat leave has given me a lot of time to think. I think about who Kylah might grow up to be and how we might influence her in all the best ways. And I think about the world she’s going to grow up in. Having a daughter has brought into focus the duty we all have to work toward an accepting world, one that prioritizes sustainability for future generations.
So move DEI and sustainability initiatives to the top of your strategic plan if they aren’t there already. We are what we do, but we’re also the legacies we leave behind.