The Women's Journal

Secrets To A Great Maternity Leave

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By Jodi McGee


Planning for a new baby can feel like a full-time job in itself. Chances are, though, that all of your planning is happening in addition to your responsibilities
at work.

Just over 70% of employed women took a maternity leave after their last pregnancy according to Women’s Health USA 2011. So how to do you make the most of your time at home with your new baby and set yourself up for a successful return to your career?

Here are eight strategies to having a great maternity leave.

Be part of the planning.
Breaking the news to your boss is one of your first duties as a publicly-
pregnant woman. You should certainly schedule some time to let your boss know that you are expecting and what your post-baby plans are.

But don’t stop there. This is an opportunity to collaborate with your employer on figuring out a solution. Remember, while most bosses are genuinely happy, your leave does create a new situation for them to manage. Be proactive in mapping out your responsibilities, who you work with and how you’d handle situations that may come up. Clearly identifying the roles you play and how best to resource them will make the transition smoother (and may make your boss more willing to consider creative working agreements).

Begin the transition early.

Building a transition plan is one of the early steps in the process used at Maternity Leave It To Me.  When creating your own transition plan, make sure that you take into account that babies come when they are ready!  Start planning downloads and hand-offs about 3 weeks before your due date.

Get clear about benefits.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles US workers to take up to 12 weeks off following the birth or adoption of a child. But specific benefits depend on your employer, so request information from your HR department about how maternity leaves work at your organization.

Talk to others who’ve done it.

Women who have already taken a maternity leave are powerful allies. Whether she’s someone who works at your organization or an outside friend, ask veteran moms what advice they have for you. You might hear something that applies to your situation. For example, did you know that you are able to hire someone to fill your role temporarily while you’re out so that you work doesn’t get dropped, you have a single point of contact to keep you updated and your co-workers don’t have to take on your duties?

Make plans for child care now.

Investigate child care options in your area while you are pregnant, not after baby comes.  Quality providers often have long waiting lists.

Be certain you’ll feel unsure.

Part hormones, part massive life change, part sleep deprivation… you will likely have a few moments of panic during your early days of motherhood where you doubt your own abilities in some way, shape or form.

A common pair of worries among women going out on leave is whether anyone is able to do her job up to her standards, or what if someone does it better.  By engaging a professional for a set, temporary period of time you can rest assured that your work will be attended to with the same care you’d give it without any fear of someone looking to take your spot permanently.

Stay connected (if you want to).

Clearly communicate if and how you want your coworkers to contact you while you are out.  Are you open to taking questions? Do you want to be copied on certain kinds of email?   This is your choice.  You may want to completely unplug from the office and focus on bonding with your baby. Or you may find that after weeks of playing Chief Diaper Officer, you are ready to wrap your mind around something a bit more strategic once or twice while you’re home.  (I’ve found that co-workers are more than accommodating of a baby’s schedule and understand if you need to cancel at the
last minute.)

Cherish your time home.

You only get to experience your baby’s first few months once in their lifetime. Not only is this an incredibly special time in your relationship, it’s also one of the rare times in your career where it’s okay to not try to think about work on a regular basis… enjoy it!

About Maternity Leave It To Me

Jodi McGee founded Maternity Leave It To Me because she knows firsthand that having a baby changes everything, including your professional life. After navigating three maternity leaves of her own and watching friends, colleagues & clients wrestle with the same anxieties and decisions, it became clear to her that this is one of today’s workplace realities and there was an opportunity for a new answer.  Maternity Leave It To Me was born! For more information please visit