International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to open up a discussion about what we can all be doing to break down gender bias in the workplace. In this article, Janine Hughes-Griffiths shares her personal experiences juggling parenting and work responsibilities and the support she received from CGI.
I am one of the many women in the UK who found themselves pregnant amidst the chaos of the global pandemic. My pregnancy had already been challenging health-wise and when COVID-19 hit, it became even more difficult. My antenatal classes were stopped and I had to attend all of my appointments alone in the last couple of months of my pregnancy.
I became a mother in May 2020 when my daughter Norah was born. My husband was only allowed into the hospital for the actual birth, not before or after, and we couldn’t have any visitors or go out much once we came home. It was not an easy start to my new life as a mum!
However, what made it all manageable was the support I had from my work. CGI was so caring and supportive throughout my pregnancy, easing much of my workload and ensuring all of my handovers to my members would be smooth for both them and me. They also gave me a lot of flexibility to go to appointments and so on.
Then once we were home and dealing with the challenging circumstances of new parenthood in the middle of COVID, my team was wonderful. They checked in regularly and sent thoughtful cards and gifts, showing so much love and support that we’ll always be grateful for. It really helped us to make it through such a hard time.
Settling back in at CGI as a new mum
After eight months of maternity leave, I was eager to get back to work. During my first week, all member management was transferred to me at my request and within a month, I had returned to my full responsibilities. I took this approach partly because I was ready to work again, but also because I wanted to find my ‘new normal’ amongst all the government guidelines.
I was working from home due to the COVID restrictions, but CGI was in touch with me regularly. I quickly felt part of the community again and my line manager set up a regular meeting with me to discuss both work-related and personal topics.
CGI offers a supportive environment for all members, with a number of resource groups, networks and communities available to everyone. One I’ve found particularly useful since having my baby is the Parental Support Network, which helps integrate returning mums and dads back into the working world whilst they juggle the demands of family life. The network helped me navigate the correct support and policies as I returned from maternity leave and continues to be a source of fantastic guidance to this day.
Additionally, I’m surrounded by a great team, who understand and empathise with the pressures of balancing family and work life. We are all very connected as a group. I am sure I’m not alone in thinking that working from home sometimes feels isolating and can make open communication more difficult, but we’ve combatted this really well. Despite working remotely, we maintain constant contact through various channels and in doing so, keep up that ‘social’ feel we’re used to at work.
My advice for other working parents?
Above all, stay organised! Plan ahead as much as you can, both in your work and family life. Make to-do lists, and if applicable, use shared calendars with your co-parent to keep track of important dates or occasions where you might be away for a period.
Also try to plan strategically. For example, I’ve made a few changes to my routine such as ordering grocery deliveries and doing quick errands during lunch when possible. I make good use of CGI’s 'Love your Lunch' initiative to ensure I always take time away from my desk and have a regular, predictable time slot in my day.
Finally, I’ve been lucky that my line manager understands that when my child is sick or has an appointment, I am the one who needs to take her. He appreciates my transparency and gives me that flexibility when needed, so I would advise always maintaining open communication in the same way with yours.
Most importantly, reach out if you’re struggling
It’s never a sign of weakness to ask for help. If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, talk to a friend, a family member or a colleague and take advantage of resources you have access to. At CGI, we have a number of support resources available to members, such as our Member Assistance Programme, trained Mental Health First Aiders and Cigna Healthcare.
Women return to work after having a baby for a variety of reasons. None of these reasons should be judged or shamed. They are all to be admired. For me, it’s always helpful to focus on the positive things that my working life is contributing to my family. And while balancing work with parenting responsibilities isn’t easy, with the right employer, I think it’s very achievable!
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