Once you know your baby is on the way, it can be so easy to get pulled into the deluge of preparations and ‘stuff to do’ in advance of your little one’s arrival.
But what about you? If you’re a working mama-to-be (and most are) you are spending the vast majority of your week going to your place of work and perhaps (hopefully!) doing a job you really enjoy. And all this is about to change suddenly and quite significantly.
As you come close to your due-date you’ll probably be itching to finish up in the office, get a bit of a rest, and just meet your baby.
But as Claire Flannery of Strength Within explains, it’s really important to take some time to look towards your return to work too. She recently talked about the challenge of getting back to work after maternity leave.
Here are her six top tips for looking after yourself; helping your employer to help you, and managing your career in the run-up to your maternity leave…
1) Get the paperwork out of the way
Aim to get all your paperwork ready to go, done and dusted before the 30-week mark. Along with any paperwork your employer requires you to complete, if you are entitled to state maternity benefit you’ll need to apply six weeks before you go on leave. And the paperwork; well… let’s just say, there’s a bit of work to it. There is also a backlog at the moment – leading to delays in payment. NOT ideal. So make sure to get every submitted once you hit that final trimester.
2) Make a plan with your manager
Many employers can be reticent about getting in touch while you are on maternity leave. This is often well-intended but can leave you feeling a bit lost. The best way to counter this is to sit down with them before you go on leave and agree a communication plan. This can be as basic as agreeing that you’ll text them when baby comes, to stating that you want to be notified of any major changes in your absence. Planning to meet for a coffee a month or so before your return is often a good idea, but do whatever feels right and works for you both.
3) Get in touch with HR
On a similar note, if you want to be kept in the loop about company goings-on, internal vacancies, training etc. it’s best to get in touch with HR. While some companies are fantastic at this, others can tend to forget about you altogether. So, make a point of contacting them (or raising this with your manager if no HR) and asking them to stay in touch.
4) Do a performance summary
Your employer might require this anyway, but even if not I highly recommend you pull together a brief summary of what you’ve been working on and your achievements in the run up to your maternity leave. You absolutely will forget! This can be really useful in getting your head back into the game when you return, and it will also act as a little confidence boost when looking back at your achievements.
5) Download the Gentlebirth App
Perhaps you’ve never heard of mindfulness or meditation; or maybe you are already using an App like Headspace or Buddhify to channel your inner calm. Either way, if I could recommend only one piece of self-care for pregnant mamas, it is this. You get a seven-day free trial when you download the App here, so you can dip your toe for free and see what it’s all about. This is designed specifically for pregnancy, childbirth and early parenting and can be tailored to your individual needs. It’s a one-stop shop for mentally preparing for the changing times ahead and is fantastic for keeping your calm in the often stressful lead-up to finishing up in work, and for pregnancy insomnia.
6) Ask your company to invest in your well-being
Ask your manager if your company will pay for you to attend a workshop for planning your return to work or for some personalised one-to-one coaching. This is so beneficial in getting you in a positive headspace and to help with planning when the time comes. And of course, if you are back on top form quickly on your return, this will benefit your employer – win-win!
So, there you have it: taking these few steps will get you in a good, positive space to pause your career for a little while, turn your full attention to your new little baba and make the most of your maternity leave.
Claire Flannery is a Dublin-based mother-of-two young sons as well as the founder and owner of Strength Within coaching and consultancy. She is furthermore a qualified business psychologist and gentlebirth instructor with more than a decade of experience working in HR leadership in financial services. Claire runs gentlebirth and return-to-work workshops in Dublin and says she is privileged to work with women and their partners as they make their journey through pregnancy, birth and early parenting.