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Baby on the Way? How’s Your Parental Leave Plan Coming?

By Sarah Douglas, Soutiens

As an expectant parent, you've got a long to-do list.

Attending birthing classes, setting up a baby registry, organizing the baby's room, picking out names...the list goes on and on.

In all this planning, don’t forget about your work and the career you’ve been building.

You’ll be away from the office focusing on your new family, and you’ll want to not worry about what’s happening at the office. Most likely your intentions are to snuggle your baby and to bask in that wonderful new baby smell. So how do you make sure you can do just that during your leave? How do you create a force field around your precious baby time?

You do it by planning ahead.

By planning ahead, you have the freedom to be flexible. You’ve thought through the options, and while you’ve got an idea of how you’d like things to go, you’ve created the space to roll with whatever actually happens.

You do it by recognizing your intentions and communicating your expectations.

Recognizing your intentions starts with your WHY. Why are you choosing to be a working parent? Spend some time with this question, and keep your answer in the back of your head as you move through this process. Maybe you love your job and couldn’t imagine not working. Or maybe you truly enjoy working with your colleagues. Maybe it’s because the paycheck helps you work toward financial stability. Whatever the reason, your why provides the foundation for all of the decisions you need to make along the way.

Creating intentions involves being mindful. It involves thinking about how you want to experience this time. How do you want to feel? What do you want to do, or not do? Thinking through how you want to experience this time gives you a framework making some fairly important decisions. And as a bonus, by thinking about your intentions ahead of time, you have control over how you respond if and when things don’t go to plan. Flexibility is key.

While your intentions involve your internal wants, needs and desires, your expectations are what you need or what or expect from others. Who needs to be involved? What tasks or responsibilities will others cover in your absence? How will you communicate as a team?

It’s important to share your intentions and expectations with your manager and team. None of us are mind readers, so be thorough in your conversations. Don’t leave space for assumptions.

Intentions and expectations are two-way streets—you have your intentions and expectations for work, and your manager and colleagues have expectations for you. As you have conversations about this transition, you’ll probably discover you need to go back and revise your intentions and expectations. Be reasonable and be flexible. Having a baby will change you, and with your new perspective and new priorities comes an even greater need to over-communicate, be transparent, and be flexible.

If you need inspiration as you think about planning your leave time from both an intention and expectation perspective, here are some questions to consider:

  • How long do you intend to be on leave?

  • How do you plan to hand off important projects or information to your colleagues, team, or managers?

  • Knowing your colleagues may be taking on extra work while you’re out, what do you expect will actually get done? What items are priorities?

  • What work-related benefits and resources do you plan on taking advantage of during this time?

You’ve got an amazing task ahead of you—you have both the honor and the responsibility to make the choices that are right for you and your family. 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 the 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.

(Want more guidance? Check out The Return Checklist!)

About 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

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