If you’ve been following our series, we’ve been discussing how to navigate the new world of family and work.
Our first part covered tips for deciding whether it’s the right time (workwise) to start a family, and our second part was about preparing for your leave from work.
With the prep work in the past, finally, these nine long months have come to a joyful end…and a new beginning with mom, dad and baby blissfully united.
Hopefully, you’re adequately prepared and have left those covering for you at your workplace ready to cope with your absence. As with anything in life, the better you planned, the easier your leave will be.
And now the time has come for your maternity (or paternity!) leave. Here are a few questions I’ve heard over the years from employees trying to maximize their time “off.”
Maternity leave…sure…but what about paternity leave?
Let’s talk about paternity leave for a minute, since that seems to get short shrift.
Dads, we love the role you play in baby’s and mom’s life. After all, it takes two to tango.
Modern families are more interested in “cocooning” together than ever before. Ideally, this is a decision you have already made, but the truth is that sometimes dads have no clue how they are going to feel until the baby arrives.
Despite your best efforts to sing or talk to the “bump,” often dads don’t bond with the pre-born baby the way that moms do.
Make sure to check with your human resources office to find out what the policy at your company is, but by all means take the time that you are allowed.
This might be a great way to make a stand and pave the way for future dads. According to a June 2012 Career Builder survey, 43 percent of working dads who became fathers in the last three years did not take any paternity leave at all following the birth of their children. Of those who did take some paternity leave, 59 percent only took one week or less.
Make sure to balance what’s best for your family AND your career.
How often should I check in with the office?
You know what they say about the “best laid plans?” Even the dedicated worker who felt she would be up to taking phone calls within days of the baby’s birth can be blindsided with the sheer fatigue and fuzzy brain she feels.
It’s not that babies require a ton of ‘work,’ so to speak (just wait until they start moving!), but their schedules are unpredictable, and therefore, so is yours.
You might get plenty of sleep, in terms of total hours, but it’s likely going to be broken into three-hour parcels, which, let’s face it, doesn’t keep you as sharp as you used to be.
The answer is that you should check in with the office on YOUR schedule. Some people (like me) want to feel needed. I felt marginalized when I wasn’t copied on memos or kept in the loop. I wanted the team to keep me posted via email, so I could check when it was convenient for me. But I loved having those emails waiting!
However, I absolutely didn’t want them to call and I made it clear that I was not “on call.”
Because inevitably they will call the one time baby and you are actually sleeping simultaneously. Or, if baby is snoozing peacefully, I can guarantee baby will wake up the minute that phone rings. And I might as well break it to you: this won’t end…for the foreseeable future your happily playing children will appear the SECOND you are busy on the phone!!
And, that’s why technology is so great. The phone is for your convenience…not your caller’s. Use voicemail and email to screen until a convenient time for you to get back.
The alternative is to actually take a break (what a concept!) and let the office survive without you. I guarantee they will.
Should I visit?
If you have a social office, chances are good they are going to want to meet your little one.
Enlist an ally at the office to plan a SHORT meet-and-greet in a conference room. Bring snacks for your coworkers, and head in to say hello.
Plan carefully for maximum baby sleeping time (i.e. make sure baby is fed). That’s also a good excuse to A) keep the visit short and B) discourage germy hands from touching your angel!
I can’t stress enough the importance of looking calm and in control. So you haven’t showered in three weeks and haven’t worn anything but maternity wear? Your office mates don’t need to know that.
Find a comfortable, well-fitting combo, do your hair and makeup, and show your coworkers that you are firmly in control! (Even if…and especially if!…you don’t feel that way!)
How do I transition back?
Naturally, your “due date,” as in “due back at work” will have been determined with your HR department. However, there’s nothing that says you can’t come back a little early, in shorter increments.
As your return approaches, consider joining a staff meeting or other gathering so you are reconnecting with your office and what’s going on. It’s a great practice run for your childcare also.
Whenever you decide it’s time to go back, I recommend you time your first day back for a Thursday. That gives you two days to “ease back in,” and then you will be ready to hit the ground running on Monday.
Starting on a Monday means a full week to face, and sometimes that’s more than you can handle after being away for awhile.
Keep in mind that you won’t know how you are going to feel until that very day.
You might be delighted to leave ol’ Sleep and Eat with someone else for the day.
Or, you might feel as though a very limb has been torn from you leaving the baby.
Guess what? Both reactions are 100% normal…and 100% impossible to predict. No matter how you feel though, the best part about being away from your baby is coming back home!
In our final installment of this four-part series we will explore some techniques for juggling work and family!
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Series on Parental Leave
- Part 1: Yahoo! Baby in the Boardroom: Parental Leave, the Basics
- Part 2: Leaving for Your Parental Leave in Good Terms: Five Tips For Making Your Workplace Exodus Easy and Smooth
- Part 3: Are Babies Work? Or Is Your Work a Baby? – Taking Care of Your Child While Staying in Touch with the Office
- Part 4: “A Day in the Life” – Finding Ways to Juggle Work and Family More Efficiently
by Cathie Ericson