Returning from Maternity Leave: An Associate’s Perspective

From the time my husband and I married seven years ago, people have been talking to me about children. “You think marriage is a big adjustment,” they would say. “Just wait until you have kids – it will change your life.” In my mind, these well-meaning words referred to that lovely phenomenon of beholding a sweet-smelling infant and feeling your heart, like that of the reformed Grinch, grow three sizes at once. While that has definitely been part of my experience, it was only after my son Dario was born nine months ago that I realized that every aspect of life – how (and whether) I ate, slept, did chores and attended family and religious functions – would be affected by my new parental role. Since returning from maternity leave, I have seen the impact of “Hurricane Dario” in my professional life as well. Now, a few months into my new life as a working parent, I have a few suggestions for new moms as they prepare to return to the office. RefocusHaving a little one realigned and clarified my priorities. Between feeding, changing and lovingly gazing at your baby, take some time to consider your personal and career goals. Limited time and a new sense of urgency can be powerful motivators to stop just “going with flow” and really focus on taking concrete steps to get you closer to the practice areas, relationships and leadership roles you would like to develop.Reach out Seek out mentors, including other parents, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Hearing others’ thoughts about whether to work full- or part-time, approaches to childcare, managing your responsibilities at home and at work and potential career options can make hard decisions easier, or at least better informed. Moreover, simply talking with someone who has been where you are and lived to tell the tale can be reassuring.Be kind to yourself (and your partner) Even in a supportive environment, there will be hiccups as you re-acclimate to the rhythms of practice. When you are tired and stressed and getting back into the swing of things, you may feel that you are not at the top of your game. You may argue with your spouse or partner. You may ask yourself why on earth you are sitting in front of a computer screen rather than cuddling your little girl or boy. You may cry. When that happens, remember that you are not alone and that all you can ask of yourself, and your family, is to do your best. Try to savor the special blessings that come with parenting while reminding yourself what you love about your job and that a career is a marathon, not a sprint. Those moments will be gone faster than you think! Adria Gulizia is an associate in Debevoise’s New York office. Comments? Suggestions? We’d love to hear from you. Send us an email at women@debevoise.com. Photo provided by Anna McDermott.