That baby is just around the corner, and once it’s out – there is no going back. Your life (and you) will be changed forever. But it’s not here yet, and you’re counting down the days to maternity leave. You plan to (or have to) come back to work after your leave is over and you want to leave and come back on the right foot. There is so much advice out there – what makes sense to follow? Here’s my point of view on things you should, and should not, do before you take off.
Don’t bother killing yourself going after “quick wins” or pushing to complete a large project before you go out. This may seem contrary to a lot of the advice out there, but this is why I feel this way: you can’t guarantee you’ll get the benefit of your work. A series of quick wins may help you feel better and make sure your current boss remembers you as valuable, but memories are short and jobs temporary. By the time you come back six months later, your boss’s priorities may have shifted, and they may be focused on other employees that are delivering things today (not six months ago). What’s worse, you may not even come back into your same role or management organization. So killing yourself to get major projects or quick wins done while you’re bloated, exhausted, and pregnancy-brained could very well not be worth it. Many companies will give you a “pass” during review time when you take a leave of absence, so any large projects you complete may be moot in terms of getting you a salary hike or promotion.
Do focus on delivering against your core job and keeping your head in the game. The last few months at work, the most important thing you can do is continue to be reliable, smart, and committed. That means not stressing about hitting the ball out of the park, but rather focusing on being a great business partner. Six months later people will remember you were great to work with, they may not remember what exactly you did.
Do leave a record of your projects and transition plans, even if you don’t have a backfill. Depending on where you work and the size of the organization, backfill options will vary – it may even end up being your manager. Most people are so busy trying to finish their own job, making sure your job is neat and tidy and easy to transition is your responsibility. Consider starting this process at 32 weeks, instead of waiting for 36 weeks. You’ll appreciate the time to gather your thoughts and you’ll still feel ok about how you left things if something happens and you need to leave earlier than planned.
Don’t stop taking on juicy projects just because leave is imminent, but be honest with your manager about what you can accomplish during that time. True story: I was really interested in taking on a stronger role in digital marketing in one of my past roles, but I was headed out on maternity leave in a few months. I still leapt at the chance, and started putting together some strategic plans and visions in the area. When it was time to come back to work, I didn’t come back into my old role, but was offered a new role focused on digital marketing.
Do be open and honest about what you want to do when you come back. Three, four, or six months is a long time, and a lot can change. Make sure that the people that matter know what you want to do at your organization. Your current role may not be compatible with your new life plans, and this is the time to try something new. Maternity leave is the perfect time to let go of a role that you’ve been doing for a while, and come into a new role with fresh eyes and a fresh spirit – ready to take on the workplace again.
Don’t assume you’ll be the same person when you come back to work. You will be different. It’s not something that you’ll understand until you are back at work – but having a family at home that’s counting on you and something else in your life that you quite possibly love more than anything else, will change your perspective on your job and how you do it.
This is an exciting time! Most importantly, enjoy the experience and focus on what’s next after you get back.
Have Kids, Will Work