Having a baby is a huge life change that is exciting, but can really impact your work life. You'll need to consider everything from when to tell your boss to how to get your finances in order (and cover the cost of your absence). Here are some tips to put your best foot forward when it comes to balancing your pregnancy and work.
Know What Your Rights Are
First, you'll need to know your rights as a working parent in order to prepare for the impact a baby will have on your career. Find out how much maternity leave your company (and your partner's company) allows, and what pregnancy-related medical costs your health insurance covers. Think about how secure your job will be, both during your pregnancy and after.
Cover yourself by keeping copies of all the forms you submit in a folder that you can easily access. No matter what kind of employer you have, take responsibility and educate yourself on your rights as a working parent.
Figure Out When to Tell Your Boss and Coworkers
Before you start to show, or before your partner does, talk to your boss and then your coworkers about how things will change during your maternity or paternity leave.
Meet with your boss and tell them about your pregnancy. Be ready to discuss when your last day might be, how long you will be gone, and who will cover your responsibilities while you're away. Send a follow up email with all these details so that your boss has a written summary to refer to later.
After you've given your boss the heads-up and worked with them to figure out a timeline plan, make the announcement to your coworkers. Be ready to answer questions they may have around when you'll leave, who will cover for you, and when you'll be back. Answering these kinds of questions up front and with confidence will make the transition period go more smoothly.
Help Others Get Ready to Take on Your Work Responsibilities
Treat your absence as an opportunity for your team mates to grow their skills and develop experience that they may not have the chance to otherwise.
Julie Mosow, writing at Harvard Business Review, explains how you can best prepare for others to temporarily cover your job:
Prepare a list of your core responsibilities, dividing them into the tasks that can be assumed by others and those that aren't so easy to delegate, such as client relationships, expertise-related functions, and mentorship of direct reports. Begin to think of whom among your subordinates, peers, and superiors might be best suited to each role and consider hiring someone to cover your leave if necessary.
If you work with any outside contacts, like clients or partners, make sure to introduce them ahead of time to whoever will manage the relationship in your absence. You want to leave with everyone on the same page so that the relationship can continue smoothly.
Prepare Your Finances
Babies are incredibly costly, so you should plan ahead (if you can!) and save up. Consider starting a dedicated "baby savings account". This savings account should help to cover the increased living costs of having a baby as well as any decrease in income from maternity or paternity leave.
See if the hospital you plan to use offers comprehensive maternity packages that bundle together delivery services under one rate. This could help you save money well before the delivery date. If you don't have package options, make sure to review your medical bills afterwards to get unused service charges removed. NerdWallet offers some examples of services you might not use, but could still be charged for:
Some parents are confronted with large hospital bills for things they never, or seldom, used during labour. For example, one family in Texas was charged $US1,650 for nursery services they never used during their stay. Other, more vague charges such as "maternity supplies" have also been seen on bills, and can add to your total without you even knowing what you're being billed for.
If you're looking to boost your income prior to going on leave, consider taking on special projects at work rather than a second job. Pat Katepoo, in an interview in Forbes, gives advice on how to do this:
Take on special projects that go above and beyond regular work duties -- and require more working hours. Women who do this should look into getting a written agreement that those extra hours can be applied toward maternity-leave pay.
Finally, try to cut costs wherever you can. Increasing your income is great, but also try to redirect most of your cash flow to savings.
Handle Changes to Your Schedule
It can be tough to stay productive while caring for a new baby, but getting your schedule in order can really help. You'll need to accommodate both medical changes as well as changes to your schedule.
Both before and after your baby arrives, you'll need to make time for extra doctor's appointments. Your (or your partner's) body will be undergoing huge changes and will need far more medical attention than before.
You'll also need to adjust your schedule when you return to work. You may now have to accommodate picking up your child from daycare, doctor appointments, family visits to see the newborn, adapt to any changes at the workplace since you've been gone and more.
Create a Support System for Yourself
Reach out to other working parents for support as you re-enter the your job with an entirely new situation at home. Just like when you're pregnant, that community of people can provide advice, tips, insights and general support since they are going (or have gone) through the same thing. If you're friends with anyone at work, ask them for help as well. Even if they don't have children, they can offer you support in meetings, events and beyond.
Adjusting to life with a newborn can be a challenge physically, mentally and emotionally. The Mayo Clinc has some great advice on how to balance your expanded family and your career:
Returning to work after maternity leave can pose emotional conflicts for mothers. Remember, there is no such thing as a perfect mother. Working outside the home doesn't make you a bad mother -- and it's OK to look forward to the challenges and social aspects of your job. However you balance family and work, aim to be present when you're with your baby and when you're at your desk.
Having a baby is exciting, but requires a lot of preparation. If you plan to be a working parent, there is a lot you can do to balance career and family, but you need to prepare at work early. These tips can help you make sure everything related to work all set so that you can focus on your new family member.