Returning to Work After Maternity? 10 Tips for a Smooth Transition
Posted on Nov 30, 2018
Motherhood is an intricate part of life and an important consideration for women considering going back to work. However, it shouldn’t become a permanent roadblock for women who wish to fulfill their career ambitions, goals and future contributions to society. Here are some resources to help you prepare for your re-entry into the workforce:
Set Your Priorities
- Embrace Parenting: Motherhood is a beautiful journey, and you can accommodate your family’s needs falling prey to a guilt-trip. Your title as a mother comes with a lot of responsibilities as well as opportunities. Women are a vital part of the U.S. economy. The U.S. Department of Labor Blog notes there are 74.6 million women in the workforce, making up almost half of the entire labor force -- 70 percent of whom are mothers with children under 18, and 75 percent of whom work full-time.
- Set Goals for Raising Your Family: When it comes to raising your family, what are your goals? Do you want to go back to work after your newborn is old enough to go to daycare, usually six weeks? Are you considering having more kids before you go back to work? Would you like to work when your kids are young? Do you have accessible or affordable childcare options? Would you like to wait to raise your kids until they are all school-aged/high school/college before you return to work?
- Set Goals for Your Job or Career: What are your career goals? Would you like to obtain a certain income? Write a book? Open a charity? Set goals and work toward them. Once you become a new mom, don’t be afraid to change the path to get there. Revisit your goals every six months (or sooner) and improvise them according to your desired end results.
A great resource I found after having my third child and returning to full-time work was the book “The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom's Guide to Style, Sanity, and Big Success After Baby” by Lauren Smith Brody. This book gives a hilarious, down-to-earth and witty tips on becoming a working mother. Lauren interviewed hundreds of women from various walks of life to put this book together. The book has garnered a whole community of resources here. Lauren was formerly in the magazine publishing business for 16 years before the #thefifthtrimester movement.
Schedules and Caregivers
- Choose a Schedule that Works: Would you like to work hourly, contract, part-time or full-time once you re-enter the workforce? Be sure to factor your family time. For example, for some mothers the goal is to be home when the kids are home. Therefore your goals could include dropping off the kids to school or picking them up. It could mean tucking them into bed. It could mean becoming an entrepreneur who works from home while the kids are sleeping or can be looked after by someone else. Figure out and do what works for you.
- Find Caregivers Early: A good rule of thumb is to look into childcare options at least 2-3 months before the baby is born. Daycares can fill up quickly or have waiting lists. If you’re considering having a family member watch your child, start the conversation early. If you’re looking for a nanny, care.com is a possible starting point to find qualified caregivers with access to background checks.
Some companies are slowly becoming more accessible to working mothers. Others are offering daycare services to their employees, while still others -- such as nonprofits -- may not mind if you bring your child into the office occasionally. Find out the policy for your workplace. Start the conversation. Always have more than one plan for childcare.
- Returning to Work After Maternity Leave: Before you take a maternity leave, research the laws and rules for your company. A majority of the time maternity leave is unpaid in the U.S. Rules can also vary from state to state and company to company. For example, women can apply for the Family Medical Leave Act to take a 12-week maternity leave if they work for a company with 50 or more employees, and their job is essentially held until they return in that time period. Read more about it here. Discuss your options with an HR manager, supervisor or your boss. You can also reach out to women who already know the ropes in your company.
- Have a Written Request Prepared: Prepare a written request before you approach the decision maker in your company or organization to take a maternity leave. Talk to potential coworkers who may be able to cover your role while you’re out of the office. Write out the projects and processes you’re currently working on for whomever will be covering you while you're out. (Pick up a thank you card or small gift upon return.) If there isn’t a logical person to take your job, offer to help find a temporary hire and sit-in for the interview process (if applicable).
- Plan for the Unexpected: While you may plan to go on a short-term leave, be prepared for things to come up outside of your control. For example, one of my friends had a child who was later hospitalized. Her baby did not have pre-birth complications, and she did not expect to have him in the hospital long-term post-birth. Don’t be afraid to ask for more time off or walk away from a job to take care of your family if you have to.
Going Back to Work After a Long Break
- Don’t be Afraid: Companies like Deloitte and American Express are hiring new moms. For a longer list check here. Even if you’re starting off part-time, you can begin working with companies like The Second Shift, The Mom Project and others on this list.
- Network & Mentors: Keep yourself engaged with like minded people. Attend networking opportunities such as job fairs, volunteer or simply attend mentorship opportunities to stay “alive and kicking” in your field. As long as your chipping away at your goals, there is no looking back!
Nargis Hakim Rahman is a Bangladeshi American Muslim writer and a mother of three kids. Nargis graduated from Wayne State University with a Bachelor’s degree in journalism, and a psychology minor. Nargis is passionate about community journalism in the Greater Detroit area. She hopes to give American Muslims and minorities a voice in the press. Nargis is a fellow for the Feet in 2 Worlds Fellowship/WDET 101.9 FM. She writes for The Muslim Observer, Brown Girl Magazine and Metro Detroit Mommy. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter.