Top Tips for a Successful Maternity Leave

Are you aware that 30 percent of women leave the workforce after having kids? That there is typically a “motherhood penalty” of 4 percent in reduced earnings for every child you have?

Now is the time for companies to realize if they support a maternity initiative, they will reduce retention rates, improve employee satisfaction company-wide, benefit from a more diverse workforce, and much more.pwoman

Karen Rubin, managing director of Talking Talent at the Stern Women in Business event, talked about Kaitlin as one real-life example. Kaitlin was someone who worked in financial services and wasn’t expecting to have a child when she found herself — yup you guessed it — expecting.

Kaitlin was involved in a high visibility project and working upwards of 60-70 hours per week. As she looked around at others in her field, she didn’t see many women who were inspiring her to be able to do it all. As her belly expanded, she found herself being constantly asked if she would be coming back to her job after her delivery. She wasn’t sure if it was the best move to stay home moving forward and put her career on hold or dive right back into the financial services pool after her child was born.

What did Kaitlin do and what should you as an employee do when planning a family? Here are some top tips.

  1. Communicate what you want: When you announce your pregnancy, assumptions will automatically be made on a variety of topics including things like travel or advancing up the ladder further. It’s key to communicate what you want with your team so that if opportunities arise, they know exactly what you are willing — and not willing — to do as a new mother. Be vocal and correct misconceptions from the beginning.
  2. Outline the important things: It’s important to dole-out your less important responsibilities that don’t play into your strengths and understand what you can let go of that other members of your team can handle. Focus on the big things that can really drive your success.
  3. Be efficient and directed with the time you do have: Whether or not “pregnancy brain” is a real thing, you need to keep your focus on timely projects that could be finished before you will be delivering.

Before maternity leave

  • Manage the Message — Prior to leaving your organization for an extended time period, be sure to manage your message. Share your pregnancy FIRST with your manager. “Go in with a plan and tell them, ‘here’s what I’m going to do and when’ as well as when you’re expecting to go on leave,” Ms. Rubin advised.
  • Create a Communication Plan — Also, a communication plan is necessary to have in place prior to your maternity leave. How often do you need to speak with your team? Can they call you only during certain hours? This is the ideal time to outline any boundaries that work for you and explore any unwritten rules your company may have in place.
  • Review Successes — Lastly, through a performance review, you should talk with your manager about everything you have achieved and delivered thus far in your career, so that everyone remembers what a star player you are when and if you decide to return. In addition, the process of handing over your work must be closely considered. What are your current responsibilities and who should cover what specifically? Don’t procrastinate; establish cover as soon as you can.

After maternity leave
Re-entering the workforce and getting back into your high stress occupation might seem daunting at first glance.

However, you should:

  • Start midweek: Kicking off your first work week back on a Wednesday rather than a Monday so you can ease yourself into this transition.
  • Have reliable childcare in place: “Be sure to trial your childcare before your return to work and even have a backup in place for just-in-case scenarios,” Ms. Rubin added.
  • Make much needed decisions: Work with your team on how and when you will be given back your important responsibilities. Don’t forget to explore flexible work arrangements, keeping both your business and personal needs in mind.

You might have heard that it’s possible to juggle it all – a successful career and a growing family. With this advice in mind, you truly can balance it all!

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