Category: Planning for Maternity Leave

Making The Most of Maternity Leave

Making The Most of Maternity Leave

When you’re counting down to the start of your maternity leave, and more importantly D-Day, it’s very easy to feel down. As your bump is still expanding and you’re really feeling like you’re going to pop, you just feel tired, swollen and a little bit scared.

You may even feel panicked that things still need to be done, but try and take some deep breaths (good practice for what’s to come) and enjoy this exciting time.

Not only are you about to finish work for a while, you are also going to have a wonderful bundle of joy to keep you occupied. Babies change so fast, so prepare to savour every moment!

Getting ready for Baby

If you feel as though you’re not organised before baby’s arrival, write a list of what needs to be done. Then prioritise everything. Some things can wait.

What to put on your list:

  • Somewhere for baby to sleep (e.g. Moses basket), baby blankets, sheets
  • Bottles, sterilising unit, formula (even if you plan to breast feed. You may need an emergency back up)
  • Your hospital bag with nightdress, nursing bras, maternity pads, big knickers, toiletries
  • Baby’s hospital bag with first size sleep suits, nappies, cotton wool, hat, going home outfit
  • Pram, car seat, baby basics such as baby bath

Just remember that anything else for baby can be bought after your baby is born, or you can ask family and friends for certain things.

Housework and decorating can also wait. The baby can easily sleep in your room for the first three to six months, so even their nursery can be put on hold if need be.

Me Time

You may not get an awful lot of ‘me time’, but there will be times when you can make the most of those quiet moments.

Before the baby is born do lots of relaxing. This means having plenty of long baths, hanging out in your PJ’s, sleeping as much as you can and getting people to run around after you!

When baby is here and you’re at home being overwhelmed with visitors, take full advantage. Let them take the baby, change the baby’s nappy, feed them (if you are using formula or expressed breast milk) and if you have family staying over night, let them take care of baby while you sleep in.

Allow your partner to get involved and accept any help offered. Make sure you are fully prepared for when hubby is back at work and it’s just the two of you.

Baby is Growing Fast!

Each moment with your baby is special. You’ll be taking plenty of photo’s and seeing how quickly they are changing. Every few weeks they are growing out of outfits and you are noticing milestones.

You may be reading books or articles of what your baby ‘should’ be doing week by week. When they finally do things, such as smiling, rolling over, sitting up, you can enjoy these moments. You have this time off work to see what baby is up to.

You may look back and feel a bit sad that baby isn’t so teeny-tiny anymore, but buying new outfits can be exciting. Baby clothes can be bought on a shoe string too (have a look in supermarkets, or the sale racks) which is a positive when you’re not earning.


If you’re handy with a knitting needle and wool, then making your own baby clothes will save you some money, as well as keeping you occupied when baby is asleep (unless you are sleeping too!).

In fact you can go all shabby chic by making new cushion covers or painting old furniture. When you’re at home every day, you might want to freshen things up. It’s cheaper than buying new.

If you do have the time and energy, now is also a good time to start up any old hobbies once again.

Sort Out Baby’s Social Life

Have a look online or information from your local children’s centres at what there is to do with baby. They’ll be plenty of baby groups to meet other Mum’s and chat with health visitor’s about any concerns you may have.

There might be alternative ideas, depending on your baby’s age and ability. Try music and singing groups or swimming clubs. Some groups are free, but others charge termly or an entrance fee.

You could also set up a group with the other Mum’s. Invite them round for coffee, then change location to someone else’s house or a baby-friendly coffee shop.

This is not just indulging. All of these contacts will come in handy once you have returned to work and you need some quick information about something baby-related. Besides, it’s good for your baby to learn to become flexible and get used to other people, locations and babies.

Get Some Pocket Money

Getting some extra cash always comes in handy, especially with a baby to buy for. Sell off your old stuff to make space in your home and make money. Use Facebook, Ebay or Gumtree to advertise your maternity clothes, pre-pregnancy clothes and baby clothes and toys.

If you did get handy with those crafts, there’s always Etsy to sell all things handmade.

Make Your Own Baby Food

When it comes to weaning, making your own baby food can be great fun. Get an ice cube tray to freeze batches of food and try out a number of flavours. You can try out the shop bought ones and re-create them at home. This way you are saving money, and making something you know baby likes!

Have a look on the internet or at baby recipe books for ideas.

Time To Go Back To Work?

Are you dreading the return to the grindstone? If the boring 9-5 you had isn’t filling you with excitement, then use this valuable time off to check out what else is available.

Get your CV and Linked In profile up to date and have a scout about at what is out there. If you need to brush up on a new skill, then see if you can do some research.

Of course, you can also get chatting to your new Mum friends and find out the companies they work for. There could be an opportunity for a fresh new start.

