Preparing for Maternity Leave or a Career Break

August 29, 2019

Preparing for Maternity Leave or a Career Break

Not knowing what motherhood will be like until it happens can be a little unnerving and it makes planning for a career break all the trickier, but there are some things you can do to make the transition both out of and back into work much easier whether you’re taking a few weeks or a few years off work. [Read on to find out more…..]

For some women maternity leave cannot come soon enough; the chance to wear comfortable clothes, rest heavy ankles, have a mid-morning sleep or an afternoon bath without feeling guilty and prepare both physically and emotionally for the demands of motherhood.

For others, it’s discombobulating and isolating; too much free time to worry about the impending birth; missing the structure of the working day or the company of colleagues; fear of the unknown. It can be difficult to rest if they’re used to busy days and coming to a sudden stop can be unsettling.

Then, when baby arrives, so do all kinds of new emotions and feelings; maternal love, guilt, fear, boredom, worry, elation, pride, exhaustion - and these can all play havoc with well-intended career plans.

It’s quite normal to approach maternity leave pondering questions such as “What if I don’t want to return to work after I’ve had the baby?”; “What if I want to go back to work sooner or later than planned?”; “Will anything change at work while I’m gone?”, “How will I cope with work and a baby?”.

Many of our clients ask our advice on this topic so here are my top tips for planning a career break as wisely as you can:

  1. Manage expectations – not just for your colleagues but for you and your partner too!

Discuss your thoughts and concerns about taking a career break with your colleagues, your boss, your partner and your friends so that you can involve them in your thinking, keep your options flexible and manage everyone’s expectations. You may want to consider pencilling in a meeting with your boss to discuss your return-to-work options towards the end of your maternity leave rather than before you go on maternity leave.

  1. Make a tick list and complete it!

Make sure that you complete work tasks and any training you may be doing at work before you leave for a career break. Psychologically, you will be able to relax more easily when you stop work and you’ll feel more confident about returning to work ready to start afresh rather than feeling as though you failed to achieve something which may drag you back at a later stage.

  1. Keep in touch with your colleagues

Make time to keep in touch with your colleagues. Meet them for a coffee and ask them about what is happening both at work and within the organisation so that you feel connected and also so that they don’t forget about you! Many organisations are guilty of the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality and we’ve heard so many stories of people being made redundant before they even make it back to the office. Make sure you remain in everyone’s mental in-tray!

  1. Keep on top of industry news

Know what’s going on in your industry and comment on it wherever you can through social media, interaction with your colleagues or at a social event. Sign up to online industry newsfeeds or subscribe to an industry magazine. Not only does this ensure that you’re not losing touch with what’s going on but it will keep your professional sense of identity strong and relevant too. You may even find that, with a little more time on your hands, you will know more about your industry than ever before!

  1. Keep your mind active

It’s all too easy to become so absorbed in motherhood and domesticity that you feel as though you have nothing else to talk about! There are all kinds of programs and activities that you can enrol onto whilst also being a wonderful full-time Mum. Consider doing an online training course; attend a class or course at your local library or sign up to a series of intellectual talks (e.g. pondero.co.uk) just to keep the grey cells ticking over.

  1. Keep your CV alive and kicking

There are plenty of opportunities to flesh out your CV while you are on a career break. You may find that you get involved in various projects through community groups or through your children’s schools such as fundraising or organising an event. While these may be small fry compared to what you were doing at work, they are still valuable experience, all of which contribute to a list of skills that you can offer employers down the line, so make sure you keep a note of everything you do so that you can add it to your CV. Career Break People offer a “Personal Skills Log” which you can get either in a hard copy or download onto your tablet (careerbreakpeople.co.uk). This is a brilliant way of logging your various activities whilst taking a break from work, which will help you to refresh your CV when the time comes.

  1. Be proud of your choice

So many women lose their sense of self-worth when they become a stay-at-home mother. This is such a shame on so many levels. Being a mother is as valid a role as any other and you should feel proud of it. Your child will benefit; you will learn invaluable life skills as well as learning a lot about yourself and believe me, when you return to work you will be able to cope with so much more than when you left! Many employers are now recognising how valuable mothers are in the workplace and offering all kinds of incentives to bring us back into the fold. Working mums often feel guilty that they’re not at home and able to take part in all the activities and can feel left out by those who have more time on their hands. Either way, feel proud of the choice you have made, stand up for yourself and don’t beat yourself up about it!

  1. Consider flexible working

Trying to do it all can be stressful and will take the joy out of both your role as a mother and your professional role. If you’re returning to work, consider talking to your employer about working part-time or working from home. More and more employers are making flexi-time, home-working and term-time working a reality as they recognise how important this is to working parents. There are specialist recruitment agencies who can help you to find work at a senior level with flexible working arrangements. Try Capability Jane, Ten 2 Two and 2 To 3 Days.