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While on Maternity Leave, Keep Your Foot in the Door

Third in a series for expectant moms

by el-e-e  |  11997 views  |  6 comments  |        Rate this now! 

Today in my OB's office, I overheard a 38-weeker scheduling her next visit. She could do morning or evening, she said, because she was on leave now. Lucky woman! My green-eyed monster jumped over and ate her. (Hey, at 35 weeks I'm pretty vicious.) I want to be on leave now, too!

This is my second time around, so I already know the relief of not having to wear pressed pants and heels every day for 12 blessed weeks. I already know what it's like to clear off my desk and not see it for three whole months. (Hint: Both awesome.) I already know how it feels to spend weekday mornings with Matt Lauer and Company rather than with my manager and cube-mates.

I also know this: My goal from last time -- a three-month, no-contact "vacation" from work -- was not such a grand idea, after all.

Sure, time to focus on my new family was -- and is -- important. What an awesome responsibility it is to bring a new person into the world! Surely babies deserve nothing less than our full attention for as long as we can manage it.

But here's what happened when I eagerly bade my professional-self goodbye during my first maternity leave: I was out of the loop. A co-worker with whom I worked closely left the company -- for our most notorious competitor -- and I had no warning, no idea. I guess had convinced everyone that that I didn't want to be bothered, so I found out two weeks later, and was very shocked and saddened.

That probably won't happen to most people, but it's a good illustration of why I think it's detrimental to completely cut yourself off when you're on leave -- even though it may be really tempting. Staying in touch (a weekly email check, instant messaging, a phone call, or lunch with a co-worker) will benefit you in numerous ways.

1.) You're getting out of the house -- or out of your head. Matt Lauer can only take you so far, after all. And, even though we know reading the Internet and chewing board books is fun, focusing your mind on professional things -- projects, clients, company news -- is good for your self-esteem.

2.) You'll make it known to your company that you value your job, and are doing your best to stay on top of things. That will work to your advantage if you're planning to negotiate for flex-time or an alternative schedule when you get back.

3.) If you go for a work-visit near the end of your leave, you can present your plan for returning. While everyone's cooing at the baby, an impromptu meeting with your manager will let her know when and how you plan to be back. You get to buck up and make the commitment, and they get to put it on the calendar.

About the Author

Lee is a full-time Web Producer in Atlanta, and mom to AJ, 3, and KT, who arrived Feb 15, '08.

Read more by el-e-e

6 comments so far...

  • Communication is key, but there's a responsibility on the part of the workplace as well. I stopped in for a visit while on leave and had some bad news dumped in my lap. The boss was caught out by my visit.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Daisy on 26th January 2008

  • Great article and oh so true. Making sure that the person, (if there is one) helping out while you are gone, is competent is also key to staying in the loop.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Sarah on 25th January 2008

  • For me, it helped to stay out of the post-partum blues. I really liked being able to take my mind off of baby for a little while and focus on something else.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by mamajama on 25th January 2008

  • i agree!! when DS was mere weeks old he would sleep on my chest and i would have the laptop on my lap and chat and email with coworkers (ok and websurf, whatever!). this helped coordinate a trip to the office closer to my coming back date. apparently one of the guys that didnt know me very well had bet one of my friends i wouldnt come back to work HAHAHA! he lost :)

    keeping in touch ABSOLUTELY helped keep me sane and made it much easier once i was back!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Kate on 25th January 2008

  • I agree with AmyE - email is key. To make it even more efficient - i simply checked my bbry once a day to respond to emails quickly and to catch up on what's going on at the office.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Victoria on 25th January 2008

  • I think just checking e-mail can keep you in the loop. I was a mess after I had my second baby. I think it would have hurt my career if people had seen me in the immediate postpartum period and lord knows what I would have said to people in my sleepless stupor.

    Mom to 3

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by AmyE on 24th January 2008