Top Tips for a Smooth Start to Maternity Leave
This blog is a collaboration between Laura Duggal and Sarah Turner, who are both Maternity Return coaches. They are working together, sharing their experiences and bringing the best of their joint advice and knowledge to you.
Although we often refer to maternity coaching as ‘Maternity Return’ or ‘Return to Work’ coaching, many of the assignments we undertake start well before the return to work. Some start before the period of maternity leave has even started. Although each individual will deal with this situation differently, and our coaching approach is always tailored to the coachee, we’re sharing below some of the common themes and advice we give at this stage.
Top Tips for a smooth start to Maternity leave:
1. Find a buddy Having a maternity return buddy is becoming more and more popular as a way to help returners feel connected when they come back to work. This is sometimes supported by the business in a formal mentoring type programme, but it doesn’t mean you can’t take control of this very effective way to stay in touch for yourself.
You might want to approach someone who’s been through the maternity process themselves so they can give you a flavour of what to expect, or you may feel you’d rather not be coloured by their experience. The important thing is that you choose someone you have a good relationship with, someone you can be honest and have regular contact with that you’ll enjoy. The idea is that they will be your eyes and ears on the ground at work, while you can’t be there.
You can decide together what you’d like their role to be, but some ideas include, keeping you in the loop about any changes that happen at work, highlighting any chances for promotion that exist and any team events you might like to be included in. This is a personal experience and you can agree how often you’d like them to be in contact and whether it will be over the phone, by email or a video call.
2. Plan how to use your KIT days
KIT stands for Keep in Touch and these days are for just that. They are 10 days that you can agree with your employer to work during your maternity leave, with the intention of helping you stay in touch with your colleagues and any changes within the organisation.
It’s good practice to have an open conversation with your employer about how you’d like to use these days. They’re not compulsory, so don’t feel under any pressure, they’re there to support you in feeling connected to the business if you want to use them.
Before your maternity leave starts you might want to think about the best way to spend these days and look at anything that’s already planned like team meetings or away days or whole company events that you’d like to be involved in. They can be a great way for easing back in and helping you think through your childcare arrangements. While it seems early now, it will come round quickly. For more information on these ACAS is a good, up to date, resource.
3. Let go
This is arguably one of the biggest transitions you’re going to go through in your life. What comes next will be a new phase, for you as an individual, for the shape of your family and for your career.
As someone who’s committed to their career, it might be tough, but if you can, give yourself permission to step off the ladder for a moment while you discover and settle into this new identity you’re forming as a professional and a parent.
We realise, having been there, that this is a time of uncertainty and plenty of unknowns. We also know, as people who like to feel in control, that this can be really hard to accept. A coaching tool that can be useful in this period is the Locus of Control. If you’re working with a maternity return coach and you’re noticing that you’re struggling to let go, ask them to work through this with you.
Start with the end in mind
Although you might be thinking it’s quite early to do some of these things, taking the advice of Stephen Covey, author of ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, and starting with the end in mind will help you to prepare for some of the challenges you might face, and ensure that the support you need is already in place.
If you enjoyed this blog and found it useful you can find out more information about how we can support with Maternity Return coaching at our web links below.
Laura is an EMCC qualified and accredited coach with a background in HR and Recruitment. She has 15 years experience of coaching individuals around their professional and personal development. Her own experience of returning to work after having her daughter highlighted that there was a need for more robust support through this transition which lead her to specialise in maternity return coaching. Clients share that they find her to be warm and down to earth, giving them a renewed sense of self belief, motivation and tools to cope in a fast paced and often challenging world. Her coaching approach is grounded in Positive Psychology focussing on mental health and well-being. She see’s her role as providing a safe and calm space for those facing uncertainty and making big changes in their lives.
Sarah is an Executive and Maternity coach with a background in HR, Diversity and Inclusion and Occupational Psychology. A mum herself, Sarah has experienced maternity leave and she has coached numerous women and working parents as they navigate their own journey into parenthood. She brings compassion and empathy to her maternity coaching, priding herself on offering a supportive but empowering space where her clients feel heard and able to find their own way through this stage of their lives.