Maternity Leave: You are Taking a Leave of Absence—Now What?

by Dexian Eman Patel More and more often, employers are realizing the importance of offering benefits such as paid ...

by Dexian Eman Patel

More and more often, employers are realizing the importance of offering benefits such as paid parental leave in attracting top talent. As an expectant first-time mother at Dexian, I was happy to learn that having worked here for five years, I was entitled to three months of paid leave. Although my leaders and team gave me their full support, I worried about the effect my leave would have on my roles and responsibilities when I returned. Would they be absorbed by someone else? Would opportunities be missed while I was out? How would I handle my new, competing responsibilities upon my return? Based on my experience, below are some suggestions for how to prepare that will hopefully help you focus on life events during your leave and feel secure about the impact it will have on your career.

Make a plan.

Sounds obvious, right? It’s not always as clear as it seems when it comes to planning for something like maternity leave. In the weeks leading up to your leave, keep track of your daily responsibilities in a spreadsheet. You’d be surprised at how much you do! You can use this comprehensive list to work with your manager to assess what tasks need to be delegated while you are out.

Consult with HR/Benefits.

Reach out to your HR/Benefits point of contact as soon as you can to discuss the details of your leave and requirements to receive your paychecks. This is a manual process. I was required to coordinate with our HR/Benefits, the short-term disability provider and my doctor’s office both before and soon after I gave birth. Keep an eye on your bank accounts while on leave to ensure your paycheck remains accurate and punctual!

Delegate your roles and responsibilities.

After conferring with your supervisor, work with team members to delegate your tasks. Have a shared document (a matrix format is suggested) that documents the specifics of the tasks, requirements, due dates and who should own or be involved in decision-making and completion while you are out.

Enjoy your leave!

Now that you’ve laid the groundwork, try to enjoy your leave as much as possible, time flies! If you feel like it and are able, you can choose to stay up to date by occasionally checking email or reaching out to colleagues. I kept in touch with my team and even had a Teams meeting for them to see my newborn daughter a couple of months into my leave. This helped me feel connected and up to date as it came closer to my return. Remember that this time is precious and you won’t get it back, so try not to stress about anything! Your feelings of vulnerability are normal, and your leaders and team will be there to advocate for and support you when you return.

Ease back into the day-to-day.

Increased personal responsibilities coupled with a return to work can be a bit of a juggling act. Speak to your manager if you are feeling overwhelmed. I chose to take a day or two to simply catch up on messages before getting back into the daily rigor of work and it helped me reacclimate.

I hope these tips are helpful as you plan for important life events and try to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Be aware that no matter how much anyone plans and prepares, issues may pop up while you are gone. Rest assured that they can be addressed and handled upon your return. Know that you are seen and supported. Good luck!