THE POWER OF THE COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE
Lucy Dickens and I first crossed paths when our babies were both nine months old. I was still figuring out how to take Flynn to the supermarket. Lucy? She had strapped Lilly to her chest in a baby carrier and jumped right back in to the workplace as a lawyer!
I just had to hear all about her and how on earth she manages to complete her very important work with a baby in tow.
Lucy resides in Perth with her husband Jack, her little girl Lilly and their rescue dog, Dom. She works in property and commercial law and estate planning and was pretty quick to squash my mental picture of her pleading a client's case in a courtroom with Lilly strapped to her chest in a sling.
She said, “…unlike the lawyers you see on TV, I don’t like going to court and do my very best to avoid it!” Lucy’s role involves giving legal advice, preparing legal agreements, practice management, training and mentoring, product and software development and recruitment.
Still pretty mind boggling to achieve all this with a baby in tow isn’t it??
Of course I want to know how she does it, but I’m thinking you might also be wondering WHY?!
Lucy described feeling uneasy when she was pregnant about the change of life that was to come. She said “I wasn’t nervous about the being responsible for another human part, but the change-of-life thing was hard for me. I really couldn’t picture what life would be like. I had studied for six years and worked hard to get to where I was and I didn’t want to give that up. Deep down, I knew I didn’t have to give it up if I didn’t want to, but I didn’t know any other working mothers so I didn’t have anyone to look up to. I know I would have felt much better if I could see other women making it work. If they could do it, so could I!”
“I wish I’d known how amazing motherhood would be and that I was more than capable of doing my own thing without needing to follow in someone else’s footsteps. I could have saved myself a lot of tears! Or maybe not - those pregnancy hormones are crazy!”
After a tough first week of establishing breastfeeding Lucy quickly settled in to motherhood but found herself getting bored very quickly. She said “newborns sleep more than they are awake and I didn’t have much to occupy my time while Lilly slept, so I ended up returning to work (from home, initially) when Lilly was about 10 days old.”
Lucy didn’t really have a return to work plan. She had no idea how she would feel about working after having Lilly so she was just going to wait and see.
“When I did start working I just went with the flow. My work plan has changed many times in the last ten months – from working from home, taking Lilly to the office with me, working full time, back down to part time, and now a mix of working from home and at the office. I take Lilly to work with me, so it’s tricky to plan too far ahead while she is growing and developing so rapidly.”
“My workplace has been absolutely fantastic in many ways. The most obvious is that they allow me to take Lilly to work with me. Not only that, my boss is happy to organise his day around Lilly’s naps so that we have our meetings while she is awake and therefore don’t wake her!” Wow...
“Making sure I meet my goals is much more important than making sure I go to the office a certain number of days a week or work a certain number of hours a day. My boss and I regularly check-in and ask ourselves whether we should make any changes to my working arrangements.”
When asked what a typical day was like Lucy said “I’m sure many people who work flexibly will say there is no such thing as a typical day!”
“I first went back to the office when Lilly was still a newborn, so she slept pretty much all day. At that point, my job looked exactly like it had done the day before I gave birth! I had meetings with clients while Lilly slept in the sling!”
This is Lucy's version of a 'typical' day.
"Lilly is an early bird, so we’re up and about by 5:30-6AM. We usually play in bed for half an hour or so before having breakfast and a little dance party to start the morning. I love listening to music in the morning, so we blast it and we (well…I), prance about the house!"
"We don’t have a set time to leave for work, but I try to make sure we are in the office in time for Lilly’s first nap. So if we’ve had an early start, we’ll go to work early too. Lilly isn’t a big fan of the car, so we get the train to the city which takes about 25mins. Lilly LOVES the train and is always looking for someone new to give her attention. The journey to and from work has become one of my favorite parts of the day!"
"Lilly usually naps for about an hour in the mornings and I use this time to do work on the computer or on work that needs a high level of concentration. When she wakes up we move to the open-plan office where she plays in the middle of the room with her toys. I move between my desk and the floor and my colleagues also stop by for a little play whenever they come past."
"Lilly has a high chair in the office and we always stop for lunch. Sometimes we have a picnic at the local park or just get outside and go for a walk."
"After lunch I take Lilly in the sling and go for a walk around the block to get her to sleep. Again, I spend her nap-time in my office on the computer, and back to the open plan when she wakes."
"We leave work anywhere between 3-5PM, depending on Lilly’s mood."
"My husband does all the cooking these days, so he usually has dinner ready for us when we get home and he also does bath time. Then it is Lilly’s bed time. She nurses to sleep which usually takes an hour or so. Once Lilly is asleep I often carry on working."
"On our days off we go swimming, to the library Rhyme time, mother’s group, have picnics and we are about to start nursery. Given that I spend so much time multi-tasking during work, I make sure that I focus on Lilly on our days off.”
Lucy’s tips for other mums navigating the return to work? “Consider taking your baby to work with you! Of course it’s not suitable for all jobs, but it really can work if you want it to. Otherwise, I’d say be upfront with your boss about your priorities. Work out your work goals and understand what is expected of you. Then show your employer that you can meet their expectations by taking control of your time and working at the times and in the places that suit you.”
Lucy attributes returning to work as the key to helping her settle in to motherhood quickly.” Although life is totally different these days, I am still able to work doing the job I love. I see work as my ‘me’ time.”
After finding it difficult to connect with other working mums Lucy has added running a blog to her already very full schedule! Head over to Leaning In for more from Lucy on life as a working mum and how it is still possible to lean in to your career after having a baby.