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July 26, 2016

Preparing for maternity leave involves planning, paperwork, and, as Victoria Wells explains, some significant emotional adjustments too.

Should I stay in touch? 

Decide how much, if at all, you need to stay in touch with work while you’re on maternity leave. It might feel like the place will fall apart without you, but it’s also important to give yourself some uninterrupted time in those first weeks to get into the swing of life with a newborn and all it involves.

The problem with trying to decide on any potential work contact while you’re away is that you won’t know how you really feel until the baby arrives and you’re in the thick of it. All the women I spoke to for this article were in agreement that at least the first six weeks are crucial for letting your body recover from the birth, adjusting to broken sleep, bonding with the baby and getting the hang of breast-feeding.

Staying in touch 

  1. Sign up to company updates/work e-newsletters with your personal email address
  2. Ask to be included in any major meetings where appropriate (depending on your workplace you should expect this to be without your baby; arrange care or if that’s not possible talk to your employer about getting a debrief later from them or from colleagues)
  3. Ask to be kept abreast of company developments such as restructures, staff changes, new computer systems
  4. Keep in touch with industry happenings/events through LinkedIn, social media or industry websites
  5. Schedule in a monthly coffee catch-up with colleagues.

This isn’t what I imagined

Some of the feelings that can surface after stepping away from your career to care for a baby are loss of identity, loss of control and loneliness. Often, the significance of the change won’t hit you until a couple of months in when you feel you’re getting the hang of the new baby challenge but then find yourself sitting at home with a sleeping baby and yet another pile of washing in front of you. It can start to seem a little like groundhog day.

Something often not discussed is how lonely motherhood can be in the early days. It’s a big transition from an office environment where chatting with colleagues over the coffee machine or across desks is part of your daily routine, to being in your house with a baby who sleeps up to 16 hours a day.

There’s also a huge adjustment to be made in your own expectations around what you can achieve. If you’re in a job that requires high levels of efficiency and productivity, then looking after a newborn is going to be very different.

At work, you can prepare for new situations or projects by researching and gathering information. One of the amazing things about parenthood is that no matter how much research you do, until that little bundle of joy arrives you have no idea how it’s all going to go. It’s only natural to feel out of your depth, which in turn can knock your confidence, so be prepared to feel unprepared and know that it’s okay.

No matter how you decide to organise your maternity leave or how long you take, the most important thing to remember is that it’s an incredibly special time for you and your baby to get to know each other and build your relationship. Becoming a mum is a job you’ll have for the rest of your life and like any career it brings its own joys and challenges.

 


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