Going on maternity leave is one of the most daunting and exciting stages of your pregnancy. You know that the end is near, your life is about to change forever, and you have months ahead of you to care for your little one. If you are passionate about your career as well, it is important that you start taking steps to prepare your company for your departure and pave the way for your return. Of course, you may find that your plans change somewhere down the line, but it will still give you peace of mind when you know that you have made all the necessary preparations.
Achieving a work-life balance is the ultimate goal when you return to your job again, which is something that more and more women intend to do. So, let’s look at some ways that you can prepare your company and yourself for your impending departure.
Learn More About Your Maternity Leave Rights
Maternity leave law is always being updated, so you need to know about your current rights with regards to how much time you are allowed to take off and how much you will be paid during this time. This maternity and paternity guide gives you more information on both counts, so it is certainly worth reading in detail. Once you have all the key details, you are in a much better position to move onto the next stage.
Inform Your Boss and Clients
Though you will be very excited to tell your friends at work about your big news, it is also a good idea to inform your boss at the earliest possible opportunity–preferably before your bump starts showing! Speak to them in person at first, and then you can draft up a maternity leave letter that details your intentions regarding maternity leave. Of course, these are just preliminary plans, which may adapt and change over time. You will also want to inform your clients about your big news, preferably with plenty of time to spare and when the plans about covering your absence are firmly in place. This way, you will be in the best position to talk them through how things will work while you are away.
Plan Your Leave
Once you know the date that you will be going on maternity leave, you can start preparing for your departure. Make a list of all your tasks at the company and who is going to take them over. If it is a current member of the team, you can start getting them up to speed as soon as possible. If someone is going to be covering for you on a short-term basis, you can make a document that helps them to transition into the role.
Crunch the Numbers
Making a detailed budget is always a good idea no matter what financial situation you find yourself in, but it is especially important if you are about to have a child. It may be quite challenging to calculate all your expenses in detail, but it is a good idea to make a rough estimate. You can then weigh this up against the amount of money that you receive from your maternity leave and any other sources of income. If you are able to accumulate some savings as well, it is always a good idea to have a contingency plan in case your expenses turn out to be much higher than expected.
Plan Your Childcare
Though this may seem like a very early time to start planning your childcare, you can never be over-prepared. It is worth paying a visit to some different places to look at their facilities, as well as seeing how they operate on a day-to-day basis. You can also find out about their availability and how far in advance you need to apply. The other potential option is hiring a nanny, so it is also worth checking out the pros and cons of this particular approach. A nanny gives your child individual attention and care. On the other hand, a daycare center allows them to interact with other kids. A big influencer in your decision will be the standard of care available in your local area, and how yours and your partner’s jobs will fit around what is available.
Stay in the Loop at Work
In most workplaces, things tend to change at a fairly rapid rate, and it is worth keeping track of what is going on – even if it is just the occasional update from a close work friend. Even better, if you have a colleague who is just returning from maternity leave, you can find out the inside scoop about how easy or challenging it has been. Of course, when your baby arrives, you will find your attentions very much pulled in another direction. But if you are passionate about returning to work, it helps to keep up with what is going on. When it gets closer to the time to return to work, you could start coming in to have meetings with your boss about how you are going to manage the transitional phase together.
Create a Resources List
The balancing act of your family and your job is such a difficult one to get right. So, to give you a helping hand in this early stage, you can start pulling together a list of resources of people who can help you out in all eventualities. For example, someone who can clean the house, look after the dog, take care of the baby in an emergency. You are entering a daunting new world and you never know exactly which direction it is going to take you. Creating this list will help you to feel better about the challenges ahead of you. You will probably find that organizing your life becomes much more difficult when the baby arrives!
Wrap Up Any Outstanding Work
In the last weeks and days before your maternity leave begins, you should be wrapping up any projects that are still ongoing. Since babies are often known to arrive ahead of schedule, it is a good idea to deal with the top priority items first in case your little bundle of joy decides to make an early appearance! One of your final tasks will be to draft up an out of office email explaining who people need to contact in your absence. You can help out whoever is monitoring your emails by unsubscribing from any newsletters or email lists. Keep a note of them and you can subscribe again once you are back at work.
Make Arrangements for Your Return
Though nothing will be set in stone at this stage, you can let your boss and HR department know of your intention to return to the company. You can even create a rough outline of the transitional approach that you intend to take back into your job. Of course, nothing will be fixed as you never know the challenges that having a baby brings until you experience them first-hand.
Now is a good time to find out where your employer stands with regards to flexible working. More and more workplaces are embracing less rigid work patterns, so you may well be in a better position to fit your family life around your working life. Perhaps you could even arrange to telecommute on one or two days of the week. Rapid technological advances mean that this is becoming an option for an increasing number of workers. Of course, you should examine the pros and cons of this approach in more detail. For example, it can be very difficult to draw the line between your work life and your home life.
Be prepared that your mindset before the baby is born may be entirely different to your mindset afterwards. And after your return to work, be prepared that you may be treated differently in your workplace, so this could significantly impact your viewpoint towards your current employers. It is always worth thinking about the different pathways that could be available to you in a wide variety of situations.
Relax Before the Baby Arrives
Once you have done everything else on the list, the time has come to give yourself some much-needed relaxation time before the baby arrives. You may only have a matter of days or you may have several weeks ahead of you, but it is important that you give yourself the maximum time to rest before the baby arrives, as well as buying any last items you may need. Things will certainly change significantly afterwards.
Remember that all the plans you put in place should all have a degree of flexibility built into them. After all, you never know how they are going to shift and adapt over time. Draw as much support as you can from your partner, friends and family, and prepare yourself for what is bound to be one of the most incredible experiences of your life.