Tell us a little bit about yourself, your family, and the work you do.
My name is Carly. I’m 28 years old. I live in the stunning town of Margaret River which is edged by national parks, pristine coastlines and award-winning wine country. I’m a wife, mother and People & Culture partner. I work in the SA, NT, and WA People & Culture team at Woolworths. My family includes my husband, Tom, our 20-month-old son, Finn, and our two-year-old kelpie, Peppy.
What’s one strategy that you’ve taken away or put into action after going through the GP program?
I am grateful for the regular sessions that I had with my Grace Papers coach. They most definitely supported me with my transition back to work. Sharing my experience and having someone to talk to throughout the early days of returning to work helped me feel lighter, more understood and less alone. One strategy that I have taken away with me is to ‘find joy in the juggle’. I did this through developing a professional vision and creating boundaries at both work and home.
What hurdles did you come up against on your journey to balance both career and care?
Firstly, there were the barriers I experienced prior to returning to work. The uncertainty of returning to work as well as the expectations of motherhood hit me hardest. “The World Health Organisation recommends that all babies should be breastfed up to two years old or beyond.” This sentence was just one of many that triggered the ‘mum guilt’. Knowing what I had ahead of me – the kilometres, the long hours, the nights away, the perceived requirement of being full-time, the daycare judgement, my husband’s family being 3.5 hours away, and my family being on the other side of the country – was overwhelmingly heavy. Secondly, there were the barriers I encountered and still encounter whilst being back at work. The pressure of finding the healthy balance of home life and work life without letting either one down is difficult. Protecting relationships at home and at work is my main priority.
How did you tackle these hurdles?
I organised catch ups with my manager and my business partner and put forward the idea of transitioning back part-time at four days per week. Communication here was key and the more open I was, the more comfortable the interactions were. We all agreed to a six week part-time transition. This reassured me that my transition back to work and my son’s transition to being in someone else’s care would be somewhat easier.
I also revisited my roles and responsibilities at home. Now, this, I want to say, is still a work in progress. My husband is amazing and has definitely risen to the demands of parenthood whilst working full-time himself. However, it has been a journey for us both while we navigate our new terrain. I’ve never been one to ask for much help before, but if I could go back in time, I would have done so, much earlier.
The biggest secret to adjusting to my return to work whilst maintaining my relationships at home is spending quality time together, being present and purposefully scheduling in time. Although it has come with immense challenges, I can proudly say that I am still breastfeeding my 20-month-old son. I am extremely content and engaged at work and still very much in love with my husband.
What have you learned about yourself through the process?
I have learned that I can be a full-time parent whilst still having a full-time career. I have learnt that after becoming a mother, although your life completely changes, you can still access those aspects of your life that you treasured pre-child. You don’t have to lose the relationship with yourself. I have learned that, although your baby takes up so much of your love, energy and time, ensuring that you still focus on pursuing your personal goals will allow you to show up as the best version of yourself for your family.
What would be your advice to any expectant or new working parent?
Your whole perspective on life is about to change, however it doesn’t mean you have to surrender to your whole life changing. If you want to continue your career, do it. Use that new perspective to refocus your energy at work. If you are in the position to, take the time you need. Don’t return to work until you are ready. Also don’t be afraid to talk to your manager about flexible working arrangements. I never would have thought I’d be able to work flexibly in my role, however nine months in I am still working flexibly.
What would be your advice to any manager/leader out there in terms of enabling their staff to balance both career and care?
Put yourself in their shoes. Treat every interaction with compassion and be confident that if you care for your team, they will indisputably do their very best by you.
Looking back now, what advice would you give yourself at the time you decided to have a child?
I would ask for more help earlier on. I would tell myself that you will be learning ‘on the job’ and every day will be different. I would tell myself that each stage is only a season and it will eventually pass. Lastly, I would tell myself there is no definition for ‘motherhood’. You do you.
What words do you live by?
Life may not be as light and as free as before but you will have more love in your heart than you have ever thought possible.
What I’ve Learned is a series featuring the parents (and wisdom) within the Grace Papers community.