There’s no doubt that going on maternity leave can be an extremely conflicting period in your life. There are so many ups and downs and decisions to be made. Amongst all of the overwhelming information about preparing for a new baby, we can often forget to consider our career and the impact it can have on our future progression in the workplace. We really ‘don’t know what we don’t know’ until we experience it first-hand ourselves.
Some super-progressive companies offer their employees a maternity leave coaching program to help their staff better prepare and plan for this experience. I know, amazing right? So what really happens in one of these programs? Well we have been able to access one and have all the insider tips right here for you.
So here’s what happens at each stage:
Before going on maternity leave
An initial face-to face meeting with a coach to discuss:
- Your change of identity from your current self to mother.
- General feelings about going on maternity leave and your plans for returning to work. A discussion about what happens if your feelings change after the baby is born and this impacts your return to work plan.
- Any birth plans and feelings that could arise if things don’t go according to your plan.
- Understanding of childcare and what are the most important aspects for consideration. For example, is it education, play, nutrition, family environment, or something else that is most important to you? It’s also helpful to start looking at childcare providers sooner rather than later to ensure a place is available when you need it.
And then a follow-up session with your manager and coach to discuss:
- Level of contact needed while on leave.
- Sharing your preliminary return to work plan.
On maternity leave
- A regular check in with your coach to see how everything is going.
- Unpacking of your birth experience, particularly if the experience was unexpected or traumatic.
Prior to returning to work
A face-to-face meeting to discuss:
- What you’d like to be doing when you return to work.
- Have your feelings changed now that you are looking at going back?
- Do you have clarity around what you want to be doing when you return? Have you set clear boundaries on what you are willing to do? This will be particularly relevant if you are moving into a part-time role or perhaps only taking on parts of your former role.
- Help developing and negotiating a return to work plan.
On returning to work
A face-to-face meeting to discuss:
- Really understanding the motivators behind your return to work outside just the financial benefits. Any issues you had with your role previously will often be magnified on your return as your priorities have changed. It’s important to make sure your work is meaningful and interesting, otherwise you could resent being away from your family.
- Trying to find a balance between interesting work and the lifestyle that you want. This is not always easy to find and may not be very comfortable particularly if you have been very career focused in the past. It’s also okay to make your family a priority if that is what you want.
- Be careful not to put yourself on the ‘mummy track’. Just because you are working part-time or have chosen to prioritise family doesn’t mean that you can’t be doing high profile, strategic work and continuing to build on your reputation.
- It’s important not to be too hard on yourself. You don’t have to re-prove yourself and your capabilities all over again.
- Make time to connect with yourself away from your roles as a mother, partner and worker.
I’m sure you will agree that these questions and logical steps will ensure that you are well prepared for the journey that lies ahead. If you are currently planning your parental leave, why not sit down and work through these steps at your own pace? Not everyone has access to a personal coach, but using a good friend or colleague you trust could be a good option.
Written by the team at Circle In