"Dear kid, meet your new co-worker"


A few weeks before returning to work after twelve month of maternity leave, I started thinking about how I may have been de-skilled during that time. Strangely (and fortunately), once I went over the past year of motherhood in my head, I felt more confident than ever about my professional expertise. I’ll explain why.

With the birth of the second child, our family underwent a change process akin to a corporate merger. A merger between an established enterprise, let’s call it Son, and a pushy little start-up, we’ll call it Daughter.

Like any good communicator, I anticipated most of the possible problems that may arise once Daughter entered the picture. So I made sure that long before the change occurred, the expectations were set. Son received clear and consistent messages about the upcoming changes, illustrated with examples and tinged with optimism. I thought I made it very clear to Son, in the most positive way possible, that workspace, resources, leadership’s time and attention, and many other luxuries previously enjoyed without competition will need to be shared.

Naturally, despite my best efforts we later realised that there were some unintentional miscommunications. For example, Son firmly believed that the merger was temporary and that Daughter would soon move on her merry way and all would revert to normalcy. So I had my change communications work cut out for me.

The hardest was acknowledging and working through the 5 stages of grieving – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. And making sure that Son passed through all the stages without getting stuck!

Denial – “Let’s play mummy! Let’s play!” in the middle of a particularly gruelling crying episode.

Anger – “I hate it when she cries! She always poops or cries!”

Bargaining – “But can’t you just leave her with grandma and play with me?”

Depression – “Wasn’t it great when there were only three of us?”

Acceptance – “Oh look mummy, she smiled! Isn’t she cute?”

Over time the two enterprises learned to coexist and started learning from each other and knowledge sharing. I’m even getting a glimpse of them joining forces to criticise the management, which is a sure sign of a cohesive and collaborative culture.

As with any change, this merger is an ongoing process that requires consistent and transparent two-way communication. But it’s an interesting and rewarding project, and I truly believe that I have honed a lot of my existing skills in the process and even acquired some new ones. Conflict resolution training anyone?

Jerry graduated from the University of NSW and is currently completing a Masters in Corporate Communication. She heads up internal communications for a government agency and blogs here.

How did you introduce your child to his or her siblings? Does your own mother regale you with stories of how you bit your toddler’s toes?

00:00 / ???