Maternity Leave Best Practice
For the past seven years, I have been growing both professionally and personally at Loftus Bradford. It has been an amazing journey full of successes, challenges and growth. Last year in October I gave birth to my daughter Alia and recently I returned back to work after a wonderful maternity leave. Here’s what I’ve learned during this exciting period and what I consider maternity leave best practice:
1. Staying up to date
The key is to ensure you have a strong working relationship with your boss. Before even talking about pregnancy/maternity leave, think if your boss is someone who you respect and admire and who respects and admires you and will support you to be successful personally and professionally. If so, then it will all work out with open and honest communication. It can be daunting discussing this with your boss so try to be as open as possible.
Be flexible and open because things can of course change once you become a parent. In my case, I was sure I wanted to keep in touch and receive regular updates from work, and I communicated this to my boss before the baby arrived; however, we were also very aware that we would need to keep communicating and discussing if this is what I would like during my maternity leave. Once the baby was here, my boss made it clear that the door was always open and he was ready to be in touch as much as I had initially communicated, but he was also clearly leaving the door open for me to communicate less if I wanted to.
We kept in touch regularly; at least once a week and it felt great to still feel part of the team and part of important news but not with a pressure to work. Because of clear communication, I was able to be involved as much as worked for me. The fact that I could visit the office and meet up with my boss with my baby made it so much easier to keep connected.
2. Showing up at the office with a baby
The first time you show up at the office with a baby you may feel nervous, but it’s key you stay confident and calm about it, and your colleagues will be very supportive. A big part of it is how the leaders in your organisation react. My boss is a father himself and made it clear that he welcomed my baby to the office and this was then reflected throughout the team.
It’s good to have someone in the team who can be your support, ideally, another parent who you can check in with regularly. This should give some reassurance. Don’t rush going to your office with your baby. Take your time and wait until you feel physically and mentally ready.
3. The fear of having to prove yourself all over again
When the maternity leave is coming to an end, you may feel the fear of having to prove yourself all over again. That might be a good thing as it gives you drive but you have to see yourself as a new and improved version of your former self at work. Working mums tend to be the most productive at work, we have more motivation and drive, and not to mention even more incentive to bring results so this alone means it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll deliver more results in less time.
I think it’s key to keep in touch during your maternity leave as this helps you maintain the confidence in your ability so it won’t feel like a huge change and jump coming back. Keeping in touch has really helped me feel like I have still been very much part of the team and organisation during these months. It’s kept my finger on the pulse, so I feel less pressure to prove myself because it in a way feels like I never left. I’ve been involved without the pressure of working.
It’s key to write down all your achievements before your leave, go over them before starting and set smart goals for your return.
4. The transition period
Every mum wonders how to make the transition from the maternity leave to going back to work easier for her as a mother and as a professional. Here are some tips that can help:
- Don’t go back to work on a Monday, mid-week is better as the first week is always going to be tough and you’ll miss your child
- Have a very strong support network at work and at home. At work, you need allies, mentors and coaches
- Have a reliable and trustworthy childcare in place and a partner that fully supports your return to work
- Create a routine for you and your baby; a clear schedule and division of responsibilities at work and home are key
- Already have the childcare in place before your first day (don’t go back to work on your child’s first day at the nursery)
- Be very clear on your boundaries: if you need to leave at a certain time set these boundaries from day one so that you don’t run into overwhelm
- Start working from home potentially
5. Having a family and a career is doable
Don’t be afraid to have children and continue developing in your career. It’s very doable! I worked until the very last day of my pregnancy and had record results in my last trimester. That may not be for everyone but I was lucky to have a great pregnancy.
The key is to work for an organisation and for individuals who care, understand and believe in the value of having long-standing loyal employees and the value working parents can bring to a team. The best way to prepare for this journey is:
- Get into an organization where you see the values are in line with the above, where you have a long-term career opportunity and where there is diversity and support for working parents
- Set up your support system externally; choose your partner wisely
- Don’t preempt or plan too much, once you become a mother you get this new found wisdom and strength that helps you manage it all
- Don’t put off having a family for your career but do organise the timing wisely
These are the lessons I would share with my networks, candidates and every woman that is striving to grow professionally yet wants a family as well.