“Is that a baby under there?,” a colleague asks.
Yep. That’s my 6-month-old son, Everett, nursing under a cover on a Zoom call. This usually happens two or three times during every work day, since returning from my parental leave a few months ago. I’ve nursed him on calls with executive leadership, team meetings, calls with outside counsel, and even during interviews. This has been a very conscious decision. It has been my way of expressing just how impactful the digital workplace has been on my ability to show up as a mother and as an employee. I feel fully able to excel at both in a way I didn’t think was possible prior to the pandemic reshaping our working world.
Everett is my second child, and this year brought the second maternity leave I have taken while working as a lawyer for Procore. I had my daughter Juno in 2018, in the “before times” pre-pandemic, where the bulk of the employee population still came into the office most of the time--and certainly the bulk of the executive leadership. This time, with Everett, I returned from leave in June 2021 to a still almost exclusively remote workforce.
This. Has. Been. A. Game. Changer.
A supportive culture from the start
Procore has always been a wonderful place for me to work. With my first leave, I had flexibility to work remote part of the time and did so at least a day a week for almost a year after Juno was born. It was more or less the gold standard as compared to the experiences of my friends in other companies and industries. I had my own office and Procore got me a mini fridge and blackout blinds so I could pump at my desk. They went above and beyond to ease the transition. I felt accepted, seen, welcomed, and accommodated as a new mom returning to work for the first time. And, it was still hard. So. Very. Hard. There were tears. Drops in milk supply. I missed some of my daughter’s firsts. Or, I missed being “in the room” at work when I was working from home. I was sacrificing along the margins of both home and work life, unable to feel like I was excelling at either. But, at the time, it felt like that was as good as it got for anyone in a work culture that still prioritized in-person time.
Intersection of caregiving and COVID-19
The world is on its head. Work culture is turned upside down. Suddenly everyone is working remote and amidst the fear, pain, and loss of the pandemic emerges a stunning silver lining. I am home all day. And so is my daughter. We have breakfast together every morning. We have lunch together every afternoon. I put her down for all of her naps.
I stopped missing firsts.
I probably had a cumulative three more hours with Juno each day without spending any less time on work. (For the math-minded, I did a quick calculation and over 18 pandemic months, that amounts to nearly 1,120 additional hours.) What a gift.
My son was born on Valentine’s Day in 2021--after almost a year of working from home. By the time I returned to work with him, I couldn’t fathom giving up the moments of connection throughout the day that I had had with my daughter. So, I started nursing him on Zoom calls… with the video on.
Remote work as the great equalizer
I did this consciously rather than switch the video off and be “less present” in meetings than my colleagues to quite literally show others that a remote-first culture can be especially helpful for moms returning to work from maternity leave. Not only can I nurse my son instead of having another caregiver feed him throughout the day, but I don’t have to take the time to wash pump parts, stress about storing milk properly, or remember to bring the milk home each day.
However, it’s not just the freedom to work remotely that made my return to work so smooth and happy. Remember, I had that with my first as well. It was that everyone else was remote, too. I wasn’t missing anything in between the meetings. I wasn’t the exception. I wasn’t the afterthought. And so, in turn, I didn’t feel pressure to try to appear “just as productive” or “just as present” as my colleagues who were physically in the office, and I wasn’t constantly stressed about not being there myself.
I felt not only free and safe to start nursing my son on video calls, but compelled to do so. I realized that Procore has opened the door by inviting employees to bring their authentic selves to work but that it was up to us (to me, as a leader) to walk through that door and show others that it is safe for them to bring their authentic selves to work too.
Bringing your authentic self to the job
I am also a better worker. I’m able to focus more deeply on work when I am working and so, in that way, this shift to remote work has actually made me more valuable to the company. Procore is unquestionably getting my best work.
“One of the reasons I was drawn to Procore was the opportunity to help build an organization that truly embraces people as individuals and encourages them to be their authentic selves. When employees bring more of who they are to work, it enriches our culture and fosters greater trust and connection, resulting in more engaged and productive employees and ultimately better business outcomes. I’m proud that we’ve created an environment at Procore where Logan feels comfortable being herself and where having opportunities for advancement does not mean having to choose between family and career. I hope others are inspired by her story and feel more secure being themselves at work.” - Ben Singer, Chief Legal Officer
Finally, I wanted to send the specific message that even though we were forced to embrace a remote-first culture by the pandemic, there have been benefits to this shift that we never would have realized without being forced to make a drastic change to the way we work—at least there have been for me as a working mother. I have the privilege of working for an exceptional leader at an exceptional company. I knew that I would be supported in nursing my son on work calls and that it was in keeping with Procore’s promise to its employees--that we are a people-first organization, where you can bring your whole self to work and where work doesn’t rule over your personal life. That said, nursing on a video call is still very much not the norm in our society. This is where I felt a particular call to action given my role as a long-time employee and leader at the company. I realized I could help normalize this one thing for my fellow colleagues. So, I did. And so, I am.
Adopting a best of both worlds approach
I have been heartened at the encouraging slack messages I’ve received while nursing on these calls… “You are a rockstar mom!” “Thank you for doing this!” I hope that this act on my part helps shift at least Procore’s work culture permanently. I hope it normalizes and gives permission to other moms to not have to hide the sometimes messy line between work and home life for fear they wouldn’t be taken as seriously or given the same opportunities to excel. I am excited to see the ways in which Procore and other companies will redefine the “workplace”. I think we can adopt a best of both worlds approach where we strive to preserve some of what we gained during this forced hiatus from the tyranny of facetime and create a new, more flexible approach to where people do their work.
Utilizing in-person time more strategically and thoughtfully and not just as the legacy default. Because, at least for me, as a working mother, remote work has created space for me to fully occupy a new model of what an executive and leader who is a working mother looks like. It creates space for me to be myself at work--sometimes doing the work of “mom” (e.g., nursing my son) while also doing my job and that’s ok. Indeed, it’s more than ok. I am a stronger leader and stronger mom for it, and, my hope is that others follow suit in showing up as their full selves, in whatever form that takes, making Procore a stronger company.
* (This wouldn’t be a lawyer’s writing without a footnote) I acknowledge that I am coming from a place of privilege. I have full-time, in-home childcare and so I was able to easily transition to working from home during the pandemic and shutdown. But not everyone is in such a privileged position. I recognize that my experience was not the experience of many working caregivers who lost childcare during the pandemic. For many, especially women, who were already under-supported—low-wage workers, essential workers in vulnerable, public-facing occupations, and lots of women of color in executive ranks—the pandemic exacerbated a pre-existing wealth and opportunity gap. I am hopeful that by sharing my experience and creating space to listen to others, I can be an ally to caregivers from less privileged backgrounds.