If you are currently pregnant (congrats!!) or plan to be in the future and are wondering how best to prepare for your parental leave, you’re in the right place!
I’m currently on parental leave myself and there are a few things I made sure to do before the time came to avoid any necessary stress or anxiety. Take a read below!
Plan Your Announcement
Finding out you’re pregnant can be such an exciting time, but it can also be nerve wracking, especially as you think about letting your place of employment know. Have a communication plan in place of when you want to notify people at work. Depending on your situation, you may be able to wait until after the 12 week mark if you’re not comfortable sharing beforehand. Or, you may have to let work know earlier than that especially if you’re experiencing things like morning sickness and need accommodations. Another thing to consider is if you’re up for promotion for example. You may want to wait until after you receive your promotion if possible to announce.
Whatever your circumstances, assess it based on your work environment. Take note of how and when others announced their news. In terms of who you should notify first, I recommend letting your manager know before any team members. They can help you massage your messaging to the team and be an advocate for you when you most need it.
Review Your Benefits & Take Care of Admin Tasks
Once you find out you’re pregnant, familiarize yourself with your benefits. Research and understand what you can take advantage of. You may find that you have benefits you weren’t aware of that you can consider as part of your pregnancy and postpartum period. For example, I discovered that my company offered a doula reimbursement that I most definitely took advantage of.
Make sure to also speak to your HR department if applicable about their recommendations of available benefits. You can file the necessary paperwork for your leave and share your preferences for when you are not working. Relay any of that important information to your manager too so they are in the loop and can help you with your transition. Prioritize the paperwork as early as possible so you can focus on your coverage plan while you’ll be out.
Create Your Coverage Plan
It’s important to determine who will be your back-up while you are on leave. Once you announce your pregnancy, make it a point to ask your manager who will be overseeing your work while you’ll be out, whether it’s them or someone else on your team. Once that’s been confirmed, you can begin working on your coverage plan.
To do this, think about all the job responsibilities you have that will need coverage. Begin documenting *everything* as early as possible. It’s best to do this and document over a period of time versus waiting until the last few weeks or days before your leave begins. The last few weeks of pregnancy can be challenging and you never really know when the baby will come, so I recommend starting this in the second trimester when you’re (hopefully) feeling good. Once everything has been documented, share with your back-up and ensure they are up to speed on everything they need to do while you are on leave.
Prep for Your Parental Leave Departure
As timing for baby approaches, begin notifying the teams and/or clients you interact with about your upcoming leave. Here are a few things you can do:
- Transfer ownership of meetings to your back-up
- Decline all meetings for when you’ll be on leave
- Create an email signature and/or messaging app (Slack, Teams, etc) reminder leading up to your last day
- Set your out-of-office message and tie up any loose ends in your coverage plan
Prioritizing these ahead of time will ensure a smooth transition and help you avoid any unnecessary stress as the timing approaches.
Let Go & Take Advantage of Your Leave
Parental leave is a blessing, especially in the United States where it’s more limited. (Let’s hope things change in the future where more people get the time off they deserve.) If you are fortunate to have a parental leave, express gratitude for those who will be supporting you during your special time before you head out. I personally made it a point to individually email or message my colleagues to thank them for their support over the months leading up to my leave, especially knowing I wouldn’t be back until my company’s next fiscal year.
Whatever the quantity of parental leave you get, remember that you will not get this time back. Unplug from work as much as you can so you can fully focus on your new addition. Treasure this time – I promise the work will be there when you get back! This was more challenging for me to do in the beginning, especially as my back-up began to take over, but after a few weeks, I stopped checking email and Slack and trusted her and my team to get the work done. Plus, being able to devote 100% of my time and focus to my son has been something I haven’t taken for granted and hopefully you won’t either with your little one!!
For the current mamas out there who were fortunate to have parental leave, is there anything I missed? Any additional tips you have?
Kelly Nash is a Chicago-based writer, career coach, speaker and founder of Lipstick & Ink®. She also works full-time in technology as a Role Strategy and Employee Engagement Manager at Salesforce and has over 12 years of digital marketing experience. Kelly has been featured in Thrive Global, Chicago Tribune, International Association of Women, General Assembly, Salesforce, and SheFactor. She’s fueled by black coffee, sunshine, a good ink pen, and a bold lip.