So, now you’ve got a little one at home depending on you for their every need, every waking moment. Sleep is a fond memory. And if you were the birthgiving parent, your body has gone through major changes, and you may still be nursing and pumping. How could anyone expect that back at work, things would be the same as Before Baby?
Don’t feel bad for needing things to change at work! First of all, half of all workers aged 24–54 are parents, so this is not some niche need or liability that you are bringing to the table. The American, paid workplace is rooted in a model built for straight, upper/middle-class white men with stay-at-home wives and hired help (usually women of color) to take care of the kids, household upkeep, and domestic labor. But our workforce today doesn’t look like that at all!
Even among today’s straight white men, more and more say that they want to be more present in their children’s lives and contribute more to household labor (their actions may tell another story, but intentions are the first step, hopefully). Women make up more than half of the workplace, and most people, regardless of gender or race, can’t raise children on one salary, or afford private, at-home childcare.
More and more companies and organizations are working on developing new family-friendly policies for employees, ranging from things like instituting flexible hours to switching after-work training sessions or networking events to be during work hours. Any manager that ignores the needs of working parents is playing a losing game when it comes to hiring and retaining talent.
Adopting family-friendly policies and retaining parenting workers can save in recruiting, onboarding, and training costs, which can add up to 20% of the employee’s salary. Companies that have a reputation for treating parents well are also more likely to attract high quality talent, which is particularly meaningful in today’s labor shortage and low levels of unemployment. Team morale also improves when there is low turnover and all employees feel supported. Some benefits that make a big difference for parents, like comprehensive healthcare packages, and shorter and flexible hours, are helpful for non-parent workers too; and they can lead to higher productivity, fewer sick days, and stronger company loyalty for all.
Additionally, some bosses point out that parents can be more efficient workers, as they have practiced the art of juggling responsibilities and switching roles in their home life, and are motivated to get results on a quick timetable. As a parent, you may be bringing new skills and drive to the table that you couldn’t offer before! So, whether you are requesting parental leave, negotiating new dynamics when returning to work, or applying for new positions, don’t get stuck in thinking that your family is a liability to your work and value as an employee. By advocating for what you need so that you can stick around at your company long-term, you are ultimately strengthening your workplace (and helping your fellow parents!).
Now that you understand some of how to frame a baby announcement to your boss, it’s important to figure out what your requests actually are and how to frame them. Do you need to talk about parental leave? A private lactation room? (As discussed in another post, workplaces of a certain size are required by law to provide a private, clean, non-bathroom room for lactating parents, yet an appalling number of companies currently stand in violation of this regulation.) Do you need to work from home a couple days a week, or reduce your travel for work?
Ensure that you lay out specific proposals, and prepare to explain how working with your needs will enable you to deliver the best results for the company. Especially if you are negotiating leave, you should detail:
- your current and past contributions and responsibilities (look how valuable I am as a worker!)
- suggestions for how you can train others to take on these responsibilities while you are gone, a schedule for how often you will communicate with relevant co-workers and managers while on leave
- a plan for on-boarding again, upon your return.
It may feel frustrating to take on all this labor if your company doesn’t already have procedures that would work for you, but being proactive and thorough will make it much easier for your managers to say yes to your asks! No one ever got a yes if they didn’t step up and ask.