Making Way for Baby: Preparing for Your Maternity Leave

Good things come to those who wait. And nine months can seem like an eternity for any mom eager to embrace her pride and joy. But you can spend those months doing even more than caring for your body and well-being.

Think of your pregnancy as a time to straighten out affairs related to your upcoming maternity leave. Preparation will help you feel organized when you start maternity leave and also help boost your sense of organization both at home and at work once you return to work .

Employ these tips to help make sure your future “good thing” arrives with as much joy as possible:

A. Consider the Family Medical Leave Act’s impact on you. 

  1. The FMLA is the U.S. government’s closest formal attempt at nationwide maternity leave policy. It officially provides for twelve weeks of job-secure and unpaid leave during a twelve-month period for childbirth. But the FMLA comes complete with restrictions; for example, to qualify, your workplace must employ at least 50 workers within a 75 mile radius. Closely read the official site’s FAQ page to be completely informed.

B. Inform your boss! And make plans.

  1. Approximately 2 months before your maternity leave is expected to begin, sit down with your supervisor or colleagues to assemble a checklist of what you should accomplish before leaving, which should include assembling information that needs to be handed to your team. Start keeping instructions and notes for whomever will be taking over your role during your leave.
  2. Arrive at a mutual understanding of how things will be when you return – for example, you might have to hand off responsibilities and accounts while you are gone, but you want to ensure you and your team have a plan for how you will resume those responsibilities.
  3. Finally, discuss the scenario in which work needs to contact you with a question or scenarios in which you want to be contacted. Is it appropriate for them to contact you directly? Do you want to have a designated colleague contact you once per week? Do you prefer to be updated or cc’d on emails?

C. Determine the exact terms of your leave with Human Resources. 

  1. Every workplace administers slightly different policies on the structure of maternity leave. Check in with HR well in advance –15 weeks into your pregnancy is ideal – to ensure you handle all the necessary paperwork. Here are some topics to cover with your HR department:Does your doctor need to sign any forms?
  2. What can you do to minimize the chance of discrepancies between the length of your leave and your pay for the duration of your leave?
  3. How will your having a natural birth or a C-section change the policies of the length and terms of your leave?  Any corresponding paperwork?
  4. How might vacation time / disability / sick days factor into your company’s maternity leave policies? Are there ways to extend your maternity leave that might make sense to you and your family?
  5. What benefits will you have access to during your maternity leave? Is there an opportunity to pay a higher premium for certain extra benefits?
  6. Will your leave have any impact on raises and promotions? What is protocol if a position becomes available while you are on leave?

D. Find out whether your partner qualifies for leave. 

  1. Does your partner qualify for leave as well or have other flexibility that will enable him or her to take time off with you.

E. Tie up Loose Ends.

  1. Setup your out-of-office.
  2. Complete relevant insurance/HR paperwork.
  3. Inform clients/accounts/partners who might not know about your plans.
  4. Start cc’ing your colleagues and looping them in on phone calls.
  5. Pack up what you need from your office (grab those shoes from under your desk!).

F. Organize your “help squad” now for your well-being once baby’s here.

  1. Discuss with your partner, family and friends to determine the best ways each can support you. Perhaps your husband rules in the kitchen, while your best girlfriend changes can do your grocery shopping like no one else. Understanding early on how everyone can best help out will grant you the peace of mind that every new mom craves.
  2. Also, it is important to start thinking about who will be taking care of your baby when your return to work. Begin to do research on day care centers, nannies and babysitters. Get advice from friends and colleagues who have been through the process and who might be able to recommend child care services.

What other advice do you have for a great maternity leave?