Jessica Foor on Supporting Mothers in the Workplace

5 Minute Read

Can you introduce yourself? Tell us a little about your career journey, family, or anything we should know.

Hey, I'm Jessica. I’ve worked in public relations, marketing and communications for about 13 years. I’m a Ball State grad - chirp chirp! - with a master’s degree and a love of learning. I currently serve as communications director at Parkview Health and have the pleasure of leading the (super talented) media relations and corporate communications teams.  

I’ve been married for six years and had my son, Nolan, four years ago. Like any new mom, that was a pivotal moment in my life, made even crazier by the pandemic. 

When I’m not at work or at a T-ball game, I love to read, travel and enjoy the outdoors. 

So, you had your son during the early days of the pandemic?

Yes. I went on a “babymoon” with my husband toward the end of my pregnancy and the pandemic reached northeast Indiana while I was away. So I joke that I never really returned to work after that trip because my team became remote and, as a super pregnant person, I was advised to work from home. 

I had my son in May 2020. In the thick of it. Our hospital experience was very different than “normal,” but I also had nothing to compare it to. I will say I have some really special memories from those quiet days in the hospital with just my husband and our new baby boy. 

So as you might imagine, at the same time I became a mom, we were experiencing a public health emergency at work and everyone was adapting to meet the needs of the community. It was a wild time all around.

How did it feel going out on maternity leave knowing that your team was dealing with this unprecedented situation?

In short, it felt terrible. I couldn’t help but feel like I was abandoning them. But they were rock stars while I was gone. I’ll always be incredibly grateful for my team’s support and resolve during that phase of my life. 

Did you feel extra isolated during that time? How was your postpartum experience?

I didn’t necessarily feel isolated. But my job is hectic, busy and social, so I relished the quiet and the slowness, and the soft tunes of the baby music. 

Postpartum, our greatest challenge was breastfeeding because my son had a tongue tie. I quickly learned that physicians and dentists have very differing opinions on the topic and I often got lost in a sea of online articles. Usually while nursing or pumping in the wee hours of the morning. 

There was a lot of pressure to breastfeed, understandably, and it was a bit emotional when we finally decided it wasn’t for us and moved on. But it was the best decision for us and we were all much happier in the end.  

How long did you wait to tell your employer when you first got pregnant? What about your direct reports?

My husband and I were super strict about waiting until after the first trimester to share the news. After we told our family, I told my leader and my team and immediately started planning for maternity leave. Although, all my plans went out the window when COVID-19 appeared! 

I am so blown away by the timing of the pandemic and your maternity leave. I know you as a leader. You must have been going crazy.

Yes, I was really having an internal struggle at that point. I felt like I needed to be there for my team and my organization, but I also needed to be there for my newborn and my family. It was a rough time but at the end of the day, I’m a firm believer that family comes first. 

That’s something I regularly tell my team, too. It's important for me personally as a leader to support them when they have a new baby, a sick baby or even a baby with a dance recital. Family first. 

I completely understand that conflict, and I think a lot of other women do, too. Do you feel like a lot of that is internal rather than external expectations? 

For me, it was definitely internal. I also recognize that I’m fortunate that my employer and my leader were incredibly supportive of my leave and my choices. I know not all new mothers have that support. 

Do you have any advice for mothers coming out of maternity leave and struggling with that internal conflict?

Know your values and embrace who you’re becoming as a new mom in the workplace. Don't be afraid to tell your team or your leader what you need. For example, if you need a mental health day, ask for one. It’s not a sign of weakness - it’s quite the opposite.  

How did you feel coming back? I'm sure you were ready as a leader, but that's a lot to come back to while your hormones are going crazy and you’re sleep-deprived.

I was ready to work, but not ready to leave my baby with someone else all day! I eased back into work by taking my son to day care in the morning and picking him up around 1 p.m. I would just hold him while I was working. He would sleep, and I'd be on a call or typing away. It seems so simple, but that’s an opportunity I likely wouldn’t have had pre-pandemic and I’m so grateful for it. I don't regret that wild schedule at all. 

It didn’t last long, though, because when he started crawling, I learned that working with a mobile infant is next to impossible! 

Everything is constantly changing.

Definitely. You’ve got to evolve and learn! In fact, now that Nolan is older, I’ve actually found a new crossover between my professional life and motherhood by joining the board of directors for his day care (a nonprofit). It's been a really great experience because I feel like I can lend a voice on business and operations topics, and at the same time, I'm there as a mom representing all the other moms who just want the best for their kids when they can’t be there.

So, as leaders and mothers, what can we do for working moms?

Keep the business running, but be as flexible and supportive as possible while doing so. Help working moms help you. 

Finally, respect their role as both a professional and a mother. They’re not defined by either title, but can be really great at both with the right support.     

You May Also Like

Get neli in your inbox
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.