Author: Emma Harvey, Emma is a working mother with a 12 year old and a 9 month old. She works in the care sector and has just returned from maternity leave as a trainer. She writes and blogs in her spare time. Read more on Emma’s own blog: HubPages

Using Maternity Leave to re-assess your Career – What do you Really Want?

Using Maternity Leave to re-assess your Career – What do you Really Want?

For most women heading off on maternity leave, their return to work feels far in the future. It certainly felt that way for me. But as all working mothers know, that time off passes quickly in a blur of sleep deprivation, new routines and coffee mornings. Before we know it, the moment has come to dig out our work clothes, switch our brains back on and try to mentally separate the career woman from the exhausted mother. But what if that break makes you realise that your former career just isn’t what you want anymore?

One of the greatest benefits of maternity leave is an opportunity to evaluate what we want from life, and our careers are a big part of that. Some women prefer to return to the exact same role, content with familiarity and working with colleagues they know and trust. Some women return to work determined to secure a promotion and progress up the ladder. Many women come to the realisation that they haven’t felt fulfilled at work for years, and decide to embark on a complete career change.

My first project on returning to work was developing a new careers advice and information website called Careersmart. I had to research and write about everything from career change and getting a promotion to freelancing and equality in the workplace. Being a professional working mother, and being friends with many other working mums, certainly helped me generate a lot of content for the site, and I thought I’d share just a few tips from the site that you may find useful.

Working around your family

An inevitable obstacle for most working mothers is that of trying to secure more flexible working hours. Thankfully, most workplaces are today happy to offer their staff hours and days that marry best with the family’s routine. Despite this, some women are inadvertently made to feel bad for receiving ‘special treatment’, and worry that their reduced or flexible hours label them as different to their colleagues. One helpful article I wrote which is published on Careersmart looks at how to ask for a change in working conditions, you can also read up on your legal rights in this section on Mum & Career, or check the ‘Ask the Expert‘ section for issues other mothers have encountered, including being made redundant whilst on maternity leave, changing job conditions once you return, and studying on maternity leave.

What about returning to work after a long break?

For women who choose to give up work indefinitely to be stay-at-home mothers, the decision to return to work isn’t always an easy one. While the prospect of having some relative ‘alone time’ after years of full-on childcare is certainly attractive, many mothers find they’ve lost confidence in their abilities and aren’t sure how to get back into the workplace. In my experience, a large number actually decide that a complete career change would be more exciting and fulfilling than returning to the same job they’d done before. You can find more on changing career in the sections on Find your Passion , Find a new Job, or read about Mothers Real-Life Stories on Changing Careers. You can also find a piece on the Career Smart website how to go about career change, which you may find interesting.

Unfair treatment

A sad fact for some working mothers is discrimination – something a number of my friends have encountered after returning from maternity leave. Unfortunately, it’s certainly not unheard of for a mother to be overlooked for promotion in favour of a colleague who’ll never have to suddenly leave the office to collect an ill child from nursery. I put together this useful guide that is published on Careersmart, that defines discrimination and looks at how to tackle it, should you find yourself at the receiving end.

The main thing for working mums to remember is this: you are not alone! There are tens of thousands of us out there, frantically juggling our home and work lives, and only we can understand just how difficult this (often overwhelming) workload can be. There is plenty of advice and support out there for you – don’t be afraid to seek it should you find yourself struggling.

Author: Suzanne Rose. Suzanne is a freelance writer who contributes to Careersmart, a careers guidance and information website covering many issues that working mothers will find helpful, from freelancing to career change and getting a promotion.

Planning when to take maternity leave

Planning when to take maternity leave

It is so important to plan for your maternity leave and start early. We have listed the key aspects you need to consider.

Don’t leave it too late

Late stages of pregnancy can be incredibly uncomfortable – especially in the hot summer months, or if you have a long commute. If you get to the stage where you are waddling around the office going for a wee every five minutes, stretching and grunting in meetings – it is honestly better not to be there at all.

Try to negotiate time working from home where possible, but make sure that you are obviously productive when you do this (email contact and phone calls throughout the day and tangible outputs) so that you don’t appear to be slacking off.

Unless you have a real financial imperative for working up to the day of the birth, do try to plan to take at least two to three weeks off beforehand. It can be really hard if the baby arrives early (around 40% of babies do come before their due date!) and you have had no time to prepare – practically, physically or emotionally.

Becoming a mother is a huge transition and although nothing can fully prepare you for it, a couple of weeks to adapt to a different way of life can be really beneficial.

When to begin and when to return from maternity leave

Think carefully about when you want to begin your maternity leave and when you want to return. You may be absolutely certain that you only want to take a couple of months off, or you may have no intention of returning before your year is complete. It is really helpful for the business to have a good idea of what to expect so they know how to manage covering your role.

Your job must be open to you following six months of maternity leave, and you are still entitled to a job of equivalent seniority and pay following a full year of maternity leave – although it may not be the same job. This may well have an impact on your decision-making if your specific role is important to you.

