Better Communication makes for Better Maternity Leave Transitions
I had the good fortune of speaking to a group of new mothers recently (with their babies in tow!) who were in various stages of returning to work post maternity leave or still on leave. The tension in the room regarding this topic was palpable. As the babies slept or cried or played, the moms recounted the difficulties in deciding when/whether to go back to work and dreamt of how to snag that elusive job where you can either work part-time or telecommute.
The reality is, most moms will go back to work and with that often comes some difficult conversations regarding how to make it all work with the least stress as possible. Here are some tips I shared with the group regarding this:
· Communication is key: Have the conversations regarding your maternity leave and your return early and often. Let your supervisor know what your wishes are regarding being in touch while you are out on leave. How much or little do you want to be “in the loop” regarding your job while you are out. Also, let her know if you are planning to extend leave or have thoughts about altering your schedule when you return. The earlier or more clearly you can communicate this, the better.
· Manage expectations: This dovetails with the above regarding communication. Nobody likes to be surprised, least of all your manager who is likely counting the days until your return! If you are planning to come back but would like part-time/flex time/work from home, or want to change your hours to coincide with the hours for your daycare provider: tell her! I would recommend having a meeting prior to your return so that she is prepared to come back to you with a plan before you return, or at least have the opportunity to be prepared if other staff changes are needed to accommodate your requests.
· Revisit after three months: The first few weeks back will be hectic for sure. Getting caught up on what you missed work-wise and getting used to leaving the baby in the morning will be stressful and tiring. So give it some time. See how the schedule works for you. Let your supervisor know that you can both revisit your post-maternity leave schedule again after three months back. See if the schedule is working for both of you. If it isn’t, the lines of communication should be open to make a change.
· Find a mentor: How have other moms (or dads) handled this transition back to work after leave? Seek out others who have made this transition and see how it worked for them. Learn from their good decisions and from the things they wished they could have done differently. It’s a great idea to do this before you leave, as it will give you some things to think about while you are out.
Remember, this can be a challenging time, but with advanced planning it doesn’t have to be all consuming. With proper management, you will carve out the plan that works best for you and your new family.
I would love to hear your comments about this or about any tips you’d like to share!