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Surviving maternity leave

2016 January 23

Going from a sole charge job to shared charge with your boss on maternity leave is a tough transition. Unless you get on extremely well and either she’s capable of delegating completely or you don’t mind letting everything slide for the duration of the time she’s at home (in which case you can probably just skip to the next blog post) then it’s going to be an experience akin to a marathon.

Study the course

Of course unlike a marathon which you know is going to be 26.2 miles maternity leave is a lot more flexible. Your boss may plan to take 3 months off and then want or need 6 months to recover and enjoy her new baby. Equally she may have planned the full year but decide to return early for any number of reasons. But the principle stands – try to plan for the year ahead, know when the tricky points are going to be (school holidays if there are older siblings), know when you want to avoid taking holiday or when it might be sensible for your sanity to request some. Ask what your boss sees a typical day as being so you don’t expect a string of late starts and early finishes only for your hopes to be dashed, and check what changes might be needed to your daily schedule to accommodate the different pace of life with a newborn.

Position yourself from the start

Have the conversation before the birth of your new charge so you can both make it clear to your older charge(s) who is in charge, and who does what. Suggest early on that you take care of the newborn for brief periods of time allowing the older sibling(s) some much needed mummy-time. If you don’t know what’s expected of you, or your boss doesn’t know what she expects, then confusion is just around the corner.

Pace yourself

Just as a marathon requires you to hold back in the first half to save energy for the more tiring second half you need to hold back a little for the second part of maternity leave where you and your boss are more likely to get on each others’ nerves. If you’ve used up all your great ideas for days out which gives you some breathing space and your boss has reached saturation point with haircuts, massages and manicures which get her out the house you’ll end up clawing each others’ eyes out (okay, not really), especially if it’s winter and going for a wander is a less attractive proposition.

Sprint to the finish, keeping your goal in sight

Before you know it the end of maternity leave will be upon you and you’ll need to get back into the sole charge rhythm, re-establishing the rules and routines that have been relaxed. The days of being able to organise a dentist appointment during work hours with minimal disruption will be long gone and there may be a pressing need to get your baby charge to accept some form of nutrition other than the breast. The aim is for the transition back to work to be a smooth one, and you both finish the marathon tired but happy.

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