Atomic Mom: A Snapshot of New Motherhood at Atomic

In February 2019, I gave birth to my first child. It has been a wonderful, exciting, exhausting, crazy time. I am the third woman and first maker to have a baby while working at Atomic.

I wanted to share some of my experiences because, despite reading pretty much every article about parenting on the entire internet, I was left wanting a simple overview of what the journey to parenthood might look like for a full-time working mom.

The Beginnings

During my first trimester, I was exhausted all of the time. Early in my pregnancy, I pulled each of my teammates aside and shared the news with them privately. Letting my team know early on meant that I didn’t have to explain or worry about the occasional late morning or slow afternoon.

Once I was ready to share the news with Atomic at large, I started by having a conversation with a member of our scheduling team. I read a number of articles online about how to have this conversation but ultimately went with the eloquent, “So…I’m growing a tiny person.”

Our scheduling team determines which makers end up on which projects, so they were the folks who needed to know about my upcoming parental leave in order to schedule around it. During this conversation, I also asked to be placed on a project in a non-leadership role for the final few months of my pregnancy, and Atomic happily obliged.

Finally, I got to share the news with the whole company! I made an announcement at our morning company standup meeting and then posted a copy in our company Slack to share the news with our Ann Arbor office. I also brought in donuts, because who doesn’t want an excuse to eat donuts?

After Atomic was informed, we let my customer know that they could expect a team change around my due date. Being a consultancy makes it easy for us to swap team members in and out of projects, so I didn’t have to worry about who would fill my role while I was gone.

The Daily Grind during Pregnancy

A few things changed about my day-to-day routine that helped the pregnancy go smoothly:

  • Per the previous conversation with the scheduling team, I was moved onto a new project where my responsibilities weren’t quite so great, allowing me to focus on preparing for the upcoming life changes.
  • I found myself a high-rise chair, so I could sit down when the teammate I shared a desk with wanted to stand.
  • I was careful to avoid taking on any extracurricular work and to set down things I didn’t need to be doing.
  • After a conversation with my Career Development Manager and a Managing Partner, we decided to relax my 40-hour expectation to make room for rest and doctor visits.
  • The other moms at Atomic offered support and encouragement as I struggled with the lost sleep and increasing discomfort of late pregnancy.
  • I took occasional days to work from the comfort of home when I needed to.

Parental Leave

In the months leading up to my parental leave, I had several conversations with Atomic leadership to outline the details of what leave would look like. Though the event was, by nature, unpredictable in timing, we used my due date as a starting point to block out the time I would be out of the office. I also scheduled vacation for the week before my due date to rest and prepare. This meant that I had a specific cutoff date to look forward to when late pregnancy became especially taxing.

Atomic also gave me a copy of the medical leave paperwork that I’d need to have the doctors fill out. I kept this in my hospital bag so we wouldn’t forget it on the big day.

After my daughter was born and we’d all had some time to rest, I sent out the traditional company-wide email to share the news, as well as an email to the folks at Atomic who needed to confirm my planned dates.

During my leave, I made a point to get out of the house with the baby as often as possible. This included stopping by the Atomic office to say hello and show off our newest family member, as well as grabbing pair lunches with other Atoms from time to time. Keeping up with Atomic during my leave helped ease some of the feelings of uprootedness that come with new parenthood.

Although I enjoyed the time spent with my baby, I was impatient to get back to work. I missed the people and I missed solving problems that had solutions (sometimes the only solution to a crying baby at 3 a.m. is “wait it out”). It was soon time to leave the baby in the care of my husband and return to Atomic.

Back to Work

Unfortunately, medical complications delayed my return to work by a few weeks, and severe postpartum anxiety made the first several months back quite difficult. I found myself worrying constantly about the baby, about family, and about all manner of other things while I was trying to focus on my work. Working closely with a therapist eased some of the difficulty and got me on track to a new work-life balance. I also worked closely with Atomic leadership to set new boundaries for myself so I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed.

During this time, I was candid and honest with my team about when I wasn’t at the top of my game; they were supportive and understanding the whole way. Other Atoms shared their own experiences and helped me feel less isolated as a new parent.

Becoming a mom has been the most difficult and most rewarding thing I have ever done. Although our culture at large still has a long way to go with regard to supporting working mothers, Atomic has been a thoughtful, caring place to enter this new phase of life.