It is no secret that having a baby impacts all aspects of life. If you are expecting a baby, you have undoubtedly been bombarded with advice and advertisements – how to decorate a nursery, what detergent is best for baby, how to rekindle romance after becoming parents, even financial advice about starting *gulp* college funds!
And while all of these topics – and more – will pull your attention, there is one more MAJOR area that you may not have thought a lot about.
Your career, your profession, your job. Whatever you call it, you spend a huge portion of your time and energy on it every day. It stands to reason that this part of your life will be impacted as well.
Here are some ways that you can start to prepare within your work-life now that will help you down the road when you are ready to return with the new title, “working parent.”
Note before diving in – I’m sure you’ve heard the old “everything changes when you have a baby” expression. While not everything changes, chances are good that you will feel a sense of reprioritizing and assessing what really matters – either at a big picture level or an “only-so-many-hours-in-a-day” level. With all of this shifting, be open to flexible thinking. Plans and intentions change and that’s okay. For you and your partner. Give yourself permission to roll with it.
Exploring Intentions and Expectations
Many parents and parents-to-be have not put a lot of thought into their intentions and expectations around being a working parent. Take some time to explore this internally and with your partner or family.
- To leverage the wisdom of Simon Sinek, start with WHY. Why are you choosing to be a working parent? Maybe you love your job and couldn’t imagine being a stay-at-home parent. Or, maybe your colleagues make every day worth it. Maybe it’s because the paycheck helps you work toward financial stability, or a combination of reasons. All of these are perfect reasons and knowing what yours is will help you make important decisions as you face all the transitions to come.
- As you think about your parental leave, consider what you want it to look like. Are you someone who wants to observe the postpartum confinement that is popular in many cultures (Sango no hidachi (Japan), Samchilil (Korea), La cuarentena (Latin America) or jaappa (India) to name just a few), or do you want family, friends, and even co-workers to be a part of your experience?
- While you are out of the office, how connected do you want to be? Maybe you are planning on checking emails and working from home, or perhaps you intend on using the time to solely be with your new family. There are many options along that continuum.
- Begin thinking about what your return to work will look like. What do you want to change from your current role and schedule? What do you want to make sure you preserve?
Communicating with your Team
After you have put some thought into your own intentions and expectations, make sure that you are communicating with your team at work. Have conversations with your manager and HR department so you understand what their expectations are and can craft a plan that works for everyone.
- When creating a leave plan for your work, be sure to think beyond your job description. Track what you actually do on a daily basis for a few weeks. You may find that you have some tasks or responsibilities that aren’t well documented. Now is the time to make sure that these end up on someone’s plate while you are on leave. You don’t want to be called in the middle of a newborn feeding session – or even worse, a nap! – to be asked about that password to some program that only you know.
- While it is your right to be taking parental time – and so valuable for you and the baby – don’t forget that your absence does put some extra strain on your co-workers. As you are preparing for leave, check in with them about your plans. Listen to their questions and concerns to help alleviate stress, if possible. Express your gratitude for their support. You have the ability to set the tone with your team. Do it with kindness.
- Talk with your manager about how much you want to be kept in the loop while you are on leave. Do you want a monthly check-in? Is there a point person who has your personal contact info in the event something pops up? When do you want to reengage with your manager to discuss your return plan?
Understanding Office Logistics
Every workplace has its own culture and way of doing things. Your co-workers are going to be the best source of knowledge about your situation. Connect with other parents in your workplace and ask them what they wish they knew before they became parents.
- Planning on pumping? Ask to see the lactation room, get a rundown of how to book it, and make note of what supplies are provided and which you need to bring yourself.
- Do you know the important dates and forms needed to receive your benefits? Do you receive disability insurance payments at once or in multiple payments? Do you need to check in with HR while you are out? (Hint: HR will be the best source of this information, but the new parents will know if there are any oddities you should be on the lookout for).
- What perks and benefits are there for working parents? Is there a backup childcare benefit, Milk Stork for traveling, or discounts on items and services? Do you have an employee resource group, slack channel, or another method of connecting with working parents? Companies are offering more and more for working parents. Take advantage of all the support and resources you have available.
(Want more guidance? Check out The Return Checklist!)
Becoming a working parent is a monumental milestone in your family’s life, so it will pay off to start thinking about all aspects of transition now. Plan ahead. Be flexible and realistic. Communicate, reflect, and communicate again. And give yourself grace in the moments when things feel heavy. You are strong, you can do this.
Guest post written by Amanda Hemm, co-founder of Soutiens.
At Soutiens, we’re on a mission to help expectant employees become successful working parents. As postpartum doulas, we have witnessed how parents who plan on returning to work after their baby is born face a unique set of challenges- navigating benefits and leave, the stress of returning to work before they are physically or emotionally ready, balancing family needs with work needs, guilt, and so much more.
We have heard these parents call for more support during this short but intense transition time. We’re here with an answer, but we can’t cover it all in one blog post. For more information on our workplace-based workshops as well as a link to our online course, The Return Plan, please visit us at www.soutiens.us