She who shares her story of…

Parental Leave Transition

The Story

It was my first child I was expecting. I had worked hard to make my way to the leadership position I had held in the business for several years now. The pregnancy term felt like it went so quickly. That was until I was close to the end. I started to get nervous preparing my handover to the appointed temporary replacement. It was only going to be 8 months. 

Soon board papers and meetings were exchanged for nappies and sleepless nights. I didn’t hear from my manager except for the flowers sent to the hospital, the newsletter in the mail with the photo of my newborn, the newsletter that came the next quarter with many new faces and projects mentioned, and then the call from HR to confirm the details of my return.

When I returned to work after 8 months parental leave I felt like a new starter. Like the 10 years before with the business didn’t exist. I was spending so much time trying to catch up, even just on the basics. The handover provided was thorough, but it wasn’t enough to have me feel like this business wasn’t unknown to me.

It took quite some time but I did get back into my groove. So did the experience of being a working mother. Family discussions started about the little one having a sibling. Dreams of the two of them playing came often. I was nervous and found another topic to address when my husband raised it. Months passed, and the topic was raised again.  It was pushed to the side. This went on and soon it was years. I didn’t want to fall off the path I had already tread. I had worked too hard to have to work that road again for a third time. It was difficult doing it a second time.

My child never got that sibling. I never got that other dream.

The Message

Transitioning from work to parental leave and parental leave to work is more than the few weeks from heading to hospital, and then the few weeks of confirming the return date and handover. Staying connected matters. A full blackout of the career you have worked for can bring anxiety, uncertainty, and doubt of your own capabilities and value. Keeping in touch with the movements in the business, changes and projects, or even connecting to major meetings whether through video conference or receipt of the meeting minutes can help the transition back into the role. Feeling like you have gone backwards after moving forward at a pace that demanded so much of your work and personal life, can stop the growth of a family and dream.

The Call to Action

If you are a Manager and your team member takes parental leave – stay connected. Remember they are part of your team. Have formal discussions.  Don’t leave it to HR to talk to them. Find the time to bring them up to speed on the outcome of work they had contributed to or work they will be part of. Include them on your meeting minutes as an apology, don’t remove them from your mailing list, give them a call and speak to them personally about key changes in your business.  They are still your team member and will be a valuable one when they return, but you have to help make that happen.