Making time for what’s important

Participants in Tecpetrol's Maternity and Paternity Coaching share their takeaways after the programs designed to help people reconcile their parenting and work responsibilities, created under the +d umbrella.

“Basically, it’s a reset. Like when you get off a merry-go-round and don't know which way to go,” explains Mercedes Santamaría, who’s been working for 12 years in the Administration and Finance department, as she refers to her adventure as a first-time mother of twins. "I had no idea, but when you have a child, you come back to work like a newbie, all full of insecurities and very scared," says Yoseberling Castillo, assistant geoscientist of Exploration and Development, talking about the same experience. Both women joined the Tecpetrol Maternity Coaching group when they were still pregnant, a program designed to accompany mothers as they pass through different stages of conflicting feelings and needs.

"At first, I thought: why are they inviting me to do this? I didn’t find pregnancy to be a limitation in any sense, and I though, OK, when I have my baby I'll go back to work and that's it," remembers Castillo. She was one of the first participants in the initiative coordinated by coach Sabrina Díaz Ibarra. Using a WhatsApp group to align their agendas, the employees meet up virtually, and each one gets what they need from the set of bonding tools and tips available. The program envisages a variety of activities that are both fun and practical, as well as imbuing everything with warmth and friendliness.

“Beforehand, when you want to do everything and meet your obligations as if you weren't pregnant, it helped me by giving me a space where I could stop and reflect and see how I felt,” shares Adriana Pol, a reservoir engineer in the Reserves and New Business department. At that moment of “extreme sensitivity”—as she puts it—“joining the clan” helps people go through these stages in a very different way. "Because of the lifestyle we have, our lives tend to be quite fragmented and compartmentalized, which is why sharing data and experiences is such an important part of the program," she explains.

Joining Adriana’s group last year was Virgina Cesarini, an HR analyst from Talent Management. "As a first-time mother, I was really concerned that I wouldn’t be up to the task, which is quite possibly the reason why I’d never dared to be a mother before," she admits. “I was heartened by learning about other people’s experiences, being able to form other kinds of relationships beyond the work-colleague one, and I also picked up some useful contacts: the girls gave me numbers for a pediatrician and child care, because I'm from Comodoro Rivadavia and I had no idea what was around.”

Going back to work, learning to detach and the urgent need to reconcile both worlds as described by Adriana Pol, involves a whole range of postpartum experiences and expectations which the program aims to cover. However, these are not the only concerns. Mercedes Santamaría admits that, "I missed work and wanted to recover that side of me as a person who creates things." For her, "sharing my fears and insecurities with someone else in the same company, governed by the same rules, who also has them," was an important tool. Virginia Cesarini, who changed her position within the company after five months of pregnancy, says that the space was "incredibly supportive and necessary, also because they provided information about company procedures and benefits."

As well as practical and emotional advice, the coaching space helps to facilitate conversations with superiors, both men and women. "I have a boss but she doesn't have children, and I felt that this was a mutual learning process, since I was her first pregnant employee," recalls Yoseberling Castillo. "My conversations with Sabrina helped me to be more empathetic, to be more relaxed about planning my leave, because I didn’t want to get on the wrong side of her, or have her think that I was taking too much time off," she adds. Sharing these experiences has helped to unlock difficult conversations between many of her colleagues and their bosses, who are often extremely supportive—even if the mothers-to-be don't know it!

"For those invited to join this space, I’d say they should take advantage of it to reflect and be able to see where they are," adds Adriana Pol. "This really helps to build a clan, and this kind of support is very necessary at the time."

The adventure of paternity

“As I felt that the most basic needs of fatherhood had been covered, I was concerned about what else I should be looking at, and what more subtle issues I wasn't seeing. For instance, the father-son relationship, communication, the importance of play and reading,” shares Alejandro Laurora, a geomechanic from the Vaca Muerta development department based in Buenos Aires.

Laurora’s concern as a father of two children prompted him to join the cycle of meetings for new fathers moderated by two experts as part of Tecpetrol's Paternity Coaching Program. Two groups, coordinated by writer and journalist Sergio Sinay, for Argentina, and consultant and coach Ruben Szych for the Northern region, worked in parallel during the first edition of the program, organized in 2021. The participants have in common the fact that they are fathers of young children, many of them facing fatherhood for the first time. And the issues covered revolve around responsibility, care, new roles.

Eduardo Skruta, supervisor of Electrical Maintenance for Conventional Areas in Neuquen, was invited to join. His eighth child had been born in December 2019, prematurely, and the ensuing complications of parenting a premature child, although already the father of seven other children, meant he couldn’t connect to the meetings. “It’s good to share experiences, as with my partner we’d taken the decision to be parents of a large family, and for us the most important thing is organizing our children’s after-school activities, from English lessons to sports practices, where the older ones are now playing an active role,” he says.

A new edition of the program is being planned for 2022. New fathers or other interested parties can participate in the meetings, where the moderator proposes ideas and reflections on a specific theme. This is followed by an open invitation to the participants (between 8 and 10 people) to share their concerns and arrive at a conclusion. "Each one takes away the things that tend to impact them the most," explains Laurora. "But in fact, they are such important issues that it’s really interesting to spend time reflecting on what it’s like to be a parent in general, which is something I found truly enriching."

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