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Focused Labs

How coming off maternity leave has given me a “newborn” appreciation for pairing

Austyn
Originally published at focusedlabs.io Updated on ・3 min read

Late-night feedings and diaper changes, the 3-4 month sleep regression, teething, and a growth spurt all mean I'm getting less sleep than I'm used to and I am already back to work. Despite being away for 12 weeks on maternity leave, I still find it unbelievable to be back to work before we truly have things figured out, but that's a whole different article. I'm also incredibly privileged... I had 12 weeks paid time off, as did my husband, and we have full-time childcare. I fully recognize that I’m luckier than most - I wish 12 weeks of parental leave was the standard.

Returning to work was a new experience. With Focused Labs doubling in size in the weeks I was on leave, I was returning to not only a new project but also to new Zoom boxes (thank you, pandemic life). However, instead of having to come back and be dropped straight into a 40 hour work week, Focused Labs has a “graceful return to work” policy. I was able to return to half days my first week and then reduced hours the rest of the month. Having been allowed to gracefully return to work, I now can’t imagine what starting back at 40 hours right away would feel like. That first week was jarring enough. I’m so thankful this option was available to me, and I was able to provide feedback to benefit my coworkers in the future.

Pairing with someone on code, and knowing my pair is available as a second set of eyes, ensures continuity, and makes my day much better. When I left for maternity leave, the team didn’t miss a beat since I didn’t have “ownership” of the code. Upon my return, being able to pair helped me get back up to speed quickly and provided that extra focus that can be lacking when you're sleep deprived. Talking through issues and interacting with another person regularly means a lot. This has especially been the case during a pandemic when you've been home with a baby, aren't going places, and “mommy and me” playdates hold their own new risks. At the same time, working from home is wonderful, especially when I am able to step away and see why Wes is crying, or feed him so I can skip a pump session.

Shortly after my return, our founder asked me if sleep deprivation was affecting me mentally. My instant reaction was “no, I think I'm used to it.” But am I? Is it similar to thinking you’re not "that drunk"? Is that my instant response to not show weakness? The "I can keep up with the boys" mentality? Later I thought more about his question. Would I know if I'm not working up to my normal abilities? Being able to work with a pair gives me some of that feedback. Do I have to be 100% back to normal already? Is there anything I can really do about it? Not right now, but I think knowing my own limitations and that it's temporary helps.

I have a 6 month old, adorable, little boy. My life is different. I'm different. How I work is different. And that's awesome. Pairing has helped me immensely and there are no words to describe how much that means to me to have one less thing to worry about.

Discussion (1)

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James McMahon

Great post Austyn!

Do I have to be 100% back to normal already?

My two cents here is any process / methodology the relies on being 100% at all times is doomed to failure. People fluctuate, one great thing about pairing is you can even each other out.