Leaving work to go on maternity leave can be daunting. You will ask yourself a hundred and one questions: What will happen to your projects while you’re gone? Will your same role still be available when you get back? How will you manage work and your personal life? Luckily, you’re not the first mom-to-be to go on maternity leave, nor will you be the last. Here are a few tips that can help you get ready for your leave, so that you can be comfortable knowing that you’ve done the best you can to prepare.
- Know your rights. Do your research and know your rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (if your company has fifty or more employees), as well as any specific state legislation and your company’s own rules and regulations surrounding maternity leave. If your company is big enough to have an HR department, make an appointment with someone there to make sure you have all the information you need, including any alterations to your benefits during your absence and any forms or other information that have to be provided before you leave.
- Prepare a plan that your employer will love. Long before the big day arrives, have a discussion with your boss and offer to start preparing a transition strategy for whomever is going to take over your tasks and projects. That plan should include managing unexpected changes to the plan, such as if your doctor tells you that you are going to need to go on bed rest, how long you plan to be gone, what stage your projects will be at when you leave (assuming no sudden bed rest!) and what you are providing in terms of resources to the person who is taking over. You should also include what you consider to be acceptable communication from the office while you’re gone. If they’re emailing you every day for things, you won’t be getting the rest you’re hoping for! Start as you mean to finish, and be upfront with what you can live with.
- Plan for your return. You will need to take a look at your work schedule and projects to see if you will be able to sustain the same pace when you return. For example, if early morning meetings were the norm for your team before your leave, you may have to consider changing that to mid-morning when you return, to ensure that you are able to manage the daycare drop-off / nanny arrival time. If flexibility or telecommuting are options with your company, look at these and see if they can work for you. Speaking of daycare and nannies, you should investigate your options while you are still pregnant — some locations may have a waiting list, or finding the right nanny for your family might take a little time. This isn’t something you want to leave until the last week of your leave! Handling your maternity leave professionally will help your employer and colleagues see it as an opportunity for growth, rather than a negative. That said, you have to be willing to ask for the things you want, even if it means it might ruffle a few feathers. Having a baby is serious business too.
Hindi Zeidman is the creator of the Ollie Swaddle, the sleep solution for restless and agitated babies. Zeidman’s experience with infant mental health had acquainted her with the ancient practice of swaddling, which is considered to be a therapeutic method of wrapping an infant to assist with the transition from the womb.