It’s Important to Prepare Before Going on Maternity Leave
Many experts recommend that you prepare both your life and your work when you are ready to have a baby. This way it is not a surprise and everyone is prepared when you do find yourself pregnant. I did not follow that advice. In fact, I found myself putting off a few very important conversations before going on Maternity Leave.
When I found out I was pregnant with our daughter it was a complete surprise. My husband and I had decided that we would be open to trying to have a baby; however we expected it to take at least a few months to get pregnant. Little did we know, by the end of the month we would have a positive pregnancy test!
I had not even looked into my work’s maternity leave policy yet! Then, the first few weeks were a whirl of emotions, morning sickness, and obsessively looking at adorable baby clothes that I couldn’t buy yet. The pregnancy felt a little rushed and disorganized, so I put off the important conversations at work.
In case you find yourself in a similar situation, here are three conversations to not put off before going on Maternity Leave:
1. Maternity Leave
It may be obvious but when you tell your boss or HR that you are pregnant, you should also use that time to find out the maternity leave policies (if you don’t already know). I waited until I was 14 weeks pregnant to tell my boss I was pregnant. My workplace was very open and any big news was typically shared with the entire office. So, I wanted to make sure my pregnancy was healthy before I shared the news. I was so nervous to tell my boss because I felt like I had put it off, that when I finally told her I completely forgot to ask for maternity leave information.
Questions to ask about maternity leave policies:
• Is my position covered under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?
• What kind of leave options is available (paid and unpaid)?
• What is the maximum amount of time I am allowed to take for Maternity Leave?
• Will I need to use paid time off to cover any of my leave?
• Am I eligible for short term disability?
• Will I receive benefits while on Maternity Leave?
• Do I need to take paid time off for doctor’s visits?
• Will you be contacting me during my leave?
• What paperwork do I need to complete? What is the deadline?
2. Return to Work Expectations
A very important conversation to have with your supervisor and/or HR before going on maternity leave is what you want your work environment and work-life balance to look like when you return. This is another conversation I was extremely nervous to have because of my current position. At the time I found out I was pregnant I was working as a recruiter for a staffing company. While I thoroughly enjoyed the position and what I was doing; I often worked 12 hour days and the occasional weekend. I knew that when I had a baby I would not enjoy that kind of work-life balance.
Questions to ask about returning to work:
• Do you have any specific policies or procedures about transitioning a mother back to work after maternity leave?
• If you are breastfeeding, will there be a mother’s room set up? (know your rights)
• If you are breastfeeding, what are your policies for using the mother’s room? (know your rights)
• Are there opportunities to working remotely either part of the time or fulltime?
• Is flex-time available? How would this work?
• Are there opportunities for my role to become part-time?
• Will I be responsible for working the same hours that I worked before leave? (Be open and honest about what you are looking for!)
3. Long Term Goals
By far the scariest conversation that I had with my boss before maternity leave was about my long term goals with the company. As a recruiter, I thought that the next step in my career was to move into a sales role. My company was extremely excited about this because their goal is to transition recruiters into sales roles within the company. Unfortunately, when I found out I was pregnant that goal changed. I knew as a new mother I would not be happy committing to even more hours and stress. I was so terrified that my boss was going to be angry at me because I was no longer interested in moving into a sales role. Luckily I had established a very strong working relationship with my boss which made this conversation easier.
Questions to ask about long term goals:
• What are the options for career growth in this role? Are there other options that you have not considered?
• If your department is no longer a fit, are there other departments that you could transition to?
• How long would it take you to transition into a new position?
• What do you need to do in my current role to be eligible to transition to a different role?
• What roles within the company have other new moms enjoyed most?
All three of these conversations were difficult for me to have. Because I was nervous about these conversations I found myself putting it off. However, after I had these conversations I felt more informed and less stressed about going on maternity leave. If you are pregnant and plan to continue to work, I highly recommend having these conversations with your boss/HR before going on maternity leave.