4 Common Concerns on Maternity Leave In The Workplace
There are more than 74.6 million women in today’s workforce. Throughout time, women have accumulated the titles of Manager, Director, Vice President, and CEO in their organizations. There is another title that many take pride in; a job and a title that is more important than the one engraved on their desk- Mom.
Preparing for a new baby is an exciting and busy time outside of the office, but many cannot help but to stress about their career and work life balance. Rebecca Valladares, Vice President of Talent Solutions at Emerge, has experienced maternity leave numerous times as a proud mother of four.
Rebecca spoke on four common concerns women experience when preparing for maternity leave and provided tips to new expecting mothers through her experiences.
1. Being Replaced
“I don’t think anyone likes to be replaced, even if it is for a short period of time” Rebecca commented with a laugh. Although she referred to a temp or short-term contractor coming into the role, there are women who are concerned that their job will not be waiting for them when they return. There are laws today that protect pregnant women and their spouses in the workforce; the most commonly known: Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Temporary or contract workers allow you to leave the office with more confidence knowing the job is getting done, but your mind may continue to race. Common thoughts that may keep you up at night are:
- Will they do the work correctly and as detailed as I do?
- What if they do my job better than me?
- Will they take care of the team I manage day in and day out?
- What if they provide a new process that I will have to learn when I come back?
Rebecca believes a job shadow is key. As the countdown to your maternity leave grows closer, it’s important to stop doing your work and begin watching it get done. Whether a temp is coming in or your coworkers are taking on additional tasks while you’re away, your first Monday off should not be their first Monday doing the task. “If in fact a replacement is identified, get to the point where that person is doing everything before you go. Give them the opportunity to do the work end-to-end and come with questions while you’re still available for that.”
2. If You Don’t Use It, You Lose It
No matter the length of time you’re away, you may be concerned about returning to the office and being two steps behind everyone. In today’s world, we are surrounded by constant change and progression; especially in the technology realm. “I definitely had times when I worried later in my career … about what are the new things that are going to come out when I’m not there engaging in work every day and now I have to catch up.”
It is a common misconception that maternity leave is a vacation. Your sleep and shower schedule become secondary to the newborn in your arms. As many assume women are only reading up on “mom blogs”, Rebecca was looking for more intellectual stimulation while away. With little time to pick up a book, Rebecca found different avenues to keep up within the business:
- Join the Conversation – Stay up to date on LinkedIn and Blogs. Rely on the people in your network to share some of the latest business trends that are quick reads.
- Skip the Music – Podcasts provide great insight on the latest business trends with fun hosts and short episodes. Discover podcasts that match your specialty and interest.
- Educate Yourself – For those book junkies that have authors and influencers releasing new material, or maybe you just want to check off that book bucket list, Audible can read the book for you. Hands free.
“It’s taken lots and lots of years to get comfortable with the imbalance, knowing that’s how the priorities are; some things are just more of a priority than others.”
3. Juggling Work Life Balance You’re used to having your typical routine of waking up, working all day, hitting the gym, and watching TV until you fall asleep. Now, you have to account for another human being. This common stress of trying to learn how to balance your new family with your work will be a constant stress. “I don’t believe there ever is a balance. There’s always something that takes priority, that’s how life is. I think it’s a lot of pressure to try to keep things balanced.” Life Lesson According to the US Department of Labor, over 75% of mothers with children under the age of 18 are employed full-time. 40% of mothers are the sole earners for their family. These women continue to try to balance the see-saw that is work and life. Rebecca thought back to her first set of maternity leaves in her 20s versus the leaves she took in her late 30s. “I would tell my very early new mom self, just to generally not worry so much about the world of work, because things generally do have a way of working out.” Rebecca laughed to herself as she explained being an “older mom” is so much easier as she does not sweat the small things she once did in her 20s.
4. Losing Your Seat At The Table
An internal struggle many women deal with when returning to the office is what people think of them as they enter the new role of mom. Rebecca found returning to the office later in her career was more difficult as “… there is a lot of fear in- when I get back- are they going to treat me like a new mom and not like an executive anymore.” Not only does the internal struggle play into the stress of returning to the office, but you may also have to juggle a new set of responsibilities- like breastfeeding. “What will people think, will I have time, will people be judging me for taking my 15-20 minutes, will I be able to produce enough because I feel rushed and stressed; all really rational and probable fears.”
Rebecca spoke candidly that the internal struggle of second guessing your position upon your return does not go away. Whether you’re reading your audience on deciding to disclose that you’re a new mom or trying to be more self-aware of your emotions so people don’t assume it’s a post-partum episode; many women feel that it is perceived they come back to work more sensitive than before. As Rebecca disclosed never experiencing a negative situation, it is something that travels with you. From her first pregnancy to her last, there was more progress on supporting breastfeeding mothers in the workplace. Before returning to the office, seek guidance from your HR professional on policy and procedure. You can also find insightful literature on the transition of breastfeeding from home to the office online.
Preparing for a new baby is an exciting and busy time, but it does not need to be stressful. You can find a great support team from other working mothers and gain great insight from their experiences.