Remember that you also accrue holiday throughout your paid maternity leave, so you could always add this to end of your chosen period of maternity leave to extend it further, or potentially use it to come back for shorter weeks initially.

You are also entitled to request flexible working (part-time, compressed hours, days starting/finishing later/earlier etc.) but the organisation is not obliged to agree to your request if there are justifiable business reasons why it would not work. You are only allowed to make one flexible working application in any 12 month period, so if you decide to submit one, make sure you put together a really well thought out proposal.

It is really difficult to know what you will want to do months down the line before the baby has even arrived, so all you can do is make a plan based on what feels right at the time. Remember it is just a plan, and plans can change, but it is important to give your intention.

You are legally obliged to tell your company when you intend to begin your maternity leave by the beginning of the 15th week before your baby is due. Remember that you must give at least 28 days’ notice if you want to change your leave date. Unless you tell them otherwise, your company must assume that you intend to take the full year of maternity leave. If you wish to come back earlier than stated, you need to give at least eight weeks’ notice.

If you are unsure of your legal obligations, and those of your employer, do make sure you do your research:

Check out expected changes to parental leave, to take effect in March 2013

Check out how parental leave rights will be extended to include mixing and matching leave with fathers, to take effect in 2015

Author: Tamsin Crook, founder of Making Careers Work – a maternity coaching and career support service which helps mums and mums-to-be reach their full potential in their careers within the dynamic context of their family life. As a mum of three boys herself, she understands the desire to try to balance the needs of the family with personal career ambitions – not always straightforward! Tamsin works with women at all stages of motherhood, and is based in Thames Ditton, Surrey.

Tamsin is one of the key contributors to Mum & Career and has written most pages on Maternity Leave for us.

Planning your return from maternity leave

Planning your return from maternity leave

Yes, when you are pregnant, and still at work, it really is important to look far ahead, and start planning your return. It really helps doing it now, as you are still in work-mode and your mind is focussed on what is key for the business (well apart from the occasional distraction by a kick in your tummy, that is).

The top things we recommend that will really help smooth your return are:

1. Book in meetings, conferences or training for your return

Getting dates in the diary shows that you are serious about returning and you will keep yourself on the business radar. If necessary, you can change dates or you can use these events as part of your Keeping in Touch allowance if you’re not ready to return when planned. KIT days are there for women to allow them to undertake working days within the business without going back on the official payroll and without losing Statutory Maternity Pay entitlements.

2. Plan when and how you want to keep in touch with the organisation during maternity leave

At the very least ask your manager to contact you if there are significant changes that impact you, your role or your department. E-mail is a great medium as you can take your time to respond (if appropriate), and you’re not going to be trying to have a discussion over the screams of a small hungry baby.

You may not want to remain on every distribution list, but better to filter through some unwanted e-mails than miss out on important information.

Do try to maintain some distance however, particularly if someone is formally covering your role – they have a right to get on with the job without interference!

So do look ahead, while you are still at work. It will make an immense difference and help you in your return.


Author: Tamsin Crook, founder of Making Careers Work – a maternity coaching and career support service which helps mums and mums-to-be reach their full potential in their careers within the dynamic context of their family life. As a mum of three boys herself, she understands the desire to try to balance the needs of the family with personal career ambitions – not always straightforward! Tamsin works with women at all stages of motherhood, and is based in Thames Ditton, Surrey.

Tamsin is one of the key contributors to Mum & Career and has written most pages on Maternity Leave for us.

Pregnant and Working

Pregnant and Working

When you get pregnant (congratulations!), it is essential to start preparing as soon as possible. Yes, physically, mentally and all the lovely baby preparations at home. But also at work. We have highlighted the some key guidance for you below.

Get to grips with the law and your company policies

As soon you find out you are pregnant (or even beforehand if you’re super-organised), familiarise yourself with your organisational policies relating to maternity issues and also flexible working, if you are considering this option for the future. These policies should outline when and how you are expected to inform your company of your pregnancy, and what support you can expect throughout your pregnancy and after the birth of your baby.
It also helps to know what your legal entitlements are as early as possible with regard to maternity pay and leave.

Direct Gov on maternity leave is a great place to start and will give you a detailed personalised statement of your leave and pay entitlements based on your own employment circumstances.

Check out here how your rights will change in future with the move to  ’universal flexible working’ (2014) and ‘extended parental leave’ (2015)

When and how to tell your organisation

Every organisation is different and only you will know the best time to tell your team and manager. It is generally considered best to wait until at least 12 weeks when the risk of miscarriage is significantly reduced. Miscarriage is hard enough without having to explain to all your colleagues.

