"Studies have shown that people have children. Studies have also shown that spending time with your newborn children is good. We formalized some new baby benefits in 2016 so that everyone has a chance to be thrown up and pooped on in person, instead of over the phone while your other half takes the brunt of the action."
- MetaLab Handbook
Kids: Priority (Re)Definers
Having kids is a lot like a rollercoaster being installed in your brain. It throws you around new corners at breakneck speeds and makes you think a lot differently about your priorities and plans.
In March of 2016, I started a new role at MetaLab and moved to a new city with my husband along with our 1-year-old twins. It was a big year.
As a new mother, I embraced a lot of change very quickly. I left the company I had been at for over a decade, moving from Vancouver to MetaLab’s HQ in Victoria. My role was new at MetaLab, and I was new at MetaLab.
To say that I had embraced a lot of change by the time I joined MetaLab would be an understatement.
Balancing career and parenthood forces you to search vigorously for a company that is going to make being away from your kids all day worth it.
Like many parents who learn they’re having their first child (or two), my husband and I looked at our current jobs and futures. With the new prospect of our family doubling in size we thought about our plans and priorities. Adding two new humans to the mix of our day to day added a lot of what if’s:
- “What happens when my partner is out of town for work?”
- “What happens if the boys have a horrible night, I don’t sleep, and I have to pull it together for work the next day?”
- “What happens if a work trip pops up, and my partner is away, or the boys are sick, and I can’t go?”
The endless list of what if’s lead us to the decision of moving to a smaller but growing city where we have family support, a more digestible cost of living, and a tech industry that provides strong career growth and choices.
Work/Life Balance as a Parent
Balancing career and parenthood forces you to search vigorously for a company that is going to make being away from your kids all day worth it. For me that meant offering flexible schedules, remote work, and good benefits all while serving top tier clients.
After searching for a while, MetaLab felt like the best fit for me and my family.
The work seemed interesting, the company culture seemed great, and they did things in an industry I had a lot of experience in. The stars seemed to align but then came the new question in my life: what about work-life balance and support for parents?
I quickly found what work/life balance meant as a couple with no kids was very different than what that balance meant with two, young kids.
Balance Beyond Benefits
In the first few weeks at MetaLab, I saw that the perks, benefits, and balance were real.
I could set my own hours. I could work from home when I wanted to. Unlimited vacation allowed me to easily book short periods off to deal with appointments or unexpected situations while still being able to take an actual family vacation at another time that year.
The little things that aren’t formal benefits but more a way of working that are baked into the company culture. These are what helped create the balance I needed as a parent so that I could do my job well while still being there for my family.
I quickly learned that the MetaLab team has your back and understands that life happens.
When the nanny called to say the twins were suddenly barfing and I needed to come home stat, someone from the team took it upon themselves to simultaneously Google the contagiousness of Norwalk virus, Slack me the facts, and help cover for my work that afternoon.
Plus, our no assholes policy applies to the clients we take on just as it does the employees we hire. So, in those extreme cases where I have had to miss a meeting because of a family emergency, a client has totally understood that family comes first—and often checks up later to ask how the kiddos are doing.
As we’ve grown, more and more parents have joined MetaLab and an increasing number of teammates are becoming first time parents while at MetaLab. This was recently the case with one of my own team members, Matt Zook.
Zook, family of 3?
Within his first week at MetaLab, Matt shared his news with me that he and his wife were expecting their first child. In the time since I had started, we began offering parental leave top-ups. This meant Matt could take time off when their son came without sacrificing huge amounts of income.
Matt was candid with me that he questioned how his peers would feel about him taking paternity leave shortly after joining our team. To Matt’s delight, our Client Partner team gladly covered for him and as he says, “it was seriously so easy to take Ben’s first 6 weeks off.”
Upon Matt and his wife welcoming baby Ben into the world, he quickly found a company-wide shoutout in Slack and an invite to our #metaparents Slack channel.
This is where the team shares about adventures with their kids as a means of offering advice and support for all the parents on the team.
It’s also the place to commiserate by sharing pictures of the not so great things kids do sometimes—like seeing what happens when a box of crayons are taken for a ride in the dishwasher.
When Matt returned from his six-week leave, he wasn’t sure what kind of support to expect day-to-day.
Now, five months post-Ben being born, Matt recently shared, “I discovered coming back from pat leave that this is a mature agency with lots of people who have young kids. The support is there, from great company benefits and ways of working to the passive support in #metaparents where I see others going through the same crazy stories with their children as I am with my family.”
What About You?
While you can never know for sure what work/life balance looks like until you work somewhere, here are a few key things I suggest asking about before joining a new company if you have, or are thinking about starting, a family:
- Is the work environment flexible? Can you assign your own deadlines? Can you work in a flexible schedule that allows you to weave the needs of your career and life together in a manageable way?
- Are there other happy parents at the company? Outside of benefits and policies, what does the community of parents at the company look like? Are there informal support systems like a shared Slack channel for parents?
- Does the company have a parental leave policy in place? Look for policies that apply to everyone at the company and allow you to spend that irreplaceable time with new family members.
- What benefits are in place that provide support for new families? At MetaLab for instance, above and beyond the ability to take the time you need with your newest addition, they also send you off with a $2,000 “baby bonus” to help cover expenses right before and after baby arrives (like a mountain of diapers, finishing touches on the nursery or, let’s be real, meal delivery); and, while on parental leave, they also top-up a portion of your salary to minimize the financial impact of being away from work.
So. Moral of the story. When I started this job my two boys were turning one, they are now turning four next week—we’ve all survived.
Working and having kids is hard. It’s tiring (like, really tiring), frustrating, and you often feel like the decisions you make are going to let someone down in the ever-evolving equation of Mom, Co-Worker, Boss, Wife, Friend.
But if you can find a place to work where you feel supported, motivated, and pushed by your co-workers, you are far more likely to breathe a sigh of relief at the end of the day, marveling at how you managed everything and feeling good about what lies ahead.
I write this conclusion as I work from my kitchen after being up all night with a four year old with an ear infection, while he naps on the couch. There are exhausting moments, but I’ve got this!
Also, we're hiring if you're a parent looking for a new gig.