Of all the exciting times in anyone’s life, getting ready for a baby’s arrival is one of the most anticipated. But while you prepare and nest, you might wonder how to make your absence from work while you take care of your new baby go smoothly. How can you make your parental leave work best?
A parental leave doesn’t just start after the baby is born. It encompasses many more months including your preparation at work before you leave and your preparation during your leave for your eventual return to work.
How should you handle your leave so things go as well as they possibly can?
Know Your Benefits
Whether you are pregnant or adopting, a mom or a dad, you need to know what your company policy is regarding time off. What kind of maternity and paternity leave are offered? Are there certain expectations for using vacation time? Is any of your time off paid? Can you use any Family and Medical Leave Act time if you have access to that benefit? Don’t wait until the month before your baby’s arrival – find out this information as soon as you can so you have time to get your finances in order.
Go Directly to Your Boss
Sure you want to tell your closest colleagues your great news, but resist every natural temptation to do that. Don’t say a word to anyone until you tell your boss. In the workplace, your boss needs to know the information first and not hear it through the grapevine. Letting your boss know your news before anyone else is the most professional move that will help you both plan for your time away and, hopefully, will be appreciated.
Start Your Transfer Early
Yes, the baby might not be due to arrive for another six months, but you need to make sure you don’t leave your colleagues hanging in case that baby comes early. Start planning with your team who will cover for you and take over certain duties while you’re out on leave. Make sure everyone is trained so they know what you normally do. One of the best ways to help facilitate this process is to make a detailed plan of all your duties and your typical procedures and processes so everything is perfectly clear when someone else takes over.
Plan to Stay in Touch
You’re going to be busier than you ever realized on your leave because new babies take up a lot of time and energy. But if you go for the full amount of leave without touching base with your team, it could be a problem. Depending on your work environment, some superiors and colleagues might think you don’t care enough about your job to want to know how everything is going. Weekly phone calls are too much to expect from a worker on parental leave, but a few emails to check in and then a more formal time to meet with your boss and your team before you come back to work will help keep your presence in everyone’s minds. It’s a good professional move to keep in touch.
Plan for Your Return
Meeting with your team will help you get things ready at work, but you should also take time during your leave to get things prepped at home for your eventual return to work. Make sure you establish a good care plan for your baby that you are comfortable with. And have a back-up care plan for when things go wrong (you know they will – it happens to everyone!). If you’re a breastfeeding mom, find out how you can pump at work and get your gear (pump, bottles, cooler pack) so you’ll be ready.
Cut Yourself Some Slack
Parental leave flies by for some, so just enjoy whatever time is available to you. Mentally, know to expect the unexpected and to roll with it as best you can. Things at work will be different when you get back and things at home will change when you start working again. Remember, you can do it!
Approaching your parental leave like a business plan and not just time away will help your career and will make the transition easier on everyone involved.