Step by Step Guide // Prep for Maternity Leave

preparing for maternity leaveYou’re having a baaaabyyyyy (Oprah voice)! This is one of the most exciting times of your life, but it can also get a bit stressful with all the things to plan, organize and worry over. Soak up the love from your friends and family and don’t rush into pinning perfectly designed nurseries and stressing over endless lists of names…at least not yet.  If you work, don’t put off planning your maternity leave. The more time you give yourself to plan financially and emotionally the better off you’ll be and preparing your boss and team early will ensure they’re set up to keep on rockin while you’re gone.

Check out the list below to help you prepare for a successful transition. Of course, work environments and cultures are different everywhere, so be sure to tailor any of this advice to your specific work culture.

And, most importantly, as in anything you do in the workplace, be honest and communicate as early and as frequently as possible with those who depend on you. If something changes, talk with your boss straight away.
 

Before Announcing at Work

1. Be informed and know your rights
Most people don’t pay attention to their parental leave benefit until they’re expecting. So, get up to speed on what you’re entitled to as soon as you can. If you’ve worked in the United States for at least a year, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows for 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn, adopted or foster child. If you work for a company of 50 or fewer employees, unfortunately these laws do not apply. However, many companies have their own policies that may provide for paid leave or supplement FMLA, so be sure you fully understand your company’s specific leave policy.

This check list on BabyCenter has some great tips on preparing documents and questions to ask your HR team.

2. Decide what you want
Deciding whether you want to return to work or stay home after having your sweet little one is an intensely personal decision and one that might change throughout your pregnancy and maternity leave.

It’s important to sit down with your partner and start the discussion early so you can explore a few options. As you learn more information about your company’s leave policy you can factor that information into your decision making. Even if you and your partner are still deciding what’s best for you, form an initial idea before discussing your leave with your boss as a starting point.

3. Start a maternity leave savings account.
A factor in how long you can take maternity leave may be how long you can afford to be away from work. Regardless of your company’s leave policy, babies are expensive (have you heard that one before?!) and it’s smart to plan ahead for new expenses.

Here’s a few things to factor in above and beyond your typical monthly costs:

  • Cost of birth and other postpartum expenses
    Get an estimated cost of prenatal services and birth through your hospital and insurance provider.
  • Baby gear and more baby gear
    Set aside additional budget for things like adorable mini people clothes, toys and gadgets (jumpers, play mats, mamaroos, oh my!).
  • Mommy fund
    Make sure to budget for the basics like mani/pedis (or whatever your version of this is), a few post-pregs outfits and the occasional salon visit. I promise you’ll be more comfortable and confident when you have a few things that actually fit your ever changing body and you have some time to yourself.

 

Announcing at Work

1. Meet with your boss.
It might be tempting to tell your work bestie that you’re expecting, but no matter how safe you believe your secret to be, make sure your boss is the very first person to know. It’s just the right thing to do and you’ll be glad you handled the situation professionally when asking for additional leave or when you need some flexibility toward the end of your pregnancy (need to work from home because you’re too big to fit into anything other than stretch pants? the struggle is real).
Although you may still be deciding your post baby plans, be transparent about your current thoughts. Also, be sure to make clear your intentions to provide a smooth and thorough transition.

Once you’ve met, confirm you initial plans in writing to your boss and anyone else they want included in the conversation. An email following your meeting typically suffices, but verify the preferred process with your boss.

Set a date to revisit and finalize the plan about 8 – 12 weeks prior to your leave. This will give you plenty of time to document your work, relationships and activities as well as identify the right people to take them over. It is also a great time to discuss your re-entry plan.

2. Transition Plan
Once you’ve agreed on a plan, create a formalized transition document to share with your colleagues and outside stakeholders, as appropriate.

Make introductions internally or with external clients and stakeholders. Schedule an in person transition meeting and follow up with an email introduction and recap of the conversation. Be clear with your contacts as to when communications should be directed to your colleague and the time period you expect to be out.

3. Let our colleagues off the hook
If you’ve talked with your boss about your pregnancy and are now in the clear to share, don’t make your colleagues squirm in meetings when you make an appearance with a growing belly. They’ll be thankful you helped them avoid the awkwardness.

4. Prep your OOO
Write and load your email Out of Office message so you can easily turn it on when it’s ‘go time’. Who wants to mess with writing a professional OOO on the way to the hospital?! Not this lady.

After Baby Arrives

1. Send a birth announcement
Email a birth announcement to your boss. A work safe pic (obviously) and basic info is pretty standard. This is a great thing to put on your partner’s To Do list.

2. Get Baby insured
Contact your HR team to add your new Little One to your insurance. Put this on that To Do list too!
What else would you add to your ‘prepping for maternity leave list’, Ladies? Please comment below with your best tips.

Also, check out this article for tips on going back to work after maternity leave.

Happy prepping, mommas!!

 

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