What I’ve Learned: Hannah Edwards on returning to work and learning to ask for support


While motherhood felt entirely natural to Hannah Edwards, there was some fear around returning to work. Here, she opens up about the transition, finding balance, and learning to ask for support.

Firstly, tell us a little bit about yourself, your baby, and the work you do with Leidos.

I’m a Junior PM at Leidos. In my spare time (of which there is minimal) I enjoy playing video games, avoiding laundry, cooking and researching food. A couple of fun facts about me: I own over 100 cookbooks and will never stop. I also have a three octave vocal range. 

My son Samuel is nine months old now and is the most chill baby ever. He loves baths, our Labrador, Willow, giving high fives, and playing (i.e. key mashing) the piano. He hates putting clothes on at any time, ever.  

I started as an IT Project Administrator six years ago and have worked my way up from there, including detours in the Contracts Management space. At Leidos, my role as a Junior PM involves working with and supporting the Senior PM in running streams of work across the project lifecycle. 

What was your return to work like?

Daunting. I had just spent a significant chunk of time where my main conversationalists were a baby and a dog. However, I was lucky enough to have a manager that genuinely cared about ensuring my return to work was smooth and comfortable, as well as the sessions with Kate [at Grace Papers] to help talk through and allay my concerns. Overall, I ended up feeling very welcomed back at work. 

What are the most challenging things you’ve discovered, about juggling work and looking after a baby?

Sickness. As I write this, I am coming up on seven days of being sick with multiple issues, which is part of five consecutive weeks of constant sickness in my family. Daycare and cooties go hand-in-hand. We were somewhat prepared for it, but not to this degree. Being constantly sick, or having a baby that is constantly sick, is physically, emotionally and mentally draining.

What are the best things about combining work and family?

Being at home with my son wasn’t working for me. I wasn’t getting many good chances to exercise my brain and put it to good use, which felt very unfulfilling for me. Being at work allows me to use my brain during the day and then pick up my smiling son from daycare to have playtime and cuddles at home. 

What’s one idea that you’ve taken away or put into action after going through the GP program?

Identifying and being confident in my strengths.  

What would be your advice to any expectant or new working parent?

Don’t be afraid to be honest and ask for support from whomever you need.  

What would be your advice to any manager/leader out there in terms of enabling their staff to balance both career and care?

Expect and accept a need for flexibility, and be willing to work with your staff on that. 

Would you recommend the Grace Papers program for parents and carers at Leidos?

I can only speak as a first time parent, but I absolutely would recommend it to anyone (like me) who looked at the creeping return to work date with anxiety. It was like one big targeted therapy session and it helped me immensely.

What I’ve Learned is a series featuring the parents (and wisdom) within the Grace Papers community.