Life as a new parent in the workplace

When you return to the workplace as a new parent, you might find that there’s plenty that won’t change. Your job title will be the same, you’ll have the same day-to-day responsibilities, and you’ll interact with the same coworkers. And yet, there’s likely a lot that will change too.

You might find that your perspective has shifted

Something that may very well change is feeling that you view work differently now that you’re a parent. Previously, you may have felt like your work was your life. Now you might feel like work is just one part of your life, which is an entirely healthy perspective. You’re a parent now, and that’s a pretty big deal!

You might find that some of your “extra” responsibilities do change

Even if nothing changes in terms of your actual job description and day-to-day responsibilities, there may be some informal things that do, like your ability to take on tasks that don’t fall under your formal responsibilities — like volunteering to plan social events or joining optional tasks forces. You should continue to do your job well, be the best worker you can be, demonstrate your value, and take on those sort of tasks if you still feel comfortable doing so. But if you don’t right now, that’s entirely okay. Talk to your manager about how you can continue to grow and contribute in your role, and also be honest about your needs and limitations when it comes to extra duties and responsibilities. 

You might make new friends

While you might have feared that being a new parent would mean that your social life was going to suffer, you may find that you’re able to make some new or deeper social connections with other parents in your workplace. Maybe as a mom you bond with some other new mothers who are also pumping at work and can discuss the finer points of frozen breastmilk storage, or as a dad you connect with other new fathers over the intricacies of learning how to do pigtails.

You may even find that a manager who you couldn’t quite connect with before has some great stories to share about when her own kids were little. This can be a real benefit in helping you feel a little less alone and in knowing that others recognize your very new, very important role as a parent.

You might want to take advantage of all the additional benefits you can

There may be benefits (formal or informal) that your workplace offers that you didn’t know about previously – maybe because you simply didn’t need to know about them before – and you should take advantage of any that might help to make your life a little easier. These might include new health insurance options, life insurance options, childcare benefits, flexible hours, social groups, discounts or group rates available to local venues, and the like. Check in with your manager and your HR contact to see if there are any parental perks that you should know about.

You might be more open to communicating your needs and asking for help

Maybe you thought you would be able to return back to work and operate just the same as before – come and go at the same time, perform the same tasks, take on the same workload. But maybe you realize that it’s actually tricky to work as late as you did before if the babysitter can only stay until 6 p.m., or that responding to emails late at night doesn’t work anymore because now you’re ready to crawl into bed just as soon as Baby is snoozing. Or that it takes a day when she gets a fever and you decide to work from home for you to realize that you’d like to be able to do the same again when another virus rolls through your household.

Asking for help might mean asking for greater flexibility or new accommodations that you just didn’t think you would want or need prior, and this change is okay too. Be honest and communicate with your employer about what you’re hoping for, and you just might be surprised at how they can help. Most employers want to support you and help you succeed, so if that means allowing you to work from home when Baby gets sick or shifting your hours slightly to accommodate your childcare situation, they may be more than happy to do so.

If you’re a member of a collective bargaining unit, be sure to check the details of your contract and ask your union leadership if you have any questions.

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