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Parents of Pinterest: Jenna Landi’s three tips for returning from parental leave

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As a working parent, in a two-working parent household, I’m all too familiar with the stale (and yes, sometimes true) tropes of the work-kid juggle. No free time; showing up to meetings frazzled; feeding your kids the same dinner two nights in a row; feeling unsupported at work, in my experience – nope, not at Pinterest.

I recently came back to work following my second maternity leave, both taken here at Pinterest. My story is unique — both of my babies arrived at moments of career acceleration for me. I was pregnant, but I continued to pursue new roles and expanded responsibilities. Pinterest was open and encouraging of my ambition and, earlier this year, promoted me the day I left for maternity leave. I wrote a piece on LinkedIn my first day back from leave to share my story and recognize the critical importance of paid leave. The idea that parents, mothers in particular, can have children and still professionally grow during these times in our working lives shouldn’t be met with surprise, but yet we’re still here. The more stories we share about different paths taken, the closer we move to a more inclusive workplace for working parents.

With that in mind, I’m sharing a few tips for returning to work, while it’s still a fresh experience in my life. As with all parenting [or other!] advice, take what you want and leave the rest!

Prepare yourself for lots of work change.

My maternity leave this time around was six months. Six months in tech life can feel like six years – you return to a very different environment. There are new names, new tools and new policies. What was considered recent work, from your memory, is now old work. Your brain is required to leapfrog. So my first days and weeks back were filled with plenty of smiles and nods, and fake-it-till-I-make-it. That’s totally okay and to be expected. The beauty of the fast pace of change is that, a month later, those conversations that I only half understood are dated. And one day, around six weeks in, I realized that I’m actually – almost – caught up.

Give yourself (and others) extra grace as you ramp back in.

Pinterest offers a ramp back period of part-time work to help parents reacclimate post-leave. This critical in-between time is important to go through the motions and re-familiarize yourself with the process and pace of working. Logging on, no matter what state your hair, house or desktop is in, is half the battle. A manager once told me that I should consider the first few weeks back as “work practice,” and she wasn’t wrong. Finding your day-to-day rhythm with your family, with childcare and with your partner takes work, and this is the window where a lot of those wrinkles get ironed out (whether you plan for them to or not). There were many moments when I needed to take a deep breath and give myself (and my village!) some credit in those first few weeks because it can be difficult to adjust to change. 

When there’s no extra room in your brain, ask for help.

My first month back from leave was filled with heaps of imposter syndrome, but also a ton of support from my team, my manager and our company. As my role expanded as I left on leave, I came back to a new scope, new stakeholders and new realms of research. I regularly used my leave as a reason to ask for extra help, and I have zero regrets. Lines like, “I probably missed this when I was out…” or “Can you rewind and take me through that from the start, as I think pieces took place while I was on leave…” gave me license to ask for help and give myself permission to not have all the answers. Candidly, there were days when my brain was bursting with too much information, and I really struggled to keep things straight. So I asked for help, a lot. The best part was seeing my rockstar team light up and share about the work they led in my absence, as they locked arms with me to help ensure priority work didn’t fall through the cracks.

While most days feel like there just aren’t enough minutes to do it all, I’m grateful to be in a supportive environment, alongside many other Pinployee working parents, who relate and understand. One day at a time, we make it through, and somehow still manage to have some fun along the way. 

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