All new parents know the excitement, anxiety, fear and lack of sleep that comes with bringing a baby into the world. Team HomeAway is made up of a lot of parents and one of their favorite benefits to talk about is HomeAway’s generous parental leave policy. Alanna Dayton, our Culture & Inclusion Specialist, just returned from nearly five months of maternity leave and she’s ready to share her story.
Q: What was your maternity leave like with your first child at your previous company?
AD: My manager and team were supportive, but the company wasn’t progressive when it came to parental leave. I was able to take off 12 weeks total, but six of those weeks were unpaid. It was definitely a debate about what to do, but I also thought to myself I only have this time once. My husband and I had to discuss if we were in a place financially that allowed us to take that time off. It made me realize that many people are faced with that decision and some aren’t as fortunate to be in a position to take that time. Add in medical bills and new baby costs and it can be tough to pull off.
Q: What are your views on parental leave in the general workplace?
AD: I think there is a lot of confusion about it and not many time-off benefits at some companies. After my first leave, it was important to me to find a company that supported parents during this life change. I feel lucky that I was able to find a great job where this benefit was available, and wasn’t in a position where I had to make a choice between spending time with my new baby or going back to work earlier for financial reasons. I have empathy for those who aren’t as fortunate, and have to go back to work earlier than they desire.. At six weeks I could have gone back to work, but the sleep deprivation alone would have made me less productive since the baby was still only sleeping 2-3 hours at a time!
Q: What was your maternity leave like with your second child since you’ve been at HomeAway?
AD: Coming back to work was easier because I knew what to expect having been through the transition before. What was different though was the extra time above the typical 6-12 weeks that is common at most companies. That extra time allowed me to feel more refreshed and energized as I prepared for my first day back. I was able to experience more milestones, and be there for those “first moments” with my baby Sam. Of course there were a couple of tears my first day back when I said goodbye to him in the morning, but I was fine once I got to my desk!
Q: Now that you’ve experienced two maternity leaves, what are your recommendations to companies who don’t have a solid parental leave program in place?
AD: Talk to women or other parents who have gone through this. At HomeAway, no matter how you have a child you get 12 weeks of time off. There’s no doubt that it’s a big investment, but I think it shows in the culture at HomeAway where children and other life events are not only supported, but celebrated. Comparing photos of my baby at three months old and five months old, I noticed a difference in him physically and recognized how special it was that I got to be there for that extra time. For example, some of my favorite moments during my leave were eating breakfast together with both of my kids. It may seem simple, but I realized how much I value a strong work-life balance and being completely present with my family when the work day is done.
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