Maternity leave is about focusing on your new bundle of joy, not wondering if your team is floundering without you. Make your time off—and return to work—seamless and stress-free with these essential tips.
Make it your own
You’re legally entitled to 12 unpaid weeks off, but only if you work for a company that employs 50+ people. If you work at a small company, this could actually work to your advantage, because it opens your maternity leave up to negotiation. Regardless of your legal rights, consider negotiating a unique plan. “When I had my third daughter, I came back to work after six days, but worked half-days,” says Alice and Olivia founder and creative director Stacey Bendet. “I preferred that option over coming back after two months and working late every night trying to catch up.”
Negotiate post-baby flextime
As flextime becomes more common, especially among moms, Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin says it’s not necessary to offer to reduce your pay. Instead, approach flextime negotiations with data on how it will benefit your employer. Assure your boss that working from home (either all the time or on a regular basis) is as good for her as it is for you—then deliver on that promise.
Designate a gatekeeper while you’re away
Find someone trustworthy and capable on your team to act as a gatekeeper once you go on leave. They’ll filter through any requests sent your way and determine what’s truly important enough to bother you with, as well as take on any non-essential projects in your absence. Leaving things in good hands will give you peace of mind while you’re out of the office and make the transition back to work that much easier.
Schedule regular check-ins with your team
You technically could go off the grid during maternity leave and be totally within your rights, but staying in the loop and knowing that things are getting done may help you relax and focus on your baby. Choose a day and time that’s consistently convenient for you (e.g., when your mother-in-law is on newborn duty) to spend half an hour chatting with your team. Your first full day back at work will feel more seamless, too. If you’re planning on taking an extended period of time off, recruiter Jennifer Lenkowsky suggests meeting up with old bosses and colleagues every few months, even just for drinks. “These are the people who will keep you relevant,” she says.
If you take an extended leave, own it on your resume
“If you’ve been at home with your kids for the last five years, put it on your resume. There is nothing wrong with taking time off to be with your children,” says Jennifer. “That’s a stigma that needs to be washed away…It’s no longer about burning the midnight oil. It’s about working smarter as opposed to working harder.”
Download a cheat sheet with these tips here.
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Image Courtesy of Ivanka Trump
Photographer: Kenneth Grzymala