I underestimated the amount of change I would go through as a new mother. People told me my life would be completely different, but there aren’t enough words to describe how my world was turned upside down in the most challenging, beautiful, and rewarding way.
Sixteen months have passed since the birth of our son and from time to time, I reflect on how we made it here.
The first three months of my pregnancy were exciting, exhausting, and nauseating. We celebrated as a family and were anxious for the months ahead. After I passed my first trimester, I made the announcement at work and started researching maternity leave benefits. I discovered that Celanese provided six to eight weeks paid disability leave depending on the type of delivery. If I wanted to take more time it would be unpaid under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Wait, what?
When I think back at what my life was like six weeks into being a mother, it was even more difficult than I imagined. I was not sleeping, breastfeeding was a constant struggle, my husband was back at work, and I was still recovering from delivery. I had to take each day in two to three hour blocks of time and just “survive” as our pediatrician wisely told us. Needless to say, I was struggling to adjust to this new life. How in the world can a new mother return to work and be productive and focused after six weeks? I knew something needed to change at Celanese, and I wanted to help drive that change.
I am part of the Women’s Impact Network (WIN) Americas group in Dallas. When I returned from maternity leave, a group of mothers in WIN started to brainstorm on what changes we would like to see. There was consensus that six to eight weeks of paid leave was not enough. There was also an understanding that most women at Celanese had to come back to work in six weeks because going unpaid was not an option. Additionally, we wanted to focus on fathers and adoptive families. Currently Celanese-employed fathers had no paid time off to spend with their wife and new baby; they either had to take vacation or go unpaid. We knew Celanese could do better to support the “working family.”
We presented our findings and our proposal to Human Resources, and they listened. We outlined that families of Celanese employees deserve more and need more support. Mothers need more time to bond with their new baby, adjust to the new challenges ahead, and recover. We also emphasized that fathers need time to spend with their growing family and not worry about going back to work the day after they come home from the hospital. Most importantly, babies need more time with their parents to discover the world around them.
As leaders and moms, we know that these changes were more inclusive of women and families. We know this would help support the company’s cultural evolution and retention of women and men. I’m proud of the progress we have made and the difference it will make to the families of Celanese. These changes will leave a lasting impact on everyone, and the world will be a better place because of it.