Parental Leave Done Right

VISIONALITY’s Taryn and Katie answer some questions about their own parental leave experiences and how organizations can do family leave right.
New baby
Taryn Choquette is VISIONALITY’s Project Manager of Events who welcomed her daughter Rhode in December 2022. Her team chose to hire outside support to fill in during her maternity leave and through the transition back to work.
Working Mom
Katie Pearson was working for Girls Inc. when she welcomed her daughter Luna in December 2020 and VISIONALITY was hired to support the organization during her maternity leave. Katie is now a Senior Project Manager for VISIONALITY.

What was your biggest fear during the leave planning process?

T: My biggest fear was feeling like I would need to open my email while on leave, even though I knew I wasn’t going to. I didn’t want to leave my coworkers or clients hanging, but I felt really strongly about taking that time to take care of myself and my baby. I also didn’t want to have pre-anxiety about coming back to a sh*tshow after 3 months, which let’s be honest, isn’t even close to enough time to figure out being a mom let alone a working mom!

K: There is never a good time to take a few months off. As a department of one person, I had so many balls in the air, and I was terrified of letting any of them fall for fear of not meeting my end of year goals and budget. Beyond my own department, the organization was going through a massive staffing transition with the impending departure of the CEO. With all this uncertainty and change, I was very nervous about the state of the organization upon my return.

What made you feel most secure going into your maternity leave?

T: Having a plan in advance! I’m so grateful to Emily and everyone at VISIONALITY for their support and shared excitement. Before I could even think about what leave would look like for me (I’d never done this before and really hadn’t even thought about that side of it), Emily had already come up with a plan and hired someone for full time coverage, starting 3 months before my due date so I could work with them and really make them a part of the work with both the VIS team and my clients.

K: I was lucky enough to have a CEO who knew the importance of bringing in help. The pandemic had left the organization with a skeleton team, and it would have been impossible for them to absorb more assignments. Enter VISIONALITY! Having a knowledgeable consultant step in to provide support was such a relief. They knew what my goals were and how to reach them. I knew that my projects were in capable hands and did not even panic when my leave had to start earlier than expected.

What did the transition back feel like?

T: It felt…okay? Can’t honestly say it felt great because the leave truly flew by with sleep deprivation, breastfeeding challenges, and just trying to navigate a new lifestyle. When I came back, I was nervous and had lost a lot of my confidence – becoming a parent humbled me for sure. But, I was able to transition back slowly which took away some of the pressure and guilt I was feeling. I came back part time at first, which for me looked like short days and not necessarily every day, for a couple of weeks, then longer days but not yet a full 8 hrs for a couple of weeks, and then ramped up to a full schedule after that. I was also so grateful for a remote work situation which enabled me to continue breastfeeding, something that was (and still is) very important to me.

K: Let’s be real – having a baby changes EVERYTHING so there is no jumping right back in like nothing happened. I felt like I was in a fog because I was sleep deprived and still adjusting to what our new routine was. Unlike having internal coverage that would cease upon my return, VISIONALITY stayed on to ease me back. I needed their support, so I didn’t feel overwhelmed or underwater. I also needed to not jump back into a 40-hour work week right away and having them there was crucial.

Looking back, what was the most important takeaway from the whole process?

T: I think I’m still trying to figure that out – it changes every day – but for now my most important takeaway is that it’s all hard! Having a business is hard already – managing your own and your employees’ schedules and needs, seemingly endless paperwork, doing good work for your customers/clients/constituents, all of it! Having a child is hard – being pregnant and the physical toll it takes, giving birth and recovering while raising a child, learning how to be a parent with limited resources and no spare time (or energy) to navigate finding those that do exist. It’s ALL HARD and there’s no reason to make it harder by trying to do anything alone or making someone else do it alone. Collaboration and community really is key, and I know I personally would have been lost without it.

K: The most valuable thing to me was having a supervisor who took the lead. If she did not make the call to VISIONALITY and tell me that help was coming, I would not know that outside help was even an option. I would have tried to put in overtime in advance to finish projects, put important things on hold, and make my already stretched thin team stretch further to cover my duties. By asking a team to take on more tasks that fall outside their wheelhouse for no additional pay could lead to staff turnover and I would have never forgiven myself if I was the cause of someone leaving their job and feeling burnt out. The bottom line is the head of the organization is responsible for the decision making and the well-being of its staff – not the person going on leave. Talk to your supervisor about all the options available.

Are you interested in leave of absence coverage? Let’s chat about how VISIONALITY can help!