Sometimes new parents can’t finish their senten…

No one told me how much ‘baby brain’ was going to affect me at work after mat leave. Here’s what I learned…

Rebecca Smallchua

July 20, 2023

July 20, 2023

Picture this.

It’s your first day back at work after six months at home with your amazingly cute, but incredibly bad at sleeping baby. You’re excited to be out of the house and wearing clothes that aren’t pyjamas, but the brain fog is REAL. The train timetable is harder to understand than you were expecting, and when the barista asks your name it takes you a full five seconds to remember it. You tell yourself to get it together. Because if you can’t remember your name how on earth are you going to get through the work day? Self doubt and criticism creep in. Your inner dialogue takes a sharp and negative turn e.g. Nobody is going to take me seriously. I’m so slow and out of it. I’ve got nothing to offer the world outside my living room. What am I doing away from my baby? Oh my god. Did I forget the breast pump?

Zoom camera off

I had a serious case of baby brain when I returned from mat leave. It took me by surprise (like a lot of things that come with a first baby!). For some reason, I thought I’d just bounce back to doing what I was doing pre-baby. I’d read that ‘baby brain’ could be a symptom of pregnancy and new parenthood, but I wasn’t prepared for the havoc it was going to wreak on my self-esteem at work. There were times I could barely string a sentence together! It left me feeling completely overwhelmed in meetings. I was terrified of not having the answer, and what people might think of me. Sometimes during Zoom calls I would turn my camera off because I felt like I was going to cry.

Whyyy does baby brain happen?

Like so much readily available information on new motherhood, ‘baby brain’ is a key development that often gets overlooked and oversimplified. In fact, research has found that a woman’s brain changes more during pregnancy and the postpartum period than in any other stage of her life. Our brain’s grey matter actually reduces(!) to make way for new updates that help us care for our infants.

My ‘baby brain’ made it possible for my body to convert blood to breast milk. It gave me other superhuman abilities too, like being able to hear the slightest sounds from my baby over music and through walls.

Baby brain also made me lose my train of thought. I wish I knew then that it was nothing to be ashamed of. The more I learned about the evolutionary changes that were taking place in my brain and body, the more I realised ‘baby brain’ was something to be proud of.

Harvey founder Rebecca Smallchua and baby Arthur

New parent skills transfer to the workplace

Great articles like this one describe how the skills of a new parent, like emotional regulation, negotiation and time management directly transfer to the workplace. It’s an important message to share with employers. New parents add serious value.

But the thing is, sometimes we don’t, especially in the beginning. And maybe that’s another important message to share. We might move a little slower and occasionally forget things. And we tend to be very, very hard on ourselves about it, which can lead to us losing confidence in ourselves outside the home. And that’s a disaster for parents and employers alike. With the right support, new parents are some of the most efficient, motivated people in existence. We can absolutely kick arse at work.

Baby Arthur at work!

Baby brain brings people together

I accidentally sent a random photo of my sleeping baby to a Whatsapp group of very impressive women in leadership. You know, one of those groups that you joined a while ago and haven’t really contributed to, but it’s too awkward to ‘leave’? Plus you have FOMO and have been enjoying being a passive listener? The photo had zero context and was my first contribution to the group in more than a year. I was mortified. I realised what I’d done and followed up quickly with an apology.

A Whatsapp group of inspiring women

Everyone was so lovely and kind and supportive. And I felt so much closer to the women in the group as a result of it. I learned that baby brain could also be my friend, and I never need to apologise for it. It totally changed my perspective.

Things looked very different the 2nd time around

I’m a mum of two now. And wow - the second time returning to Harvey was very different to the steep learning curve of the first time. Read my top 6 things that helped here.

I hope a new parent reads this and feels less self-critical and more aware of the value they’re bringing to the world. Because we’re valuable people. Even when we forget our names at the cafe. In fact, especially then.

The Smallchua family

Love,

Beck

No items found.
No items found.
22 Bricks
ABCH
ATEC
Abundant Water
Anantaya Jewellery
B Lab ANZ
BZE
Bank Australia
Client Fabric
Clockwork Films
Compass Studio
Cyclion
Dog & Bone
Evee
Gewürzhaus
Goodtel
Green Collar
Hagens Organics
Hey Doodle
Jasper Coffee
Jaunt
KOSI
KingPump
LVLY
Lumen
MIIROKO
MK Local Foods
Marnie Hawson
Merry People
No Lights No Lycra
North West Guadalcanal Association (NWGA)
OBG
One Small Step
Parliament of Victoria
Peninsula Hot Springs
Portable
Possible
Prisma Legal
ReCo
Shadowboxer
Strongim Bisnis
Studio Schools Australia
Thankyou
The Sociable Weaver
Time
WIRE
Whole Kids
iDE
No items found.
22 Bricks
ABCH
ATEC
Abundant Water
Anantaya Jewellery
B Lab ANZ
BZE
Bank Australia
Client Fabric
Clockwork Films
Compass Studio
Cyclion
Dog & Bone
Evee
Gewürzhaus
Goodtel
Green Collar
Hagens Organics
Hey Doodle
Jasper Coffee
Jaunt
KOSI
KingPump
LVLY
Lumen
MIIROKO
MK Local Foods
Marnie Hawson
Merry People
No Lights No Lycra
North West Guadalcanal Association (NWGA)
OBG
One Small Step
Parliament of Victoria
Peninsula Hot Springs
Portable
Possible
Prisma Legal
ReCo
Shadowboxer
Strongim Bisnis
Studio Schools Australia
Thankyou
The Sociable Weaver
Time
WIRE
Whole Kids
iDE

