Giving thanks for parental leave

Work–life balance

Giving thanks for parental leave

How a six-month (vs. six-week) leave policy was invaluable to my family.

Alexa Curtis November 23, 2016

On the night of June 1, my husband rushed to meet me at the hospital for the birth of our son; an early C-section six weeks before our due date. When facing a moment like this, the last thing a couple should be stressing out about is their employers’ leave policies. And thankfully, I wasn’t.

My family was the first to benefit from Moment’s new parental leave policy. Now, almost six months later, my son has tripled in size and I’m getting ready to head back to work. As we prepare for a new routine, I’m reflecting with gratitude on all the ways that this extra time benefitted me and my family.

I’m sharing my thoughts in hope of raising awareness among employers and future parents about what it means to measure parental leave in months versus weeks. This is perspective I didn’t have before becoming a parent, and makes me more aware and empathetic to the things that working parents go through.

1. I didn’t need to leave my son before he was ready. This is the biggest issue for me, and it gives me such anxiety to think that a 6-week leave isn’t an uncommon policy for new moms. If I had to go back to work at 6 weeks, my son would have been zero days old from a developmental standpoint. He truly needed this extra time. Parenting books often refer to the first 12-weeks of life as the “fourth trimester;” a time when babies really need to be with their mother. Tack on an extra week for every week that your kid was born early, and a 6-week leave policy isn’t long enough for any baby, but could be dangerously short to a premature one.

2. I didn’t need to return to work before I was ready, physically and mentally to do the work. At this point, I am generally getting enough sleep to be a functional human and hopefully, on my return, I’ll be a top-notch collaborator and manager again. This would have been pretty dodgy even a few weeks ago. While a C-section is a common surgical procedure, it’s still a major surgery that takes 6–8 weeks to heal from. But even for mothers who deliver their babies without surgery, the changes a mother’s body goes through are substantial, physically challenging, and mentally distracting. Jumping back into the game before you’re ready could do more harm than good; affecting both working relationships and work results.

3. I got to enjoy learning how to be a new mom. Being a parent is hard work with a lot of trial and error and a lot of concentrated fact finding; but I enjoyed every second of it. I developed subject matter expertise on things like premie development, nutrition, allergies, sleep science, etc. I am certain that my focused state of mind in figuring things out created a calmer, happier home for my son to thrive in.

4. I got to become a milk donor. Logistically, this would not have been possible for me on a shorter period of leave. For me, milk donation was a great choice, but it’s a commitment. Paying forward the generosity of the nameless donors who provided supplemental milk for my son and nourishing other babies starting their lives in the NICU is extremely healing and rewarding. If this is an option for you or someone you know, consider contacting your local milk bank to learn more. The NY Milk Bank has been a pleasure to work with.

5. I got to reset my perspective about work-life balance. As someone who loves their job, it’s easy to let work creep into all the nooks and crannies of your day. I believe that reclaiming and redistributing that focus for myself and my family will ultimately make my time at work sharper and more effective.

6. I was reminded how lucky I am to work with such smart, talented, generous co-workers. So many colleagues were there to pick up projects and initiatives that I had to abandon early. (Oh…just a major rebranding and repositioning effort, and a website overhaul, and client work!) So much gratitude to Philip, Jacob, Courtney, Rachael, Josue, Josh, Christie, Limor, John D, John P, and many, many others for grabbing the reigns. Thanks to Brendan, Shannon, Jacob, and Yixiu for keeping me up to date on things without pulling me in. And thanks to Brandi for guiding me through the potentially daunting logistics of leave, insurance, etc.

I thank Moment for being such a family-friendly company; a rarity in the worlds of both design and consulting. Specifically, I want to recognize the amazing Shannon O’Brien, managing director and mother of two, for selflessly establishing better leave policies for all new moms and dads at Moment and modeling success in balancing the many facets of life with kids in NYC. Shannon drove Moment to become a founding member of Pledge Parental Leave, a coalition of creative firms in NYC committing to extended leave policies. Thank you Shannon for using your influence to define a better future.

If you have the ability to influence leave policies at your company, please check out and share the Pledge Parental Leave site for information on how better leave policies benefit businesses, not just their employees.

This post was originally published on my Medium account.

UPDATE: One year after the creation of Pledge Parental Leave, it’s still going strong.


Alexa Curtis

Managing Director