No matter how long your maternity leave is, stepping out of your career for any period of time can be nerve-wracking. On top of all the changes happening to your body, home, and relationship on the path to parenthood, one is in constant planning mode for the day that precious bundle of joy arrives.
This also is the case for your work.
For me, it was important to leave my colleague covering my leave as informed and supported as I could. This was not just a selfless act, but after carefully thinking about my own personal return to work and easing back into it all after baby. I decided that by taking the time to set a plan in place for my leave while pregnant it would be a worthwhile investment for when I returned to work.
My leave planning started for me around the six-month mark. By that time I had an idea of the projects that would carry through the next six months, which covered the rest of my pregnancy and my maternity leave. I took the time to chronologically map out those key projects which I knew would be coming down the pipeline, developing an in-depth overview of each.
Project objectives, a detailed outline, and important business contacts were all listed out in an organized fashion in these overviews. To help the colleague that covered for me, I provided access to software systems by including login details and even how-to manuals for some systems. I even did step-by-step PowerPoint presentations with screenshots walking through any key pieces.
While I did house all of these materials digitally, I also made copies of everything-filling a binder. I personally find that for quick reference, being able to have a printout is a big help, so I wanted to make sure I provided that same support to my colleague. Two years later this binder and its contents still make the rounds around the office on occasion!
You might be thinking, “oh man, I wish I had the time!” but let me assure you, the hours I spent preparing these resources made the return back to work so much easier. I was able to come back to my projects knowing what stage they would be in and pretty much in the same state I would have had them in if it was me doing them. My first day back I felt ready to jump back in with both feet, and me taking the time before I went out allowed me to smoothly do just so.
Now, I can’t say my maternity leave went all swimmingly, for instance, my son was born 3 weeks early. The night before my induction I was sitting in a hospital room sending out emails, passing along resources, and closing out projects until the early morning hours – much to the disdain of the nursing staff. The final email I sent to my colleague covering for me had the subject line Aili’s Brain Dump. Months later when I finally got around to reading it let me you… it was a feat that she was able to make sense of any of it!
If I can leave you with one thing, it would be this: being prepared never hurt anyone. Sure the last thing you want to focus on is returning to work after baby, but by taking the time to map out your leave will make those first few weeks back at work that much easier – that I am sure of!
What made your return to work easier? How did you prepare?