Life as a consultant is exciting and challenging.
But the unpredictability of new clients, new projects and new locations can seem overwhelming—especially for new parents.
As a new mom, I’ve figured out the key to successfully balancing my family and my consulting career: Set your expectations upfront, have open conversations and people will be receptive to your needs.
Our truly human culture
You might think that when you return to work after having a baby, you shouldn’t talk about it in the office. After all, you don’t want to appear unfocused on your work and your career.
I’ve taken the opposite stance. And there’s a reason for that.
We rightly pride ourselves on our “truly human” culture at Accenture, with leaders who encourage us to bring our whole selves to work.
As a manager in Management Consulting, I’m helping to transform some of the world’s largest retail and beauty companies. I’m also a mom to a lovely baby daughter. This dual role is who I am. So why should I hide one massively important part of my life?
The answer is, I don’t.
For me, that’s been the right decision. Priorities change when you have a baby. I wanted people to know that, when I came back from maternity leave last September.
There are a lot of parents in my group, and Mondays always start with friendly inquiries about family weekends. I’ll happily show pics of what my daughter is doing and even bring her into the office.
Sharing that part of my life has built acceptance of who I am and helped set an understanding that sometimes, I might need to leave early to care for my daughter. I communicated with my leaders and my team and made sure to set expectations early.
My team knows that from the moment I pick up my daughter, from day care to putting her down for the night, that’s family time. But it’s swings and roundabouts, and I’ll log on to check emails or finish up the day’s tasks before bed for anything that’s urgent.
Things have really changed to make things easier for working parents in recent years. We have parent employee resource groups and networks at Accenture. I’m part of one specifically for moms in the U.S., with monthly calls and speakers who share advice on balancing work and family and help you navigate the minefield of maternity leave forms.
I received a great tip from someone during one of our sessions, advising that the best time to return to work after maternity leave is on a Wednesday—as someone who returned on a Monday, this makes total sense and I wish I’d heard it earlier!
Flexibility is important for all
Accenture’s flexible work environment and the ability to work remotely is a great benefit for parents, but it’s something that everyone needs.
When I first went back to work I, worked from home doing business development. That coincided with my husband’s parental leave. I could work for a couple of hours knowing that my daughter was in good hands, spend time with them and come back to my desk later.
It’s not always easy getting back into the work mentality after you’ve had a child, and this flexibility helped with my transition. On one occasion, my daughter was ill and couldn’t go to day care. I was able to look after her and still get my work done.
There’s often a perception that such flexibility only extends to those with a family; others are sometimes frightened to ask. I always tell my team that if they have to leave early or need some flexibility for something going on in their personal lives, they just need to let me know.
We all have our lives to live and the right to make it all work. If you’re prepared to be flexible, people should respond in kind. It’s called give and take.
Read more about a day in my life and my advice for building a successful consulting career.
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