For many professionals (especially those of the no-children variety), “maternity leave” conjures a vision of the ultimate nirvana—weeks off from work, often with at least partial pay.
Yet for those women who, via the rite of motherhood, do wind up taking a maternity leave, nirvana can be a bit complicated. Aside from the reasons that prompted the leave in the first place (you know: recovery from a major “medical” event and, more to the point, the sleepless adjustment to life with a newborn)… this time away from work can be a doubled-edged sword for women professionals.
We want to have the peace-of-mind that things will proceed well without us—without the angst that things will proceed too well without us. For this reason… or because their companies expect it… and/or out of our own desire to stay involved, many women professionals are redefining the extent to which they “leave” on maternity leave.
To maximize your ability to take advantage of your own maternity leave while still remaining connected, here are some key strategies:
Keep current with your industry
Keep the professional side of your brain exercised between baby books by keeping up with key trade journals so you have at least a basic overview of what’s happening in your business. If you see something of note, fire off a quick email to share it.
Ask to be (selectively) looped in on key issues
If your work situation entails status reports, insist that you stay copied on them. If it does not, ask an employee or colleague to give you periodic updates (once a week should be more than enough in most circumstances). Alternately, consider asking to be copied on KEY emails and memos (though this requires some judgment on both parts). As with above, strategically keep your interest and involvement known by a quick note or two back.
Call periodically to check in
It can feel good to connect with old colleagues (even if it’s mostly to get the office gossip)…and the personal connection will have an impact on your employer and colleagues as well.
Make a show-off-the-baby visit
In addition to fueling that insatiable need to hear how uncommonly gorgeous your offspring is, this serves another purpose—reaffirming your physical presence and reminding everyone that you WILL be returning. It can also help you stick your toe back into the office pool before you have to fully jump back in.
Restart mid-week If you can
return to work either mid-week or for a reduced week at first. Coming off of a maternity leave can be a big transition—physically, logistically, and of course emotionally… and this simple strategy can make the segue a little smoother.