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How to take maternity leave without compromising your career

Motherhood is a time of transition and excitement that’s often accompanied by trepidation. If your company offers maternity leave, planning will be key to your success in taking time away. 🐣

There are so many resources out there for expectant mothers to leverage, from books to podcasts to services and beyond. It can be intimidating to figure out where to start, especially when it comes to career decisions.

Before we jump in, it’s important to call out that many states now offer parental medical leave. We recommend researching this to either supplement your company’s leave or serve as your primary maternity leave mechanism. This means if your company doesn’t offer maternity leave, you should still read on —then do your research to find out what options are available to you.

Value vs perception

Studies have shown that maternity leave has positive impacts on the health of both mom & baby, as well as baby’s development & the labor market overall.

According to Shortlister, paid parental leave is linked to better language development and fewer behavioral issues in babies & toddlers. Additionally, 87% of employers reported that costs did not increase because of paid leave, and 9% even reported that their costs decreased because of decreased turnover.

But the transition from full-time employee to full-time mom can be nerve-wracking and feel ambiguous. For many of us, maternity leave seems like a mysterious black box. In their Parental Leave Survey, Deloitte found that over half of those surveyed felt parental leave would be seen as a lack of commitment to their jobs. 💼

The value of maternity leave is clear, so how do you ensure you have a solid plan in place for when you’re away from your role — and that work-related anxieties are nowhere in sight as you transition into motherhood?

Laying the groundwork

Much of setting yourself up for successful maternity leave will happen before your leave starts, so make sure to dedicate plenty of time, energy, and resources for this part of the planning process.

A big piece of the puzzle is communicating your plan with your manager and ensuring you get buy-in. Share the news with them at the right time and in the right way.

While you should drive the creation of your maternity roadmap, your manager should feel like the plan was co-developed. Make sure that during the process of refining your plan with your manager, you are reinforcing your commitment to the team & organization. 💪

Additionally, make sure your maternity plan encompasses what will happen before, during, and after your leave.

Putting a plan together

As you prepare for maternity leave, it’s not just about a temporary departure; it’s an opportunity to strategically plan for your return. Ensure your maternity leave plan extends beyond the immediate period of absence and contributes to your professional growth. 🌱

Additionally, don’t hesitate to obtain feedback from colleagues that have taken maternity leave for tips & input on your plan. They can offer valuable firsthand experience and may have insight into policies at your company or possibilities in your industry. 🤝

Specify what you will take forward when you return from leave. When outlining your maternity leave plan, identify projects that resonate with your skills and interests. Choosing tasks that align with your career goals not only keeps you engaged but also demonstrates your commitment to adding value to the organization. This forward-thinking approach positions you to return to work with a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Ultimately, your plan should convey that you are setting your org up for success. Do so by centering your commitment to a well-planned leave — you’ll show that your time away will create outcomes that are attractive to the business.

Crossing your t’s

A solid plan will get you pretty far, but there are a few other checklist items you should resolve before starting your leave. ✅

In addition, don’t hesitate to bring in an outside consultant to serve as backfill. This strategic approach prevents burdening your team with extra responsibilities and maintains a clear delineation of roles. With this method, the consultant’s involvement is temporary, ensuring a smooth handover, and upon your return, a seamless return to your designated role.

Establishing contact

Maternity leave adds tremendous value to those first months of motherhood, because it fosters a dedicated space for mother and baby away from the pressure and responsibilities of your workplace role.

In your plan, it’s important to set concrete expectations around what your manager and your team should expect from you while you’re out on maternity leave (and vice versa). By doing so, you’ll set yourself up for success when it’s time to press pause.

Decide when you will be contacted or when you will check-in on your team — if at all. Additionally, decide who and how you should be contacted while you’re out. ☎️

Returning to the office (RTO)

Much of your RTO experience will be determined by the maternity leave plan you and your manager set forth before your departure. You can thank your past self for doing such a bang-up job at having your back. 😉

We want to point out again — know your rights & company policies. This area is tricky as it’s often a mix of policy & law, making it difficult to navigate. While this should be researched during your planning phase, you should make sure you have access to the information if needed.

Your leave plan also outlined your responsibilities upon return. Make sure that you set up a meeting with your manager as soon as possible when you’re back from leave to get aligned and hit the ground running. The quicker you can return to a routine at work, the easier it will be to integrate your two roles, employee & mom.

You got this!

Embarking on maternity leave is a transformative journey filled with meticulous planning & thoughtful considerations. 📅

While the path to maternity leave may seem daunting, the strategic steps taken before your leave can pave the way for a seamless transition. By aligning your maternity plan with professional growth, securing support from all fronts, and clarifying HR policies, you’re not only setting yourself up for success but also contributing to a positive impact on your team (and proving your dedication to the org).

Remember, the key is a well-crafted plan that not only nurtures the precious moments of motherhood but also ensures a confident & purposeful return to the workplace. 🗝️

Source photo by Daniel Tuttle on Unsplash

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