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Making It Work: A new mom returns to work—at a new job—nine days before lockdown

The pandemic has disproportionately affected women. In our Women in the Workplace research last year 1 in 4 of them said they were considering taking a step back in their careers or leaving the workforce entirely. A year after WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, we’re talking to several McKinsey women about how they’ve made it work over the last year—the surprising challenges, unexpected joys, and how the last 12 months have shaped their outlook on life and work. Here, Margret-Ann Natsis, a media relations specialist based in Amsterdam, talks about starting a new job, while raising a new baby, during lockdown.

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On starting a new job and onboarding during the crisis

A year ago I was just starting at the firm. I was also a new mom to a six-month old boy at the time. I had done my week of onboarding and was set to travel to London two weeks later to meet some of my team members and do some kickoff meetings.

Three days before travel, I got the dreaded call: It looks like this isn’t going to happen. I had been anticipating that, but was still hopeful because, at that moment, nobody really knew how intense this was going to be.

I was really sad that the trip wasn’t able to work out. But that was definitely the moment when it was like, Okay, this is happening. I’m now working from home.” I’d only been in the office nine days before I was sent home with a laptop.

On missing family and raising a new baby amid lockdown

Making It Work: A new mom returns to work—at a new job—nine days before lockdown
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We are expats so we don’t live by family. We had these trips planned to meet family here in Europe, or for us to go back with our son to the United States, and those were canceled. When you have a little one you’re really looking forward to that time with the grandparents for the baby—but honestly also for you. We’re very fortunate. We have a great community here and friends who want to help out. But those first few months were tough because we were also trying to figure out, you know, what should we be doing? What shouldn’t we be doing?

At the beginning it didn’t really hit me. But by mid-summer, I started to struggle more with missing family and honestly wishing for a little bit of a break. And an opportunity for my husband and I to spend time without the baby. When daycares opened back up in the Netherlands I definitely felt relief.

On the importance of having one hour a day to herself

The number one thing that I’ve held onto, and thankfully I have a very supportive partner, is that I need at least an hour a day where I can exercise, even if that’s going on a walk by myself. But I really love to run. My husband and I have made a promise that I will have that time everyday to myself because I really do notice it makes me a better mom. It makes me a better wife—just a better-rounded version of myself.

On learning to lose pride and not being afraid to ask for help

What the pandemic has brought to light for me is that we’re all in different situations. You don’t know what others are going through. It's best if we can just be there for one another—colleagues, friends, or family—and be unassuming and know that we need to lean on one another. Also to not be apologetic in asking for help.

There have been times where I’ve reached out to a girlfriend and been like, Is there any way you can watch my son for the afternoon? I just need a minute.” And the positive responses have opened my eyes to the fact that folks want to help. Just like I want to help the person next to me. This year has definitely allowed me to lose a little bit of pride and say, Hey, I need a hand. I need a hand today.

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