The Quick Guide to Canadian Maternity Leave -- and the Mom Who Wrote It
The moment I found out Amber Stroecel was writing a Quick Guide to Canadian Maternity Leave, I knew I had to interview her about her project. I mean how many people, out of the goodness of their heart, write a gorgeous and informative go-to guide about Canadian maternity leave -- and offer it to people for free?
Well, it turns out that Amber has been the go-to girl for questions about Canadian maternity leave for quite some time, hosting Mat Leave Mondays on her blog and fielding questions from Canadian parents who want to know The Rules for staying home with baby.
I tracked down Amber on Twitter and talked her into an interview. Here's how our conversation went.
ANN: What inspired you to want to put together your Guide?
AMBER: The company I worked for through both of my pregnancies had a really fabulous intranet with detailed info about all of its policies and benefits, including maternity leave. I love to plan, so having access to that information was great.
I started blogging about maternity leave during my last maternity leave, which just ended in August. It was a little project to keep me busy and thinking while I was at home. What I discovered is that a lot of people have questions about maternity and parental leave and no good place to go for answers. I remembered the info my company had and thought that a brief guide might be helpful to them.
ANN: Is this the first time you've created something like this?
ANN: Were you involved in sharing information online before you became a mom? Has becoming a mom intensified that?
AMBER: I have blogged at Strocel.com since 2003, and my first child was born in 2005 so I was casually involved online. However, I would say that I lacked direction and didn't take it that seriously. With the birth of my second child I started my Mat Leave Monday project, where every Monday I wrote about maternity leave. Originally I intended it to be more personal - about my experience being on maternity leave. Very quickly it became bigger than me. People wanted information, and they didn't know where to find it. I became interested in and passionate about maternity and parental and adoption leave. I think that being a mom intensified that because I doubt I would be thinking about these issues in the same way if I hadn't lived through them. I would like to say I'm more altruistic than that, but I think most of us take interest in things that affect us personally on some level.
ANN: What type of software did you use to produce your guide?
AMBER: I just wrote the guide and created the graphics in Microsoft Word. Then I had the final PDF professionally designed, which cost a few hundred dollars. I think that it's less a question of the technology than the design experience. My background is in computer programming, and so while I am very technically literate I am not very good at making things 'pretty'.
ANN: What advice would you offer to other parents who have a lot of knowledge or expertise about a particular topic but who don't know how to share it with the world?
AMBER: Over the past year I have become a very active social networker. This doesn't come naturally to me, but with time and practice I have become pretty good at it and I've come to love it. I think that the best place to start sharing your message with others is Twitter. There are so many people to connect with, many of whom probably have common interests or questions you can answer. Having a blog with a regular publishing schedule is also great, because then readers know where and when to find you. Either way, the key is to engage in conversation. Reply to people on Twitter. Ask questions. Visit other blogs. Comment. The more you share your message, the more that your people will find you.
ANN: Has sharing content online become part of your life? I notice that you've also provided some excellent instructions for handmade craft projects, you've been a guest-blogger on various social networking sites, you've written for various blogs, etc.
AMBER: Sharing content online has become part of my life. As I mentioned, I am hoping to find a new career that involves writing and helping. Sharing content online is one way to do that. It's also good practice. The more that you do something, the better you become at it. Also, when you're doing something that you love it doesn't feel tedious. I can put in a lot of time creating content because I love to do it, it gives me energy and I am happy to take time away from other interests to pursue this one.
AMBER: So far the reaction has been positive. I got a lot of sign-ups on the first day, and those who responded thought that it was a great idea. There just isn't a lot of easily accessible maternity leave information out there for Canadians. Many new parents might work in fields or roles where not many people have taken leave, and not every employer provides ready access to policies and procedures. So I think that many people see a need and a use for a guide like this one.
AMBER: I do plan to do more publishing, but not necessarily guides like this one. My next project at Strocel.com, now that Mat Leave Mondays are over, is called Crafting my Life. It's about finding balance as a mother, and creating a life for myself. I have some ideas about things I want to publish in this area. It would be more in the vein of inspiration and motivation than information. When you download the guide you're subscribed to my email list, and I will be following up with my ideas and plans for future projects on the list as they become a little bit more concrete. This guide was a big project, and so I am just taking a moment to re-group before I launch into the next thing. I also have a very active 13-month-old at the moment, so that does impact how much time I can spend writing. In fact, at this very moment he's pulling all the toys of the shelves and trying to climb them. And he's playing his kazoo - he loves his kazoo.