Maternity leave in the U.S., unfortunately, isn't always guaranteed (or even paid), but for those women who are able to take time off work after they give birth to or adopt a child, returning to work can be a big hurdle. The transition from being home 24/7 to returning to your place of employment can be a little jarring, but if you stayed in touch while you were away, you may feel you can get back into the swing of things a bit easier.
However, it can be easy to fall into the trap of working from home when you really want to spend your time with your family, so it can be a delicate balancing act. To keep from falling down that rabbit hole, here are some tips for staying connected, but not staying too connected.
Figure out whether you're up for it well before your leave starts. Don't get caught on your babymoon having to make a decision whether or not you want to deal with work stuff — have a solid plan in place before then. Get it on paper with your employer, and have HR go over it as well.
Set a schedule ahead of time that ensures that you will check in on your time instead of their time. For example, you could make a phone call once a week, and tell your company up front that they cannot phone you — but maybe email is fine.
Tap into your work email but don't respond — unless you really want to. Checking your work email can give you a way to still feel connected and "in the loop" without feeling required to respond or give your input.
Stay abreast of your industry. Even if you don't keep up on the inner workings of your particular office, you might spend time perusing the news or trade journals to keep up on the latest in your specific industry, which can help you still feel connected.
Don't give in. Some employers may take advantage of a mom on maternity leave, but stand your ground. If you're up for daily conference calls, go for it, but most new moms won't want any part of that business. If you feel pressured to do more than you've already agreed upon, document it and refer to what you agreed upon beforehand. If the pressure continues, bring it up the chain of command.
Beware that it's easy to get sucked in. Once you start allowing work into your maternity leave, you might find that it's super-easy to get bogged down with work-related issues and take on more than you really want to. Knowing this can happen ahead of time can help you stick to your goals.
Be aware that things may change. You might agree to check back in after the first month, but if you're still not getting any sleep, you may not be up for it at all. Keep an open line of communication between yourself and your employer to make sure that your own needs are being met.
Don't feel obligated. If you really want to check out for three months, check out for three months. Say "no." Not every mom wants to deal with work-related anything during maternity leave, so if it's not for you, don't do it.
The decision to stay plugged in is dependent on many factors, from the type of career you have to what your physical needs are during this time. Keep your own family and your own needs front and center, and do what you can, and what you want, while you're away, even if it's absolutely nothing more than hanging out with your baby.
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