No items found.
No items found.
22 Bricks
ABCH
ATEC
Abundant Water
Anantaya Jewellery
B Lab ANZ
BZE
Bank Australia
Client Fabric
Clockwork Films
Compass Studio
Cyclion
Dog & Bone
Evee
Gewürzhaus
Goodtel
Green Collar
Hagens Organics
Hey Doodle
Jasper Coffee
Jaunt
KOSI
KingPump
LVLY
Lumen
MIIROKO
MK Local Foods
Marnie Hawson
Merry People
No Lights No Lycra
North West Guadalcanal Association (NWGA)
OBG
One Small Step
Parliament of Victoria
Peninsula Hot Springs
Portable
Possible
Prisma Legal
ReCo
Shadowboxer
Strongim Bisnis
Studio Schools Australia
Thankyou
The Sociable Weaver
Time
WIRE
Whole Kids
iDE

Targets

Results

Clients | Help conscious business grow

No destructive clients. Revenue breakdown: 15% Good, 60% Great, 25% Amazing (Here’s what the classifications mean)

🟢
  • No destructive clients.
  • Revenue breakdown: 10% Good, 66% Great, 25% Amazing

Client survey metrics

  • 3 /5 value for money
  • 8 / 10 likely to recommend
🟢
  • 3.4 / 5 value for money
  • 8.8 / 10 likely to recommend

Maintain current revenue

🟠
  • Revenue down 16% YoY

Team | Be the best versions of us

  • All staff spend 70%+ of their time on clients
🟢
  • Spent 71% of our time on clients (over by only 76 hours).
  • Regular, honest check-ins about how we feel
🟢
  • Stand ups, development sessions, watercooler chats, impact updates and more.
  • Targeted and clear personal growth, if we are better our clients will be
🟢
  • Lots of on-the-tools growth, structured learning through weekly Lunch ‘n Learns and Intro to Programming at RMIT.
  • Improve and increase capability across team
🟢
  • Elevated our tool nerd level. See here.
  • Expanding output skills: Market research, Web design, strategy & development, video editing, and automation strategy.
  • 9 day fortnights, with option for 4 day weeks
🟠
  • 40% work 9 day fortnights, 40% part-time hours, 20% standard working hours.

Community | Lift the communities we’re part of

  • Protest and boycott important issues (Australia Day, Melbourne Cup)
🟢
  • Buy with intention from local and discriminated groups
🟢
  • We continue to be intentional about our suppliers as outlined in our policy and report the details in the Community chapter of our report. We took it one step further this year with a public call to pledge to audit suppliers in this campaign www.supplier-impact.com
  • Invest $20k in impact businesses plus $20k of 100% pro bono time
🟠
  • We delivered some pro bono time but dropped the ball and had no official measurements in place. We also did not invest $20k in impact businesses because of the reduced revenue with Becky on maternity leave.
  • Sarah personally donated her photography equipment valued at around $7,500 to empower a content and brand producer in the Solomon Islands.
  • Have a RAP, engaged stakeholders and implemented more change
🔴
  • Due to competing priorities and limited time (no lack in desire) we de-prioritised our Reconciliation Action Plan as we want to do it meaningfully and have the capacity to follow through. However, we took a few first steps outlined here.

Environment | Crank up the action on climate and environment

  • Be climate positive at work and at home
🟠
  • We don’t track our CO2 emissions, rather we take a much more general and high emissions view. However, this year, we didn’t donate to the environment (see above) so we can’t say we countered our CO2.
  • Donate 5% to the environment
🔴
  • We fell short here, we didn't make the donation. More details here.
  • Re-use, recycle and manage dangerous waste
🟢
  • We continue to implement our hazardous waste policy and are on a continuous learning and improvement journey.
  • We repair damaged hardware and minimise purchasing of new equipment.
  • Personally we're all Facebook Marketplace fans.
  • Advocate for climate change / inspire sustainable living
🟢

Governance | Operate fairly and squarely as an impact business

  • Maintain current ownership and governance
🟢
  • Harvey is 100% owned by the Smallchua Family Trust and Rebecca Smallchua is our sole Director.
  • Share templates, documents, insight into business for good
🟠
  • We haven’t actively done this publicly, but when people have asked, we have shared. And we’re sharing a series of things as part of this impact report.
  • Re-use, recycle and manage dangerous waste
🟢
  • We continue to implement our hazardous waste policy and are on a continuous learning and improvement journey.
  • We repair damaged hardware and minimise purchasing of new equipment.
  • Personally we're all Facebook Marketplace fans.
  • Maintain B Corp score from 134.1 with workers included
🟢
  • We applied for our B Corp re-certification at the end of this financial year and are pleased to report we achieved the same score (to the decimal point). Wild!
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