Several days a week are filled with professional pursuits. I've returned to the office a number of times for a few hours to reconnect with contacts, get updates from my managers, and have discussions about my return. And although I only stay on campus for a couple of hours, the hustle is on as I dress for work, feed the babies, and get out the door in time to make my appointments. In fact, some weeks ago in an effort to prioritize my time, appear professional, and be prompt, I painted two toenails on each foot (the ones that would be exposed through my heels).
My time off has also been great for reconnecting with my professional network. Free time and new babies to show off has given me a chance to reach out to several special people I've worked with over time. Theirs are the emails I put off sending when I'm slammed at work because it's just too hectic. But it's been invaluable to have a chance to keep my network of female mentors and professional friends strong and to say thank you to those who have helped me along the way. I've even forged stronger relationships with several of my colleagues who were simultaneously out on maternity leave. Our bonds have been reinforced as we've shared the experience of having new babies in addition to a common workplace.
Meeting with past and present colleagues has also meant researching their companies and businesses so as to engage in meaningful conversations about what they are up to and how the tech industry is evolving. It's allowed me to keep my mind sharp and has kept my leave fresh week after week. A sabbatical from work has given me the distance to consider business models, branding messages, and internet advertising with renewed perspective. I've even read several business books (when I'm working these don't provide the escape I need) and absorbed some key lessons about transformative leaders in the valley, vision, strategy, and yes, leaning in!
Extra time in the day has allowed me to foster friendships - new and old. I've connected with parents and teachers at my daughter's school (when I'm working, I'm rushing to drop-off or pick-up). I've even co-led two Girl Scout meetings for my daughter, something I've never been able to do before. I've followed-up with people I've met throughout our fertility and pregnancy journey and had a chance to help celebrate their special milestones - whether it's a pregnancy, new baby, or new dog.
Maternity leave has helped me be the person I want to be. The question now is, will I be able to retain this generous outlook as I head back to the working world? Will I be able to take the time to keep learning and get to know the people who are buzzing in and out of our lives?
What have your experiences with maternity leave or time off been like? How have you brought what you've learned with you has you transitioned back to "real" life?