Preparing to leave work to go on maternity leave is one of those big moments in life, and as exciting as it may seem, it can also be quite daunting for various reasons:
- Handing over your work/will your replacement work out
- Coping with parenthood
- Coping financially
- Knowing your rights
- Losing your identity at work and being kept up to date with events and your industry
Most women ideally like to start their maternity leave at 38 weeks, but as a lot of mothers know, this does not always go to plan and you may need to start your maternity leave earlier. So be prepared! Either way, there will be a number of last-minute projects to wrap up, details to be addressed, and people to alert. Here are some ways to get organised.
The handover period
You should start planning your handover when you are six months pregnant and start wrapping up all large projects too. Ideally, come seven months you will have started holding weekly meetings with your manager and team (if you have one) to start handing over your responsibilities and delegating who will be doing what. This will be helpful to them as you will be there to smooth out any problems during the initial transition period. Come eight months pregnant, you should ideally be in a position where everything is handed over and you are just tying up loose ends. If you deal with clients and/or suppliers this is also a good time to let them know you are going on maternity leave and to let them know who they will be dealing with in your absence. You also need to make sure that if temporary measures have been taken to replace you, i.e. a temp has been organised, you plan enough time to train them adequately. If you are not confident in their ability to do the job when you go on maternity leave this will only add to your stress!
As wonderful as becoming a parent it is, preparing for parenthood can be daunting and challenging, so taking maternity leave is an absolute must for adjusting both physically and mentally. From getting organised for your new arrival in the last stages to making the actual transition in to parenthood is huge and you will probably be both emotionally and physically exhausted. Once the baby arrives, coping with sleep deprivation alone is common and most new mothers are not prepared for it. I read somewhere that sleep deprivation is ‘not like torture, it literally is torture’ and on top of this you still have to care for your baby, do the normal household chores, shop etc etc….the list goes on! Babies demand most of your time, leaving very little time for you to do anything else besides take care of them and survive. Some tips on coping with new born babies are to try and take a nap when your baby naps, even an hour will make a difference. Enlist the troops. If people ask if there’s anything they can do, take them up on it; offers of babysitting, cleaning and shopping should be gratefully accepted. Another tip is to do your shopping on-line and get it delivered.
Statutory Maternity Pay
How much maternity leave you take may be dependant on your financial circumstances and how long you can survive on Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP); be it six, nine or 12 months. Sit down with your partner (if you have one) before the baby is due and have an honest look at your finances so that you don’t get a nasty shock a few months down the line. Remember to plan for increased costs as babies come with big expenses. When you announced to your employer that you were pregnant they should have gone through their maternity policy with you and advised you of your rights as well what the statutory pay is over the maternity period. You can always check this on the HMRC SMP calculator:http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/calcs/smp.htm It is essential that you know your employee rights whilst on maternity leave, so if your employer has not gone through these with you or you are unsure what your statutory rights are, you can check them at: Pregnancy and maternity rights in the workplace
If you haven’t already assessed your insurance needs and taken steps to write a will, now’s the time. Evaluate your life and health insurance coverage. Is everything updated to include all your family members? Do you know all your healthcare options? You may not like thinking about this, but it’s important to have a plan for your children if something should ever happen to you. No matter how large or small your estate, a legal will is essential to designate guardians.
Co Founder of Source and soon to be mum Annika de Friend comments:
“Being a Director of a business, I not only have a team who I will be leaving behind, but also a business partner and clients, so it is essential to have everything as organised and as covered off as possible. It’s a tricky one because even the best laid plans could have to be abandoned something happening which means you will need to go on maternity leave earlier than you would like, which is always in the back of your mind. Therefore, there is the concern that as much as you plan, it could very well be out of your control how you leave things. Whilst working through your third trimester and planning your maternity leave, you are also fighting against all the natural things that are happening to you such as low energy levels, memory issues and also difficulties with concentrating for long periods of time to name a few! So it really is a challenge when all of these natural occurrences are not helpful in the workplace or indeed helpful when planning your maternity leave. So all in all the whole pregnancy journey is quite challenging to say the least and the baby hasn’t even arrived yet!”
Your new identity
Once you have settled into becoming a parent and have learnt to juggle your new responsibilities, you could start to feel that you are losing your identity as an individual and that you are now just a mum. For this reason alone it is important that you keep in touch with your work colleagues, find out what is going on, organise a babysitter and use your Keeping In Touch (KIT) days to go to the office to attend meetings or Company events, it will also be good for you to have a break from the baby just for a few hours.
Adjusting to parenthood is a wonderful experience but it is also a stressful and difficult time, especially for new mothers as the role they take on is very different to that of fathers. Speak to your health advisor/mid-wife as there are generally local parent and baby groups where you can meet other new mums and share your experiences and anxieties. Talking to someone that is going through what you are will help to alleviate some of the stresses and fears of whether you are doing things right or wrong.