Maternity Leave Plan     

Feeling UNSURE OF HOW TO PLAN FOR MATERNITY LEAVE?  START HERE.

Parental leave is still far from ideal here in the U.S. Only 13 percent of private sector workers have access to any paid leave and 40 percent of U.S. employees do not have job protection under FMLA.  In fact, Good Morning America recently published a story about how women are starting to rely on their colleagues to help them fund their maternity leaves!

THEREFORE, IT’S NOT SURPRISING THAT women are struggling to put together a Maternity Leave plan that actually allows them to physically and mentally heal from child Birth, Bond with Their Child and stay on track at work.

often New Moms feel pressured to Return to work as early as just a few weeks post partum.

A recent Indeed survey out of the Tech Industry found that 38 percent cited a fear of losing credibility or value, 34 percent received direct pressure from colleagues or managers and 32 percent were simply afraid they would lose their jobs. Beyond the direct pressure from a colleague or manager, it’s important to recognize that the fear of losing credibility or your actual job is a real bias that impacts mothers across all industries.

THE FEAR OF LOSING CREDIBILITY OR VALUE IS VALIDATED BY STUDIES SHOWING THAT MOTHERS ARE 50 PERCENT LESS LIKELY TO BE HIRED AND ON AVERAGE EARN $11,000 LESS.

And for those fearing to lose their jobs, just read any of the countless stories shared on social media of new moms who’ve returned to work only find they had been replaced or pushed out of their roles. It’s no wonder that even while companies are promoting long parental leaves, when it comes down to it the number of women actually taking maternity leave has remained almost completely unchanged over the last two decades.

So how do you actually create a maternity leave plan that is going to work for you personally and professionally?

1. Understand your needs.

Every woman is different, every baby is different, and every family situation is different. Whether you need to get back into the office for your sanity or you need more time to recover and/or bond with your baby, the key is to take a step back and understand what is ideal for you.  If you have a partner it's important to include them in this conversation.  How are you both going to take time to bond with the baby?  How can your partner support your recovery?  What are their expectations when baby comes home and how much time you both take off (if any!)?  

2. Make your intentions clear.

Maternal bias is tricky because while it can be blatant discrimination, it can also show up from the well-meaning manager who gives you “lighter projects” because they were trying to be “accommodating.” Again, this is all about communication.

As you are planning for leave, how can you also show your leadership skills?  Are there members of your team that you can identify for stretch assignments that can take some of your work while you are out?  Have you prioritized the projects you are working on and determined who will be responsible for moving those projects along?  Is there a transition plan for your clients?  Write out a list of your responsibilities and connect with your manager or leadership team on your exact plan.

When you are thinking about your return to work, do you want ramp up time? Is it better for you to dive right back into the thick of it? What will the impacts to the team be and is it possible to make adjustments if desired?  Starting that conversation with your team BEFORE you go out on leave can make the transition back to work much easier.

3. Listen — communication goes both ways.

It’s important to make your needs known, of course, but it’s also important to listen to the other side. Does your manager or team have any concerns?  If junior members of your team are going to be expected to report to someone else in the interim, how can you help make that easier?  Plan to check in with your team once you are on maternity leave.  Even just briefly to re-confirm your return date, re-emphasize your needs upon return and calm any concerns that you might not actually return!  

While your maternity leave plan may not be followed exactly to a tee (much like your birth plan!) but having one will make the transition to and from maternity leave much easier!  Regardless of when you return to work, post baby , it’s important to recognize most moms feel uneasy about returning to work and having a strategy in place can help ease those anxieties and set you up for success at home and at work!