Following the birth of her daughter Neve, New Zealand PM Jacinda Arden is due to be back at her desk in less than six weeks. We spoke to one Aussie mum who returned to work in record time to discover how she survived a short maternity leave.
The birth of baby Neve has set the clock is ticking on Jacinda’s six weeks of maternity leave. The Prime Minister, who has received a tidal wave of support, welcomed her into the world, their family, and her wider New Zealand village late last week. She’s said she’s not the first woman to go through the experience, and that while it will not be without its challenges, she believes with the support surrounding them, they’ll make it work - like the many others that have before her. It’s a philosophy that proved true for Mum of one, and business owner, Alecia Hancock, who credits her family’s village with making her quick return to work a success.
Alecia spent the start of her labor doing emails and ended up taking just four days off from her job following Jenson’s delivery. Now that he’s in school, she’s got plenty of great advice for other mums contemplating a return to the office on the early side. “For me, returning early was a choice. I had just started my own creative consultancy and it was going well. But in my industry, with a business at that stage, taking even three months off would have meant having to start over. I am surrounded by plenty of family, and my husband was in the position of being able to take six months paternity leave, which was very fortunate and part of the equation, so we decided to go for it.
Running her own consultancy business, Hancock Creative, meant Alecia had the flexibility to start working from home following the birth of her son Jenson.
Before I left for maternity leave, I worked closely with my team ensuring each of them had what they needed to look after their projects, and we discussed the various ways things may roll out after Jenson was born so I was sure my clients would be looked after. I’ve had friends that have had babies intending to go straight back to work and deciding they’d rather do motherhood full time for longer, so I knew it was important to be flexible with what may come.
When Jenson was born, my husband went on paternity leave and I started working after four days, but from home. I was there for feeding, to cuddle and spend time together and bond, but also had my husband there when I was involved in work. He loves the fact he got this one on one time with his son, and they are very close – it’s an experience a lot of dads don’t necessarily get to have.
Alecia, her husband, and their parents share the care of Jenson which has helped him develop into a happy, adaptable little boy.
I also had my mum, and later, my mother-in-law helping us out over the years. The day-to-day evolved over time to meet Jenson’s changing needs – for example, we started out with mum coming in the mornings, but when his day naps changed, I would get up with him and we’d do the morning routine, then he’d go down for his nap and I’d get to work – with my mum there by the time he woke up. I also had days blocked off for doing just Jenson things; baby classes and playing together. It obviously didn’t always run smoothly (he had reflux, so I had a lot of late night at one stage, and a lot of vomit), but for the most part, it did.
It's not always easy but Alecia loves the challenge that comes with both her roles as a mum and a creative consultant.
Dealing with unwanted advice
I’m no stranger to hearing that I’m doing it wrong though – especially that he’s an only child. A male friend said in "jokingly" that I was selfish to have just one child because my son will always be lonely, and never have anyone to play with. I was pretty shocked and wasn't sure what to say. Sadly, this hasn't been the only time I've been told that, and I've gotten better at dealing with it - or ignoring the unsolicited opinion.
But now that he’s growing up, I can say he has very close ties with his grandparents, his Dad and me; and his wider family of course. He loves going to his grandparents, and he has three households where he does different things and learns different ways of life and feels completely comfortable.
For me, the choice has been great. Career has always been important to me and part of who I am. I like that I got to have the two sides; the love for my son and motherhood, but also the adult escape into things that are meaningful to me outside of being a mum. I also appreciate that I have the kind of support that made it possible, I know that’s not the case for everyone
He’s growing into an amazing little person, with an awareness that Mums can work too, and he has learned a lot about the world from my job – we work with volunteer agencies and he’s aware this means ‘helping people’ on a wide range of social issues.
Kindness is key
My advice for New Zealand's Prime Minister, and any woman in her position be it by choice or by necessity is, be kind to yourself and let people be kind to you – accept help and understand people offer what they genuinely want to give. And reassess constantly, kids needs and schedules constantly change, and being flexible and responsive to this is a big part of making it work. Also, learn to look for signs it’s time to make tweaks to the plan – for example, if you’re constantly up at three am catching up, or you’ve all started snapping at each other, it may be a sign you need to make changes. I don’t really like the expression “having it all”, but I feel like I’ve gotten very close for me.
For more information and support on juggling work and motherhood visit Mums At Work.