Planning your maternity leave is both exciting and daunting. You’ve probably got to-do lists for both home and work running through your head constantly. And depending on how close you are to your due date, just getting to and from work is likely becoming a job in and of itself. Whether this is your first kid or you’re a seasoned pro, the whirlwind up to the arrival of your baby and leave from work can leave all of us a little overwhelmed. We know you don’t want to forget anything while you prepare, so below is a helpful list of 5 questions to ask in advance of your leave:
Before you discuss your leave with your supervisor, it might be helpful to chat with others who have taken leave to learn about their experiences - what worked well, what was hard. Use their advice to craft a checklist to guide your leave.
Make sure your checklist contains the following:
Your leave is for you and your family. It is entirely up to you to decide who engaged with work you want to be while you’re out. And if the answer is zero, that’s more than OK. What is important is to communicate your plans and expectations. Make sure your supervisor, colleagues, and any external stakeholders are informed about your communication plan so that no surprises or confusion arise while you’re out.
Use your leave as an opportunity for direct reports and colleagues to grow in their roles with new challenges and responsibilities.
Create measurable goals so that your presence is felt while also implementing a supervision system for others to evaluate the performance of your team at regular intervals. Promoting the professional development of others will produce mutually beneficial results upon your return.
Establish clear rules for communication, noting both expected outreach from you (e.g. check-ins once a month) as well as boundaries for outreach from work (e.g. the who, how, when, and why).
Chances are you’ve been really turning up the heat and making strides at work in the lead-up to your leave which means that just prior to maternity leave is a great time to capture all of your recent accomplishments and make them known to your supervisor and team. Try to get face time with any key players before your leave to express your commitment and focus.
You want everyone to remember your value, even while you are out of the office.
This is your chance (armed with your maternity checklist!) to demonstrate delegation, coordination, and mentoring skills as you portion out aspects of your role.
As noted above, devise metrics and goals for others to meet so that you can be a part of the progress during your leave and upon return.
Documenting these achievements can also be useful in case you encounter any discrimination during or after maternity leave.
Unfortunately there might be some red tape to cut through to ensure your maternity leave payments are established, whether they are coming directly from your company, supplemented by a federal or state program, or some combination thereof.
Prior to starting your time off, meet with human resources to review your file and complete any missing forms. This list of questions is helpful to prepare for your meeting and take action. Get everything in writing and keep copies of all the forms so that you can be prepared for any disputes or issues that arrive later on. Hopefully they won’t, but better to be prepared!
In a perfect world, you would be rested and ready to return to work after your leave.
In reality, whether you want to go back to work or are dreading it, you will likely be exhausted (physically, emotionally and mentally. Yay, newborns!) and conflicted about leaving your baby.
No matter how long you are out, caring for a newborn can take a toll and you want to plan for a successful return in what will be your ‘new normal’. If possible, try to avoid starting on a Monday so that you don’t have a whole week ahead of you - may we recommend a Wednesday, or even a Thursday? Even better would be to establish a graduated return that allows you to work part-time as you ramp back up.
Be sure to request flexible work options if none are in place already, as you could be the pioneer that shifts company policies.
Good luck! And don’t forget, ask for help when you need it. We are all here to help you succeed.