It's no secret that having time off can lead to more creativity, less burnout and better work. Long weekends, vacation days, even an extended leave or sabbatical can do wonders for your return to the office. But if you really want to get better at your job, all you need to do is have a baby.
You learn how to maximize your time.
Post-baby, your free time dwindles down to basically none. When they're up, you're parenting. It's only when they're napping that you're free to do normal adult things, and priority-wise, that usually means getting stuff done.
Only, you never know how much time their circadian rhythms are going to give you to do that. So you get good at doing a lot quickly. You somehow figure out how to eat lunch, order something on Amazon, mail an RSVP to your cousin's wedding, write three emails, do the dishes, take a shower and watch an entire episode of Game of Thrones in the 17 minutes that your baby decides to nap.
Apply that level of productivity to your job, and it's amazing how much you can accomplish, say, between meetings.
When you go back to work, you have a good reason to finish it each day.
Nobody wants to get out of work on time more than a parent. Sometimes you have to—if you're the one relieving the nanny or picking up the baby from daycare or school—but also, you just want to. You want to actually see the children you birthed.
Long gone are the days of dilly-dallying on the internet until 3 o'clock then staying until 8:30 p.m. to get all your work done. Now the day starts the second you get in and goes right up 'til the minute you leave. This often means working after your spawn goes to sleep at night, too.
Which brings me to my next point...
You discover that 3 a.m. is a great time to work.
Everyone knows that the shower can be a great place for creativity. But have you tried concepting in a rocking chair in a small child's bedroom in the middle of the night? Those 3 a.m. wakings can be a great time for thinking. It's dark and quiet, and there's nothing else going on but your thoughts.
You understand a huge new audience.
How many briefs out there aim to connect with moms? Like a million. When you are one, it becomes a lot easier to talk to one.
You see ads the way regular people see ads.
If you're lucky enough to get a decent amount of maternity leave, you start to assimilate to regular life. This means seeing ads the way regular non-ad people see them. I was surprised to find that the ads I liked most were the ones that were super direct. Tell me what your product is and why I might want it in my life. Don't tell me how to think or feel, and don't act like what you're selling is larger than life.
Having that perspective is nice when you go back to being the one behind the work.
And lastly, you worry less.
You also experience another non-ad person phenomenon: that truly nobody in the world is waiting for the next campaign for Product X to come out. It's another outsider perspective that can help you relax. It's just advertising. It's OK to love what you do, but at the end of the day, it's no baby.