Carolina is a Director of Government and Public Affairs for the Americas at the LEGO Group. She returned to work in January this year after taking parental leave for her second child, who was born in June last year.
Extra time to establish routine
Carolina’s family is now made up of herself, her husband and her two sons. Carolina’s husband is a soccer coach for a professional team, and does not get any paid parental leave from his company. Luckily, thanks to the LEGO Group’s new parental leave policy, Carolina was able to take almost seven months paid leave to look after her baby – with 26 weeks fully paid through the parental leave and the rest through paid vacation time.
“I wasn’t at the LEGO Group when I had my first child,” explains Carolina. “I had four months leave then, which seemed quite generous at the time, but having the two months extra paid leave this time made a world of difference. At four months, your baby is still very newborn and dependent – by seven months, they can sit up and have started crawling. On top of that, who you are as a new mom yourself at four months is very different to who you are at seven months. You’re still healing and establishing sleep routines, and that can really impact your performance if you’re trying to go back to work at that time too.”
“A new baby is a change to the family, so how do you get the little one you already have used to that change? Time is critical to sorting all of that out.”
Working things out as a new family of four
The additional time further meant Carolina was also able to dedicate time to getting her first child established and comfortable with the new ‘family of four’ setup too. Their second child arrived during both a tumultuous work schedule for Carolina’s husband and, of course, during the pandemic. All of Carolina’s family is in Brazil and the border was closed so they weren’t able to offer Carolina any support, which they had been able to give after she had her first son.
“A new baby is a change to the family, so how do you get the little one you already have used to that change? Time is critical to sorting all of that out,” adds Carolina. “Having a longer parental leave gave me more time to test certain things. Because my husband is usually at work in the evening, I had to figure out how I’d cope with having two young kids in the house – and I needed to make it work by myself without my mom or my family around. That means establishing bedtime and dinner routines, which takes time to do.”
“My oldest son also had in his mind that, when the baby arrived, he was responsible for it. It was super sweet, but also a bit challenging, because it’s hard to explain to a toddler that they don’t need to be concerned about the baby going hungry. He was getting up when the baby woke up in the night saying “mommy, we need to feed the baby”, but I of course had it in hand and needed him to be getting sleep! So it’s not only bonding with the new child but it’s doing that bonding while looking after your other kids too.”
“I can’t imagine having to worry about paying the bills or if my job would still be there when I get back. That would have weighed on me so much, especially as having a new child is a costly addition to the family anyway.”
A real difference
Carolina found that none of her friends nor her sisters-in-law in the US were blessed with the same amount of paid time off. The situation in the country is very different to Brazil, where Carolina was born, and where new mothers get six months fully paid leave by law. “I was born and raised in Brazil, so having this amount of leave is quite normal there. But that’s not the reality here in the US. And for those that were able to take time to heal and bond with their child, it’s been unpaid. I can’t imagine having to worry about paying the bills or if my job would still be there when I get back. That would have weighed on me so much, especially as having a new child is a costly addition to the family anyway.”
“It would be great if this policy inspired other companies to take action.”
A great welcome back
Since she’s been back, Carolina has also been overwhelmed with the support she’s had from the LEGO Group’s senior management. She notes, “I’ve come back to a unique situation because my manager left a couple of weeks before I had returned from maternity leave. Even though I had been away for almost 7 months, the LEGO Group asked me to step into the role of leading the Government & Public Affairs team in the Americas on an interim basis. As a working mother just coming back from leave, this makes me feel really valued and grateful that the company trusts to give me the extra responsibility. And makes me feel hopeful that you can still be seen as a valuable asset for the team even if you were away on leave.”
The start of change?
Looking at her leave with her policy hat on, Carolina is hoping that the LEGO Group’s policy will promote change across other corporations, and the US government. She concludes: “It would be great if this policy inspired other companies to take action. When I went on leave, I felt so grateful for our maternity policy that my OOO had a message saying how blessed I felt to work for such a great company that valued the importance of giving parents time to heal from birthing and time to bond with your child. It still makes me emotional, but so did the responses – especially from those outside the company in the US who saw it. So many would reply to say, “Congrats on the baby, but also congrats on the company you’re working for!” It allows people in other companies to see how great the policy is, and hopefully push to get the same level of support themselves.”
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