7 Not-So-Obvious Questions to Ask Before Going on Maternity Leave

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There’s a lot to think about when it comes to having a baby, and if you’re working then you have one more item to add to your to-do list—planning your maternity leave. Hopefully you’re already aware of the essential stuff, like how much leave you’re entitled to, what forms you need to fill out and how to get your baby on your insurance plan. If you’re not—now is the time to ask! And while you’re meeting with your boss, take a look at these questions below from Stephanie Kramer, the chief human resources officer at L’Oréal USA and the author of Carry Strong: An Empowered Approach to Navigating Pregnancy and Work

In her book, Kramer interviewed hundreds of working mothers across the country to create a guide for how to successfully navigate pregnancy at work. She argues that you don’t just have to power through pregnancy at work—you can be powerfully pregnant at work. You just need a little know-how. Here are seven questions she recommends you ask your manager and yourself in order to set you both up for success now and in the future. 

1. Ask Your Boss: How Am I Doing at Work? 

It doesn’t matter when your official review is meant to be (or if you even have formal reviews at your place of work), sit down with your boss or manager before your maternity leave and ask for a review. “Discuss how you are performing on your goals, day-to-day tasks and as a teammate. This gives you a checkpoint not about your pregnancy, but to know where you stand at work before work will be a distant priority for a little while as you approach the end of your pregnancy, and your baby arrives,” says Kramer.

Ideally, you’re crushing and your responsibilities and team are all in a good place, which will make the transition back to work after maternity leave that much easier. But even if there are areas that need improvement, it’s helpful to know what these are now so that you can address them before you leave and/or won’t be left scrambling when you return.

2. Ask Your Boss: What Do You Have in Mind for the Transition?

It’s obviously essential to discuss the transition with your boss and with your team, but Kramer stresses that this should be an open conversation. “Prepare what you recommend, but be open to what your manager may have in mind,” she advises. Create handover documents and meet at least one month before your maternity leave is due to start. Every job will be different, but some questions to ask yourself as you prepare are: What are the priorities and what things are nice to have? What loops need to be closed or introduced to ensure that everyone is on the same page? The goal is for a smooth transition that puts less pressures on you and those you are transitioning with. “Positive, clear and collaborative communication is always essential, but this is a particularly great moment to practice it.”

3. Ask Yourself: What Will I Need When I Return? 

“Do a walk through of your day at work—even if it’s just at your computer,” says Kramer. This can include big picture logistics (what does your schedule look like now and how do you anticipate that will change?) as well as specifics (where is the mother’s room/space should you want to pump?). By examining your daily routine, you can identify which areas might look different post-baby. Not exactly sure what you might need when you return from maternity leave? That’s where your board of directors come in—see below.

4. Ask Yourself: Do I Have Someone I Can Turn to Who Has Been Here? 

Tapping into your community for support and guidance is essential, says Kramer. She calls this her “Board of Directors”—mentors and advocates that can help you during important career and personal milestones. “Do you have a working parent you aspire to be as part of your board?  Someone who knows your manager or your place of work well, but can provide an outside perspective?”

If you don’t have anyone, then ask your boss if they know someone, suggests Kramer. “While your manager is just one part of your community at work, a good manager is also a connector to what you may need—whether that’s a mentor or just someone who recently went on or came back from maternity leave.”

5. Ask Your Boss: Can I Have a Transition Period with My Maternity Cover?

“If you have somebody covering your mat leave, ask to have a transition period with them before you go. Consider what is the right length of time based on your role; it’s always better to have transparency and continuity. Be as organized as you can, but also consider it a two way conversation.” Maybe you overlap by a few days so that you can work side-by-side before taking back the reins, or perhaps your cover can stay on for an additional period of time to wrap up any outstanding projects. A transition period can help ease your workload on your first day back, as well as help you get up to speed.”

6. Ask Yourself: What Are My Boundaries? 

Think about what boundaries you have in place at work today and what you might need to revise when you return. Things like: How will I handle emailing after hours or on the weekends? How will I handle taking days off for caretaking when necessary? “Communicate those boundaries to your manager and teammates. Don’t assume that your expectations are the same as others.”   

7. Ask Yourself: What Do I Need to Prioritize in Order to Feel Energized and Fulfilled?

Being a working parent is tough, and often means prioritizing work and our children’s needs. But here’s the thing—you won’t be able to thrive at work or at home if you don’t take care of yourself too. “Think about the one thing that energizes you and try to do that each morning, at lunch or after work,” suggests Kramer. “Is it a walk, exercise, reading, crafts? Find time for it even just a few days a week—you’ll feel more balanced and less drained.”

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