If you have just learned that you’ll be a mom soon, first of all, congratulations. Second, as you’ve correctly guessed, the motherhood journey will typically start with a short break from work called maternity leave.
Maternity leave refers to the period when a new mother takes off from work following the birth of her baby. The leave is offered to mothers so that they have time to recuperate, bond with their and care for the newborns, and adjust to their new roles as mothers. Different states and companies offer different forms of maternity and parental leaves.
Like any other leave you take from work, maternity leave requires prior preparation. You need to create a solid plan for navigating the whole process from start to finish. The process typically starts with announcing the good news to your boss and ends when you return to work after your child’s birth and transition back.
So, how do you ensure you go on maternity leave and, in the end, transition back to work hassle-free? This guide will help you do that.
How to Plan Maternity Leave
Transitioning to motherhood is a challenging feat that you just can’t wing. There are many considerations and planning to ensure you begin your journey feeling well-resourced.
Planning will allow you to cover all your bases and avoid mistakes. Let’s explore some of the steps you need to take when planning your maternity leave.
Know Your Rights
Before you tell your boss or team about your good news, you must familiarize yourself with the law. This will allow you to know what’s legal, what isn’t, and what your rights are. This will help you avoid discrimination, like being treated unfairly or getting fired.
When doing your research, you should focus on five things:
- The Pregnancy Discrimination Act protects women against any prejudicial treatment in the workplace. This act provides that companies with at least 15 employees must treat pregnant women like other applicants or employees with similar abilities or limitations. If you are a part-time worker, you are protected under Title VII if the company has at least 15 full-time employees.
- The Family and Medical Leave Act protects your job – This act provides that companies must allow employees to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave for medical reasons, including having a child. However, this is only for businesses with 50 or more employees, and you have worked there for at least one year.
- The Americans With Disabilities Act protects you from hard labor – This acts provides that employers also must also make reasonable accommodations for pregnant women. For instance, you are not required to lift heavy objects or fly after 36 weeks. However, the act has some caveats you should be aware of.
- The Affordable Care Act includes a provision for breastfeeding: When you return to work, your employer must provide both a non-bathroom location and a reasonable amount of time to express milk.
- Your State’s anti-discrimination laws – Different states have different laws that protect pregnant women. You should ensure you are familiar with them. For instance, eleven states have mandatory paid maternity leave, while others offer voluntary pay. Some companies across the whole country might also offer voluntary pay and other benefits. As such, you should find out what’s available.
Talk to Your Employer
Once you know you are right, the next stage you need to schedule a meeting with your employer. Depending on where you work and the chain of command, this can be your manager, your HR officer, or your boss. Additionally, you should inform your employer before your colleagues find out.
The best way to talk to your employer is to send them a maternity leave letter or notice and then schedule a face-to-face meeting. This will allow you to make your case well and negotiate for better terms. You will also show your boss your commitment to pass on your responsibility smoothly and how you will return.
At the meeting, you should also share your plan with your boss. Tell them when you plan to go on leave and your return date. If you can work part-time or from home during your leave, ensure that you create a flexible schedule for you and your boss. Finally, consider the possibility that your boss might not give in to every one of your demands. You should create a wiggle room and negotiate for the best deal possible.
Involve Your Co-workers
A lot will typically change during your absence. Depending on your profession, your co-workers might have to change how they operate and handle everyday tasks. Involving them in your planning can help them prepare.
Preparing your colleagues offers two benefits; first, you will have a smoother transition, and second; you will avoid last-minute issues as your due date approaches.
You need to decide to whom you will entrust your responsibilities and start getting them on board. You should share your schedule with them and some tips on getting things done. If your work involves dealing with outside clients, this could also be the time to connect them to the person you designate them to.
Finally, have a proxy person. You don’t want everyone contacting you every time they hit a roadblock. This person will address all the emergencies and be the only one to contact you.
How to Stay in Touch With Work During Your Leave
As you prepare to take time off for maternity leave, it’s essential to consider how to stay connected to your workplace while prioritizing your health and family. One way to achieve this balance is by setting “Keep in Touch” days. These days allow you to stay current on any developments at work without sacrificing your time with your newborn.
You are not legally obligated to stay in touch with your colleagues during your leave. However, there are benefits to doing so, especially if you have long-term career goals that require ongoing engagement with your employer. By staying connected to your workplace, you can maintain relationships with your coworkers, demonstrate your commitment to your job, and ensure a smooth transition back to work when ready.
