Finding an “effective” way to depart for your maternity leave is challenging, and few companies offer useful guidance. Yet leaving in a positive & proactive way, allows you to fully embrace your maternity leave as you will have cleared your head of all those work worries and set the stage for a positive comeback!

Rachel Jackson

Rachel Jackson

Depressingly, The Fawcett society found 4 in 10 workers saw mothers as less committed to work than women without children. Therefore, once you announce your pregnancy you may be battling this perception, as-well as adapting to the most significant physical & emotional changes you will have experienced since your teens. In short it can be a tough …however by creating a great exit plan you are putting yourself back in control of HOW you want to leave, and proactivity helping your manager adapt to the change.

Your plan can also be a record of key documents that your team may need, a list of core work tasks which need to be managed, and critically to minimise your anxieties and prepare you for the transition out of the office.

Where to start?

1- Money, money money– Unless you are very lucky a significant part of your leave will be unpaid or covered by statutory pay & the early months of childcare costs are quite a shock. Ensure you know the maternity pay policy and leverage holiday, KIT days and tax benefits as much as you can. Think ahead about reducing your spending, and remain on top of monthly outgoings.

2- Lower your expectations of a PERFECT departure and work instead on a realistic plan. Prioritise rigorously what you need to complete and determine why – in addition accept that somethings will slide. Set clear expectations that are agreed with colleagues, mangers & clients.

3- Think about who you want to connect with & why before you leave and ensure you have made time to do so. Having a well invested network will be invaluable on your return…as 76% jobs are still through personal recommendations.

4- Own your departure. So often once pregnant your role & capabilities are minimised as key decisions are made “around you”. If you feel healthy and well then take charge – you know your job/clients better than anyone and by proactively sharing your approach you can remind your team how good you are.

5- Don’t panic. Unfortunately, lots of companies fail to employ maternity cover or do so too late leaving you without an opportunity to hand over. Despite this stress continue to build your plan, document what you can, & communicate with those that are important to you. Alternatively, could this be an opportunity for someone more junior to step up?…if your company isn’t helping maybe you can get creative.

6- Book enough time for a great exit review. Ensure you have at least 1 un-interrupted hour with your manager to discuss your last 12 months…share key achievements, your strengths, career ambitions & great feedback…ideally record the session, but absolutely document. This will be so useful on your return allowing you to reconnect with your brilliant work self and minimise confidence wobbles. Also use it to introduce yourself to a new line manager who can get to know how brilliant you are.

7- Don’t apologise. Try not to find yourself saying sorry for taking time off or inconveniencing your colleagues…this is such an important and life changing time for you. Embrace it.

Rachel Jackson is Founder & CEO of A Different Me. The organisation works to positively impact the lives of working parents, through one to one coaching and by engaging with workplaces to enhance and implement parent led policy & practices.

If you would like to discuss this article or any other aspect of being a working parent, please do get in touch.

[email protected]


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