Finishing work for maternity leave
If you are lucky enough to wind down your job, hand over to your replacement and leave for maternity leave on your scheduled date, you are off to a good start! More and more women these days work as late as they can. Whether for financial reasons or work pressures, some women just keep going.
Knowing when to stop
There are many tales of women delivering early due to pregnancy complications, overdoing it or stress. As you get closer to your due date, look after yourself and listen to your body. A woman I know came into the office with a bit of a tummy ache at 37 weeks. It was Wednesday and her last day in the office was Friday. She gave birth Wednesday evening and went from the office to the hospital Blackberry in hand.
If you feel something isn't quite right, trust yourself.
There is no right or wrong here and you will work as close to your due date as you can manage. Your baby might have other ideas and you may find yourself on the sofa for the last month and this is ok too. It is very easy for a woman with a career to think she has to push herself and manage everything perfectly without anything going wrong. As you get closer and closer to the end of your pregnancy your baby will start having a say in what happens next.
Please do notice the feeling of exhaustion you might have when your boss says you are required to present at a big meeting. It is ok to say no. Know your limits.
This is an important point when you have been someone who is totally organised, can run a house, hold down a job, enjoy a good social life and a happy relationship. I see this as one of the alarm bells not to be ignored. This little person inside you is chiming a little bell that is saying "I'm going to have a say in this now, you are not alone!" The voice is right and paying attention to the change that will happen is essential but there is no reason to believe life will be over as you know it now. Changed yes but not necessarily upside down.
Keeping in touch
Hopefully as I said earlier you have your maternity cover lined up and all being well you have a good handover period. Be ok to let go and hand over your job.
Depending on how quickly you think you plan to return, agree how much you will be in touch with the business.
I found this particularly helpful with my second baby. I was in the middle of a big project and knew I was coming back. I asked for regular updates on a weekly basis and popped into the office a handful of times. This was before the days of KIT (Keeping In Touch) days which now exist and can be used for this purpose. If you have not discussed KIT days with your company, please ask.
As you ramp up to your final week in the office be sure you have discussed everything you feel is important with the company. Agree how frequently they will contact you; ensure there is a plan in place for you to receive regular bulletins and updates from the business if this is what you want. You are in control of this and if you change your mind when the baby is born, let your company know. If you feel you want more contact once you are settled with the baby, then ask for it and do the same if you want less.
Think about your employer
It's important to remember that although we're focusing on you here; your employer will have concerns too. Think about the types of things they may be worried about while you are on maternity leave and be prepared to proactively address the possibilities. A woman having a baby is an impact on a business, it creates change, and it means that temporarily the known will be different. In any period of change there are multiple factors that might unsettle a business and the people closest to the change. You will be helping yourself and the business if you attempt to envisage and anticipate what these factors might be.
Check you have all the notes available to the person you are handing over to.
Think about things that may arise in your absence, and plan ahead.
Make sure your handover notes are forward thinking as well as considering the immediate work load you have now.
List key people: As part of your handover notes provide a list of other key people in the business that are important and the ways in which they can help. If you know that Claire in accounts has been there for 6 years and knows everything about the invoicing system, write this in your notes. What you are achieving here is a reference list in your absence. All the things you just know at work are best imparted onto a piece of paper to help when you are home carrying out the other job you are about to begin, that of a Mummy. This may not be relevant in a small business but even in a small company there are useful bits of information you can share. Even if it's where you can buy the best coffee near the office!
Personal items: On your last day check you have removed all your personal items from your desk. Check your paperwork. You may find last years appraisal for example which is personal to you.
Your ally: last but not least, check in with your ally. You will have an ally. At work, every woman does. It may not be someone you have utilised much day to day in the past but this person, or it may be more than one, should be primed to be your eyes and ears. There is plenty that happens in an office that never finds its way into a corporate memo. Keeping the water cooler information coming your way on maternity leave can be one of the things women find most useful when they return.
- Keeping in touch: Confirm with the business how frequently they will be in touch with you.
- Handover: Complete your handover notes and think forwards as well as considering now.
- Identify key people: As part of your handover notes write how key people in the business who can help. All this will avoid you worrying unnecessarily and allow you to identify other people who can help in your absence.
- Prepare a good clear handover
- Decide how much contact you want from work
- Have an ally in the office