While staying in touch is important, it’s equally essential to set clear boundaries. Communicate your priorities to your boss and coworkers, and establish guidelines for when and how you’ll be available. This will help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed or bombarded with work calls and emails during your time off. By setting clear boundaries, you can ensure that you can focus on your health and family without sacrificing your professional goals.
What to Do Before Going Back to Work
Returning to work after maternity leave can be a challenging experience, both emotionally and physically. Leaving your baby behind and adjusting to a new routine can be difficult. Managing your work-life balance will also require changes to your schedule and priorities, making it a draining experience.
But with the right approaches, you can make the transitions as effortless as possible.
These seven tips will help you do that:
Reconnect With Your Colleagues
As a new mom, it’s important to reconnect with your colleagues before going back to work. Catch up on any new changes or updates, and discuss the transition process. Take the opportunity to get reports on the progress of ongoing projects and ask for any important updates you have missed.
If there are other parents on your team, seek their advice and tips on balancing work and motherhood. These conversations can help you feel more prepared and confident when returning to work.
Building solid relationships with your colleagues can create a supportive and collaborative work environment that can benefit you in the long run.
Contact Your HR Department
it’s crucial to contact your HR department to ensure a smooth transition. You’ll need to discuss any changes since you’ve been away, your new priorities, and any new roles you may be taking on.
It’s also essential to know your rights in the workplace and any flexibility options, such as working part-time or from home. If you want to reduce your responsibilities or avoid traveling, iron out these details early on.
Prepare Yourself Mentally
Returning to work can be mentally exhausting, as it typically involves leaving your child in someone else’s care. To prepare yourself mentally, it’s essential to start early. Try leaving your child with the caregiver for a few weeks before your return to work. This will help both you and your baby adjust to the new routine.
Additionally, consider scheduling video calls during lunch breaks with the caretaker to check on your child.
Pro Tip: carrying a physical photo of your baby and placing it in your work drawer/desk can help you stay connected and feel more at ease.
Plan your childcare needs
Returning to work can be exciting and daunting for a new mom. Planning your childcare needs is crucial to ensure a smooth transition. Start by deciding on the type of childcare you will be using, whether daycare or a full-time nanny.
Once you have your preliminary plan in place, it’s essential to have a backup childcare plan, just in case. Trusted friends, relatives, or neighbors can be great options for Plan B. As you head back to work, knowing that your little one is well taken care of will give you peace of mind and help you focus on your career goals.
Create a Schedule
As a new mom returning to work, you must manage time effectively to balance your work and family responsibilities. Creating a solid schedule can help ease the transition.
A well-planned schedule can benefit new moms in three ways.
- Firstly, it ensures you have enough time for your family and work obligations.
- Secondly, it helps you stay organised and focused on your daily tasks.
- Finally, it reduces stress by providing structure and predictability to your day.
By creating a schedule, you can set yourself up for success and feel more in control of your busy life.
Test the Waters Before Returning
As a new mom, returning to work full-time can be overwhelming. It’s important to give yourself time to adjust and balance work and motherhood. Instead of diving in headfirst, consider testing the waters with a gradual transition. This approach will allow you to try and learn, ensuring your plan is solid and the transition is as smooth as possible.
Consider starting a few days a week or working part-time to ease yourself into the routine. You’ll gain confidence and clarity by testing the waters, ensuring your plan is solid. It will also prepare you and your baby emotionally for when you return to full-time work.
Gear Up Ahead of Time
You can start by stocking up on baby essentials and reviewing your wardrobe. Review your wardrobe and ensure you have appropriate outfits that make you feel confident and comfortable.
Next, stock up on essentials such as nursing pads, breast milk storage bags, and healthy snacks to energise you throughout the day. Additionally, create a solid logistic plan, including childcare arrangements and transportation to and from work.
If you plan on pumping at the office, research the location of the lactation room and have a reliable breast pump on hand.
Prepare but Account For Emergencies
As you prepare your maternity leave plan, you must set realistic expectations and be flexible with your plans. While it’s crucial to communicate your plans with your boss and colleagues, there’s no guarantee that everything will go according to plan. Unexpected situations may arise, causing you to return to work earlier or later than expected.
To avoid undue stress, creating a flexible plan that accounts for emergencies is advisable. Make your schedule as predictable as possible, and be sure to communicate any changes to your colleagues. Remember that adjustments may need to be made along the way, and that’s okay.
As a new mom, it’s natural to feel a range of emotions when returning to work. Setting realistic expectations and remaining flexible will help you manage these emotions while ensuring a smooth transition back to the workplace. By taking these steps, you’ll be able to balance your work and home life while continuing to thrive in your career.