3 Tips to Prepare for Maternity Leave & Your Return to Work as a First-Time, Working Mom
In today’s world of business, it is not uncommon to come across educational articles on LinkedIn or corporate blogs with generic titles such as “5 ways to establish work-life balance as a working mom” and “How work-life balance improves corporate productivity and employee retention.” Although the concept of work-life balance is great in theory for both employees and employers, most professionals, regardless of gender, oftentimes still find it difficult to follow through on constructive work-life balance habits. Competing demands from work, friends, family, and hobbies pile up and naturally create additional stressors for everyone at different points in our lives (and, yes, even for those who consider themselves to be the living embodiment of organization). For those professionals who are parents or are becoming parents, you know better than anyone these competing demands only increase when you become a parent. This year, in lieu of Mother’s Day, we sat down with the DeWinter Group’s newest first time mom, Kaitlynn Crim (formerly Hess), to ask her about her experiences as she prepared for her first maternity leave and what it was like to return to work to create some unique tips for working women preparing to embark into motherhood.
Preparing for Maternity Leave
Kaitlynn joined DeWinter Partners’ IT & engineering retained search team in January 2018. Having worked in recruitment since she graduated from California State University, Chico in 2014, Kaitlynn was no stranger to the fast-paced life of a recruiter. She had developed set routines to ensure success for her clients and candidates and would commonly field calls early in the morning through late in the evening to accommodate the work schedules of the candidates she was working with. Although hectic, she worked with her schedule to ensure she was spending equal amounts of time with her friends and family. In December 2017, Kaitlynn decided to join the DeWinter Group. Like most when starting a new job, she was extremely excited for her start in January. She received more exciting news in January when she found out that she was going to become a mother in 8 months.
At the onset of her pregnancy, like most mothers, she began dedicating time to planning a baby shower, getting the nursery ready, and attending doctors appointments. Most of her personal planning time went to preparing for the “day of arrival”… which leads us to tip #1:
Tip #1: Plan to have your maternity leave benefits and childcare plans in place months in advance of your maternity leave to ensure a smooth transition into your maternity leave and for your return.
Being a first time mom, it is common to focus so much on preparation and excitement for the day of arrival that we oftentimes forget to take care of basics in planning for the maternity leave itself and the return to work. First, be sure to discuss your maternity leave benefits with your employer at least 2 months prior to your due date. Second, if you will require childcare upon your return to work, expect to line it up 6 months in advance of your projected return to work. This will prevent any delay or being waitlisted as you attempt to return to your everyday routine.
Returning to Work after Maternity Leave
In August 2018, Kaitlynn welcomed a beautiful baby boy, Jameson, into the world. Completely disconnecting from work for the first few months, she focused on attending to her newborn. In November, she began dipping her toes back in the water and was back to her normal work schedule by February. As she began to settle back into her “normal routine,” she started to realize that her return to work plan was not panning out as well she had hoped… which leads to our tip #2:
Tip #2: Letting go of the idea of balance
Like most working professionals, we plan our days (or at least attempt to) in order to create a sense of stability and a clear path to maximize productivity for both ourselves and our employers. When we realize a period of change is coming, we plan ahead in order to mitigate any issues which could arise and prevent errors. However, when you become a parent every single day is different and there is no way of “planning” ahead for all of life’s hiccups. Some days you will crush it and think to yourself, this whole parenting this is a piece of cake, other days will test your patience and sanity. Kaitlynn admits, she cannot check off every single box on her checklist every day, but that is OK. There is always tomorrow.
Give yourself credit where credit is due. Give yourself “you time.” Most importantly, remind yourself that you are not failing when your planning doesn’t work out the way you had hoped, whether it be personally, professionally, or otherwise. This is just part of becoming a parent.
Given her expectations of “work-life balance” were quickly evolving on a day to day basis, she decided it was necessary to quickly outline mutual expectations with her manager and routinely communicate when she faced challenges. Therefore leading us to Tip #3…
Tip #3: Clearly communicate with your manager and team post maternity leave every step of the way.
Everyday, Kaitlynn was finding proverbial wrenches thrown in the wheels of what historically had been meticulously planned work days; instances which had before created stressors and personal feelings of failure whether it be at home or at work. After encountering several events whereby her schedule had been thrown off as a result of her new responsibilities as a parent, she decided it was time to talk with her manager. She quickly began communicating that her response times to emails may be slightly delayed or even sometimes pushed to the evenings after she got her son down for bed. By clearly communicating some of the struggles and new expectations for her ever changing day, her manager and team understood that although she may be slow to respond to an email or return a phone call, she would always get back to them. Her work style was changing, which is natural with new working moms.
In summary, becoming a working parent is hard and although this article is directed towards working moms, it in many cases also pertains to fathers as well. Just remember to plan what you can, accept that it takes time to reestablish a new “normal” routine, and that communication is key to ensuring an effective transition. Great employers work with their employees through periods of personal change for their employees and more often than not, they will do their best to accommodate the change. That said, we would like to wish all of the working moms out there a fantastic Mother’s Day weekend and we would like to thank all of the working moms we have here at the DeWinter Group for not only all that they do here at work, but also at home. Have a great Mother’s Day!