The fear of leaving, the anxiety of returning, and the actual coming back

Being a happiness manager and team lead I hope I can contribute to other women and men to have a great experience
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About VW Digital Solutions

This is the story of my journey from the moment I discovered I was pregnant to my returning to work after my maternity leave. Despite the fear of leaving, the anxiety of getting back, and the challenges that came with it, I persevered and overcame every new fear and uncertainty in my path. Hopefully I can encourage others future-moms to do the same.

These are the three “phases of grief” that I experienced:

The fear of leaving

Despite the initial flood of emotions and uncertainties that came with the news of my pregnancy, I realized that it was an incredible opportunity for me to grow both personally and professionally. But as a fairly recent team lead and being part of the People Support team, having this “issue” in hands had a bigger impact. Our team has a lot of work and responsibility, we take care of our people and we are the biggest drivers of our culture. Having one less element changes a lot the dynamic and, of course, the workload. As you know, we are the kind of company that truly values work-life balance, so in spite of being apprehensive about my leaving, I was worried about my team and how they would manage without me. Even though I was scared of their reaction, to my relief, each and everyone was happy and excited for this new phase of my life, and I was able to let go of most of my concerns. I used this positive experience as an opportunity to create an “exit plan” and prepare my team for my temporary departure, which allowed me to grow my family while also maintaining a strong presence in my career.

The anxiety of returning

As the due date approached, I made a tough decision to stop working and go home to rest before the big day when everything would change. Though it was difficult to let go at first, I knew it was the right decision for my household. The first few months after the baby was born were very challenging, and I felt like I was falling behind. However, I pushed through and even tried to keep in touch with my team and have brief catch ups to let them know how I was going and understand how they were coping without me being there. This helped me stay up-to-date with what was happening at work, even though I felt powerless and insecure at times. Through it all, I learned that it’s important to make tough decisions and take breaks when needed, but to also stay connected and keep learning.

The actual coming back

Six months passed in a blink of an eye, and I could only think “I can be useful again. I can have real conversations besides baby talk”. But I was also unsure about how to reconnect with the team and the people. Would I be welcome? Would I still have my position? Would I learn and adapt to the new reality? These questions lured my mind day and night.

Fortunately, all my concerns were gone during my first week back in the office. I was welcomed with open arms, with a tailored maid onboarding that put me up to speed with the growth of the company, new tools, the amazing wellbeing program, and the structural changes. I was delighted to realize that the company culture and values were still there, despite all the big changes. I felt supported at all levels, and the people around me were compassionate about my new personal reality and all the challenges that came with it. It was a true testament to the values we stand for.

Overall, my experience was rather positive. But I do know that it’s not the reality for many people in the same situation. Being a happiness manager and team lead I hope I can contribute to other women and men to have a great experience when they discover a new baby is coming and reading about others’ experiences can help overcome some distress.

This is an opinion article and doesn't necessarily reflect the Volkswagen Group view.