You may have researched strollers, created an Instagram worthy nursery design and picked out the perfect birth announcement, but have you given enough thought to getting yourself ready? Heading out on maternity leave may seem simple at first glance, but there are things you can do to ensure you are fully ready and that your life coming back to work as a working mom is just a bit easier! And don’t forget, you not only need to get yourself ready, but when it comes to maternity leave, you want to ensure you get your co-workers ready so you don’t return to unnecessary mess.
1. Before you even announce to your team that you are expecting, make sure you know your rights. FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) can seem pretty straight forward if you work for a big company, but if you are at a small company or a start up with less than 50 employees you may not have the same rights. Make sure you get in writing what your company policy is regarding maternity leave, including if you have the ability to negotiate a longer leave if you want.
2. Plan your partner’s time off as well. Many companies today offer some paternity time (even if it is limited), but it may be a benefit your partner isn’t aware of. If no paternity time is available, decide how much vacation or sick time your partner will take right after the baby arrives. You may decide that time will be better spent supporting you as your maternity leave comes to an end and you prepare to go back to work.
3. If you are entitled to paid time off during your maternity leave, create a file now to keep track of those payments. You may be getting paid through disability, vacation and/or another source, and you want to ensure you are able to keep track of those payments so you can easily contact someone in your HR department if there is a discrepancy. Keep copies of all the forms you have completed regarding your leave in the same place for quick reference.
4. Speak to other women in your office that have recently returned from maternity leave. Find out what their struggles were, what worked well for them and if they have any tips to have a smooth transition out on maternity leave and coming back to work to your office.
5. Speak to your insurance company and inform them you are expecting. While your newborn will likely be covered under your plan for the first month, you need to confirm what your benefits will cover. You can also request the necessary paperwork now and fill out the info that you already know.
6. Plan childcare now. Once you return to work, you want to ensure that your child is in the best hands possible and that you are 100% comfortable with your child’s caregiver. The first big decision to make is whether to hire a nanny or send your child to a daycare center. There are pros and cons to each, but you will need to decide based on your family’s unique needs including your travel schedule, budget and overall personal preference. For tips to make that decision, check out my post What you Need to Know About Selecting Childcare.
7. Spend one on one time with your manager planning not only your exit but also how things will work when you come back to work. Agree on a project list, the best way to transition those projects to other team members and how to ensure the work keeps moving while you are away. Go into this meeting with your own suggestions on the transition and how to make it successful.
8. If you plan on breastfeeding, ask about the lactation room available at your office and any rules associated with its use. If your company doesn’t offer refrigeration for pumped milk investigate getting a mini fridge for below your desk or add a cooler to your registry.
9. Before you leave, set rules about when and how you can be contacted while on your maternity leave. Don’t feel guilty if you decide you don’t want to be available at all, but be clear about that before you leave. Also, don’t feel guilty if you decide you want to have a weekly call to stay updated to make your transition back into the fold at work a little quicker.
10. Be ready at 37 weeks. Set this as your goal to have your projects transitioned, email cleaned out, auto-reply written and personal belongings removed from your office. You will be able to spend your last few weeks ensuring you have answered everyone’s questions and can leave with a clear head.
For more advice and baby planning expertise from Julie, head on over to BabyNav Baby Planners.