Life on leave: Lessons learned as a new parent

tummytime.jpgTwenty-sixteen has been an incredible year for the Winegar household. In April, my husband and I celebrated a major milestone: We became parents. Our son, Garrett, is pretty awesome (#MomBrag) and he's definitely schooled us when it comes to parenting. There is undoubtedly a steep learning curve as any new parent will tell you, but while on maternity leave, I found there were four lessons I could aptly apply to my professional life, too.

1) The phrase "patience is a virtue" is not to be taken lightly.

Needless to say, parenting takes patience, but I think we can all say the same about our professional lives, too. Whether you're embarking on your first job, transitioning to a new one, or stepping up to a managerial position, learning your role takes time and patience. Be kind to yourself! You're not going to know everything you need in order to perform the role; you'll learn and equip yourself with the skills you need to do the job successfully. Trust me: I've never truly understood the phrase more so than I do today.

2) Change is inevitable; adjust accordingly.

My husband and I prepared for our son's arrival as much as humanly possible: attending baby classes, researching the best baby products, interviewing pediatricians, checking out daycares, readying our name it, we were on it. And for those who know me, they know I take pride in being organized and preparing for anything.

Unfortunately, no matter how prepared you think you are, life keeps things interesting by throwing a curveball (or a dozen). Real life scenario: Early in my leave when Garrett and I would venture out of the house, I packed an extra set of clothes in my diaper bag for him in case we experienced what we parents know as "a blowout." Well, thanks to a messy outing at my in-laws this summer, Nick and I now know to pack at least two sets of clothing. You get the picture.

Maybe your company is undergoing an organizational restructure, or you got passed up for a promotion or raise you thought you were going to get. Instead of dwelling on what didn't happen according to your plan, take a deep breath and brush yourself off. Your time and energy will be much better spent focusing on what to do next rather than dwelling over something you can't change. As challenging as it may be, find the opportunity in the situation.

3) Celebrate the small victories.

Being able to enjoy a cup of coffee by myself in the morning was always a major win while I was on leave. Now that Garrett is here, "me time" comes sporadically and unpredictably; however, when I do get a few minutes to do whatever I want (or an hour to watch something mindless on Netflix), it's pretty glorious.

No matter the situation, take some time to celebrate the small victories. If you finish a project ahead of schedule or you successfully plead your case for a raise, stop and acknowledge this accomplishment. Even though it may not seem like a big deal, it is; you've worked for this moment, so celebrate!

4) Ask for help. No really, ask!

Sometimes, it's hard to admit when you need help. I hated asking for help; it made me feel guilty and inferior somehow. Who was I to ask for help while other people are juggling the same (or heavier) workload? The truth is it's nothing to be ashamed of and by recognizing your need for help, it means you're human.

This may be a no-brainer but tap into your network - family members, friends, colleagues...whoever makes up your support system, don't be afraid to reach out to them!

One great resource us nonprofit pros have at our disposal: YNPN-TC (#ShamelessPlug). This is an incredible network. Our peers are knowledgeable and have so much expertise and insight to share. Tap into this great pool, and get to know your fellow nonprofit pros! One way to do this is to attend our events. Or, if you'd rather get to know us one-on-one, connect with YNPN-TC via email and we can provide you with an introduction to the network that way.

If you're a fellow nonprofit parent, what other lessons would you add to this list?

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