Spartan Spotlight Stories
This series highlights Spartans through the Spotlight Stories around issues that are important to the MSU WorkLife Office. The series is starting with new parents raising infants and breastfeeding. Other topics to come will include building community at MSU, eldercare, flex schedules, raising teens and more. The goal is to build community at MSU, show people they are not alone, bring awareness to important stages of the lifespan and promote a family friendly policies and workplace.
Topic: Being a New Parent
Leanne Hancock Hardisty, Research Associate in Earth and Environmental Sciences at MSU provides her insights on being a new parent, breastfeeding and tips for success.
What do you wish you knew before you had your child?
I wish I had known just how much I would be changed by being a mom. My whole identity shifted when this person I grew needed more than 100% of my effort and focus all the time, especially as a newborn. While it is certainly the most challenging and rewarding thing I have ever done, I am grateful that there is a person who makes me want to be the very best version of myself.
What was the most challenging part about parenting a new baby while working?
It was definitely difficult to drop him off at daycare for the first time, but now that we are both adjusted to that I find it difficult to change hats all day long. Because I am also pumping at work, I have to take breaks in my focus that I didn’t have to before, and it is hard to keep switching back and forth between my “Mom hat” and my “Researcher hat.”
How long were you home with the baby before you returned to work?
What supports helped you be successful in your first year of parenting?
Well, I am very much still getting the hang of it, but I have found support through the Expectant Parent Organization at Sparrow and their weekly breastfeeding support group called Baby Café. Willow Tree Family Center has also been great for connecting with other new moms as we all figure things out together! I moved here right around the time I got pregnant and don’t have any family in the area, so I really needed to find that community of women who are all going through this together, and Lansing has several excellent resources for new moms.
Did you attend any classes or read any books that were helpful to you about parenting or infant care?
Yes! I took both the Labor & Delivery and Newborn Care classes offered by the Expectant Parent Organization at Sparrow Hospital. I felt so much more comfortable going into the hospital for labor and about caring for my new baby after learning infant CPR, for example. I also took the Breastfeeding Basics class offered by WLO and even though breastfeeding was still hard, I was better prepared for the challenges and knew what to do.
How did you prioritize work, family, outside activities after the new child was born?
Given that my baby is still only 4 months old, I very much feel like I am still trying to figure that out. I do feel that my career ambitions have shifted down the priority list, and hobbies even further down, but I am lucky to have had 12 weeks paid maternity leave and then a spot at Spartan Child Development Center for my son, where I know he is being taken care of really well.
What type of support do you wish you had more of, or would have accepted?
We don’t have any family in the area, though they made frequent visits early on, but having someone reliable around to help as needed would have been great. That being said, I have made many new mom friends who are willing to help and are in the same boat.
What was the biggest surprise during the first year of parenting?
How wrong I was in thinking I would eventually feel like I had it figured out! It seems like just as you get adjusted to one phase, the kid changes or learns something new and you have to start all over again with the trial and error to see what works! It also surprised me that breastfeeding was so challenging. We are led to think that because it is the natural thing to do that it will come naturally. I have found this to be an incorrect assumption for almost everyone I know that is breastfeeding. Its worth it, but the beginning is really hard!
How did your supervisor or coworker support you and your family?
I am so lucky to have a supportive boss who encourages me to (rightly) prioritize my family. He has been understanding about the fact that having a kid was a huge transition and that it would be difficult coming back to work.
Is there anything that you would do differently now that you have made it through the first year?
I haven’t made it through the first year yet, but I did learn to ask for help. Before having a child, I had no idea how to be helpful to friends/family that had babies, so its important to ask for help in the specific way that you need it. People are almost always willing to help an overwhelmed mom of a newborn.
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