5 Questions to Answer Before Starting Maternity Leave

pregnant modern professional woman seated at table during meeting before maternity leave

You’ve prepared the nursery, packed the hospital bag, and secured the car seat. But have you had an in-depth conversation with your employer about your maternity leave? Hopefully, you’ve already negotiated how much time you’ll take off. Now it’s time to put your plan into action. Make sure you discuss the following topics with your supervisor and anyone who will be picking up your duties while you are out. This will not only set the stage for a smoother transition back to work but also give you peace of mind while you’re out.

Maternity Leave Must-Knows:

  1. Who will pick up any projects that are currently running? You might not be able to wrap up everything before you give birth. (Babies are notorious for not following schedules, by the way.) Make sure your colleagues, direct reports, and supervisors are all up to speed on the status of any outstanding accounts or projects in progress. Leave a written plan with your direct supervisor and on your desk. Save a digital copy in a common folder and on your desktop.
  2. Who will cover for you while you’re gone? Some jobs, like teaching or nursing, will require a full-time substitute. Doctors, lawyers, or engineers might distribute their caseload to colleagues. Whatever the situation, talk to those who will cover for you, leave written notes, and show them where to find everything they need.  
  3. How reachable will you be during maternity leave? Will you be checking work email or phone messages regularly? Can your supervisor or colleagues contact you with questions or are you off the radar? Make sure your email auto-responder communicates your expectations. For example: “Thank you for contacting me. I am currently on maternity leave until [date]. For questions regarding your account, please contact [colleague] at [colleague’s email address]. To request a demonstration or start a new order, please contact [colleague]. I look forward to working with you when I return.” Leave behind as much information as possible so you’re not fielding phone calls during labor or the early postpartum period.
  4. Where are important files and materials? Show your coworkers where to find what they need to cover for you. Label folders and drawers and make a list of where to find things. If you can, tap an organizationally-proficient colleague to check in every week or two to make sure you don’t come back to a ransacked desk. Don’t forget to put away personal items you don’t want to be borrowed or misplaced.
  5. When and how are you coming back? Whether you’ll be out for six weeks, twelve weeks, or longer, everyone will want to know when you’re coming back. Think about the timing of your return and try to schedule it for a slower time, if possible, like the beginning of the quarter or after a busy season. Ask if you can come back on a Wednesday or Thursday to give yourself a short week to get reacclimated. Will you start telecommuting part-time after your leave is over? Set up a small desk at home and get your remote workplace up and running before the baby arrives. (It’s not fun trying to get through to IT on the phone with a baby crying in the background!)

Need help around the time you transition back to work? Doulas of Northern Virginia postpartum doulas provide personalized service throughout your entire first year with baby.