Back from maternity leave

I got a question from a reader last week about how to prepare for his boss's return to work from maternity leave. I answered here with some help from my little guy, Linc.

For the team welcoming someone back into the office after any extended absence: let them set the pace. Ask when when and how they get briefed on what's happened while they were out and then honor those wishes the best you can. By the middle of the second week, the person transitioning back into work should largely have their routine down and start feeling somewhat "normal."

Answering this question, though made me think about the flip side-- what if you're the one coming back?

My take is this. When coming back from maternity leave, your first two words in the office should be, "thank you." And you should mean it.

Some (thankfully few) returning moms come back with the completely wrong attitude. If you expect to be an exception to the rule now that you have a family at home, think again. Of course, no one would say this out loud. However, thinking you're owed something because you're a mom now becomes obvious when your problems suddenly become everyone else's to solve. Spreading this unique brand of entitlement around the office only fuels frustration and resentment on your teams. And if you're the boss? Woah, it's just worse. Avoid the heartache and hassle with a little appreciation for everything that was accomplished in their absence.

Thank you.

Newly pregnant at work

Mega snowstorm Jonas kept many of us inside for days straight. It's precisely these conditions that result in most babies being born in the fall-- yup, about 40 weeks later.  It's not too early to start thinking about maternity leave.  Here are some thoughts to consider...

Inventory and institutionalize your work

  • Now is a good time to take a look at the process and product of the things that you lead or contribute to in the organization.  What things can be transferred?  What things need to be written and described for others to take forward?  Reflect on the roles and responsibilities of your position and how that work can be addressed in your absence.

Figure out your “stay connected” plan

  • This isn’t to suggest that you shouldn’t fully be invested in your maternity leave.  You should, but you must also identify how you will stay connected to the work that occurs in your absence.  Communicate your intentions to check email, periodically respond to issue or answer questions, and how you will stay connected to the work, albeit in a modified or remote fashion.

Interview daycare providers

  • Research and then physically go and check out a couple of different daycare options- Even if you think you know what you want, I found it worthwhile to go visit an in-home daycare and a daycare/preschool center.  Seeing the set-up and getting a feel for the places really helped me imagine what it'd be like to drop off this little person that I hadn't even met yet myself. I also talked with a handful of nannies, moms with nannies, dads with au pairs, and grandmas doing a second tour as daytime caregiver. The experience will either make you feel more confident in your choices or help you narrow down the range of options.

Congratulations on this big, impending change.  Good luck!