The corridors were silent. I had got in very early deliberately and no one was there yet.
"You're back", I told myself, to my surprise realising I was actually happier about it than I had thought I would be. Then a glance around my office, at my table and computer. Everything was exactly the same; even those papers only looked like they've been there a day... I sat down and regained possession of my things, my work, myself.
Barbara can remember that morning well, and this is how she describes her return to work after her first maternity leave. It was her new "first day at work"; a special time experienced with some anxiety and unique expectations.
She is Barbara Passariello, today mother of two and Head of Legal Affairs Italy - one of Autogrill's many working mothers. And indeed Barbara takes this term, "working mother", and agrees that it suits her down to the ground, because her desire and choice to become a mother have not prevented her from pursuing her professional aspirations, achieving both in her private and public life, combining a love for her children with a passion for her work.
How did your colleagues greet you when you returned?
As if I'd never been away. Everything was exactly as it was before: my colleagues, my work, my boss and me.
Everyone gave me a tremendous amount of support; they were really understanding.
Barbara explains that the feeling of "having been away for just one day" is an experience shared by a great many mothers in Autogrill, upon their return. It is a sensation that helps many women - particularly the colleagues of today - the mothers of tomorrow - who therefore find out that they are working for a company that is proud to provide active support for the family plans of its collaborators. And this aid is today tangibly seen in the "welcome back" to work assured by a specialist figure.
"After my maternity leave when Luca - my second child - was born, I was welcomed by a tutor from the HR Department, who updated me on the most important events and changes that had taken place in the company and was on-hand to help me in any way she could"
The maternity tutor provides new mothers with practical support: the role is usually held by a mother who is therefore well able to understand the exact, actual needs of a woman coping with very young children.
How would you describe the company's attitude towards mothers?
Very open; no prejudices whatsoever. On both occasions, I was able to appreciate their great willingness to talk to me about my needs as a moth
To give just one example, for as long as I was able, I breast-fed my children. This was very important to me. And all I had to do was say so. The company were only too happy to work with me and support me as best they could.
This was fantastic because it solved what could, as a mother, have otherwise been my greatest issue.
Barbara did not need it, but she tells us that "other colleagues of mine were allowed to opt for flexitime solutions".
As a new mother, what type of support did you particularly appreciate?
It might sound strange, but I really appreciated the maternity kit. It was essential for me with a great deal of useful, practical information, including with regards to bureaucratic matters. Although I'm a lawyer, I wasn't completely in the know as concerns maternity legislation and, from this point of view, to find a clear, concise guide was just perfect.
Is it more difficult being a lawyer in a global group or a mother?
A mother, because you can't learn what to do anywhere; there's no course of studies or book that tells you how it all comes together. But family and work are both essential aspects of my life and I am 100% committed to both.