Working Moms: Making it Work at Work
If you visit GRAYBOX, the first smiling face you’ll meet is probably going to be Rachael Merfeld who is officially our “receptionist / admin assistant” but who has also been called “she who makes things happen”, the “face of GRAYBOX”, “office mom”, and “all-around superwoman”. Recently she went on maternity leave, had a baby girl named Mia, and returned to work at GRAYBOX. When we discovered that her little Mia was an unbelievably happy, well-behaved baby girl, we didn’t see any reason for her not to bring Mia in with her to act as our tiniest intern yet. Why? We like to say, “Why not?”
At GRAYBOX, we believe in approaching every situation with an eye for improving the system. We also hire incredible people who love what they do, are highly self-motivated and experienced, and each team member has a great deal of autonomy. Basically, as long as team members are effective and collaborative, GRAYBOX is flexible about how we go about making magic happen for our client partners. Given this viewpoint, it followed naturally that Mia should temporarily join our team under her mother’s tutelage. Rachael shares her side of the story below:
“I started bringing my daughter Mia to work with me 2 weeks prior to my scheduled return to work date. She was 6 weeks old at the time. I had originally planned for 8 weeks maternity leave which felt like a sufficient amount of time for bonding compared to the 4 weeks of maternity leave I got with my son 5 years ago. After a few weeks, I was pretty well physically recovered and wasn’t needing quite as many naps during the day. Mia was such a content, quiet baby, sleeping for 3-4 hour stretches immediately after birth. Those first few weeks of recovery and playing the role of a stay-at-home-mom of three (Mia has 2 older brothers, Jett and Oliver) were great, but as the days went on and as my body allowed me to do more around the house and sleep less, boredom set in. I started feeling conflicted and guilty - I wanted so badly to return to work, but I also wasn't ready to leave my tiny princess, especially in the care of a daycare facility full of people I don't know. We were also taking a financial hit at home since only the first half of my maternity leave was paid. I reached out to my manager and asked if I could return to work on a part-time basis, bringing Mia with me until she started daycare two weeks later.
After three days of working part-time, Mia and I transitioned to full days at the office, and it worked out fabulously. In the beginning, she slept a lot, and even when she wasn’t sleeping, she was very mellow and quiet.
Days before Mia was due to start daycare, I reached out to Paul, founder of GRAYBOX to ask if I could keep bringing Mia to the office with me until June. I loved being able to spend all day bonding with my daughter while getting my work done, and contributing to our household financially. Paul was very approachable about the subject, and was quick to answer that Mia was welcome to stay. Problem solved!
After I had my son 5 years ago, I had no desire to be a stay at home mom, so the decision to return to work, even after 4 short weeks of maternity leave, was easy. This time, however, it was a much harder decision to come to. During my maternity leave with Mia, my fiance and I discussed the pros and cons, and all of the different variables that came with me staying home versus going back to work (ie: high childcare costs for three children, quality of life for our children, and the overall financial impact if I decided to stay home). My decision to return to work ultimately came down to me not enjoying the type of work that a stay at home mom does, and absolutely loving the work I was doing at GRAYBOX. But since I have been fortunate enough to bring Mia to work with me, I have no guilt returning to work so soon after her birth.
Mia has now been at work with me for a month and I am so grateful that GRAYBOX and Paul did not make me choose between my children and my career, because they shouldn’t have to be exclusive roles. My role as a mother does not stop when I come to work, whether I have my children with me or not, and I think GRAYBOX really understands that.
Now, you’re probably wondering how do I manage working an 8 hour workday with an infant in tow. I have a good routine to minimize the possibility of Mia being a disruption to mine or anyone else’s workday, and fully rely on the use of my ring sling and a bouncer to aid me in completing my tasks hands free, while keeping her close. She’s an incredibly content baby so I am able to feed her on my two fifteen minute breaks and lunch without her getting too fussy in between feedings. She has plenty of entertainment, walking around the office with me and being held by other people, but she’s still sleeping through most of the day.
The entirety of the GRAYBOX staff, our client partners, and other visitors have been very receptive and supportive of me mothering Mia at the office. They have even stepped in to make sure I have all the tools Mia and I need to get through our workday comfortably. I am often the first person that our visitors make contact with, and so far, everyone seems to love having Mia in the office. I’m often congratulated not only for being a new mom (again), but also for working in a place that is supportive of mothers and families.”