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Easing back into work after maternity leave: A new mom and 3Mer’s story

Friday, November 1, 2019 9:00 am CDT

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Reilly_Goodwin_for_Refinery29_1.jpgAs the global sustainability customer and stakeholder engagement manager at 3M, Reilly Goodwin is dedicated to managing the execution of the company's sustainability strategies. She's also dedicated to being fully present for her son, which she's been able to do because of 3M's generous parental policies. 

Reilly recently shared with Fairygodboss — an online community aiming to improve the workplace for women — her experience coming back to work after having her first child and how 3M's policies around flexible work arrangements and parental leave work for her. Here's an excerpt from Reilly's interview.

Tell us about your job. What are your main priorities at work?

I lead customer and stakeholder engagement, and positioning on 3M's sustainability team. This means I manage some of our strategic partnerships, work on employee engagement and education and develop tools and strategies for embedding our sustainability approach across the enterprise. I also lead some of our work around positioning and advocacy on sustainability issues, developing our responses to important global issues and events and serve as a subject matter expert in collaborations with other teams across the company.

How did you prepare for maternity leave and what advice can you offer to other moms who are expecting their first child?

When I was preparing to go on leave, I built a massive spreadsheet outlining every project, job responsibility and item I was working on including its status, goals, key contacts, pain points, who would be taking it over while I was out, where files were saved, etc. And here's what I learned: when you are out, people will figure things out and the work will continue. Things will stay afloat, and while stuff may change while you're gone, there are also many ways in which they will stay the same. My advice as you plan for leave is to communicate with your team, support them in transitioning your work and provide as much information as you can in advance. ​

How long were you on maternity leave and what was it like to return to work? 

I was on leave for 26 weeks. Returning to work felt a bit surreal. I am eternally grateful to my manager and my team who gave me the space and flexibility to return in a way that worked for me and my family. I recognize how lucky I was to have that. 

The first month was hard — there were a lot of tears. But it gets easier, and for me it got better the more I was able to flex the creative and strategic muscles that my job requires, the parts of my brain that had been dormant for a bit.  

Why do you think your company is a particularly great place to be a working mom? 

3M is a great place to work because of its parental leave, remote work options, good benefits and career opportunities. But more importantly for me, 3M is a place where I can work to have a positive impact on real global challenges, with the hope of creating a better future for all our children. I get to come to work every day and think about how we can use 3M science to help improve health outcomes and air quality, address inadequate food supplies and rapid urbanization and create real solutions to the global climate crisis. It's the company's contributions to the greater good and the bigger picture that make 3M the place for me as a working mom.

How has your role as a new mom made you a better employee? 

Motherhood has changed my perspective and my priorities. I feel a bit more centered and grounded — things that previously may have stressed me out don't as much because my priorities are different. That's not saying I don't care as much, but it means that I know at the end of the day I will have a smiling toddler greeting me at the door.  

Read Reilly's full interview with Fairygodboss to learn about the boundaries she sets to separate work and family time, and her No. 1 tip for new moms navigating the balance of working and mothering.

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