Ideally, speak to someone you trust first (internally or externally) and work out a strategy together before telling the others. It can help to work through certain questions in advance that you know you are likely to be asked. Preparation for this stage will be hugely beneficial to set the scene for the remainder of the pregnancy.

Questions that you are likely to be asked include:

  • When are you due?
  • When are you leaving?
  • When are you coming back? Are you coming back at all?
  • What will happen while you are away? Who will I report to? Who will manage your workload?

It might be (quite reasonably) that you don’t yet have answers to these questions, particularly if you are sharing the news relatively early. But do reassure people that you intend to work out a plan, with their input, over the coming weeks/months. You just need to have worked out a professional response.

Always tell your manager and/or HR before the wider team – it’s not good for this kind of news to be picked up through the grape vine. You can work out a plan together for communicating your pregnancy.

It is generally best to ensure that all official communication you have with your company regarding your pregnancy is done in writing. Keep copies for yourself, and include copies for both your manager and HR. A short e-mail summarising the points discussed and/or agreed upon during a meeting could suffice.

Maintaining professionalism

It is really important to keep your image in check. Invest in proper maternity clothes appropriate to your work environment. You will look and feel far better if you know that despite an ever-increasing bump, you still look smart and professional.

Try not to refer to your pregnancy unless expressly asked about it. As much as people are likely to be pleased for you, it is not their primary concern.

Where possible, organise your ante-natal appointments where they are least disruptive to your work, for instance at the beginning or end of the working day. You absolutely have the legal and moral right to attend these appointments, but remember that there is also a business to run. If you treat the organisation with consideration and respect they are far more likely to be accommodating towards you in other ways in the future.



Author: Tamsin Crook, founder of Making Careers Work – a maternity coaching and career support service which helps mums and mums-to-be reach their full potential in their careers within the dynamic context of their family life. As a mum of three boys herself, she understands the desire to try to balance the needs of the family with personal career ambitions – not always straightforward! Tamsin works with women at all stages of motherhood, and is based in Thames Ditton, Surrey.

Tamsin is one of the key contributors to Mum & Career and has written most material on Maternity Leave for us.

Working mum and maternity leave

Handing over to your maternity cover professionally

When you are becoming a working mum, and are planning your maternity leave, one of the key things to get right is your maternity cover. Make sure you run your handover professionally. I would like to give you the key aspects to consider and practical tips on how best to approach these.

If someone is taking over your role, it is understandable to feel a little (or very!) protective of your position, but your cooperation and proactivity will be appreciated in the long run. After all you know your job best. Besides, it give you more influence on who is chosen.

Start planning for your maternity cover handover as early as you can

As soon as you have told your manager and your colleagues about your pregnancy, you can start thinking about this. Consider you will probably not be very fit the last 3-4 weeks, unless you happen to be lucky. A cover needs to be found and you will need to allow some time for the person covering you to get up to speed.

Think through how your absence during maternity leave can be managed

In your opinion, could someone in your team step up temporarily or do you feel it would be more appropriate for an external contractor to come in? Your manager is likely to have their own ideas about what will work, but they will generally appreciate it if you have put together a business case for your preferred option.

Begin writing a ‘job bible’ as early as you can

It’s key for you that your maternity cover functions well too. If they don’t you are the one who will have to pick up the pieces when returning, or worse it might lead to a decision the function is no longer necessary. Besides, it shows you are professional. It’s difficult to remember everything at the last minute. Also, you don’t know if you will need to leave very quickly (or if the baby will come early) so be prepared. Make sure you include every task, working group and responsibility you have.

The process of doing this can also be really helpful in addressing unfinished business before you go – build your ‘to-do’ list as you write it.

Build a list of contacts (organisational and external) who your cover should speak to about key issues. Include the name, email address, phone numbers, job title and department as well, in case people move on or are unavailable. If there is no organisation chart, create one (obviously only include relevant people).

Notify all your contacts about your impending maternity leave

Make sure you get in touch with all of your contacts well before you leave to let them know when you will be going, when you intend to return and introduce your cover (assuming one has been found – if not – e-mail them again with an update at a later stage). Cc in your cover and your manager to this e-mail.

Make sure you have three copies of your handover notes. One for you, one for your cover and one for your manager – this serves two purposes – firstly they will see how much you do and therefore how necessary you are, and secondly that if the cover is successful, you will be given significant credit for giving them so much support. If it doesn’t work out, it won’t be due to your lack of cooperation. If you are likely to need access to key documents while you are on maternity leave, and do not have remote network access, it may be worth e-mailing yourself copies to your home account.

Declutter well before you go on maternity leave

Leave your desk space clean and tidy, and also try to sort your actual and virtual inboxes. If there are any outstanding issues as you leave, you must give full details of what stage you are at, any relevant history, full details of the contact and what is still left to be done by whom. Don’t leave loose ends – it’s frustrating for everyone.

Plan a formal review with your manager before you go on maternity leave

A review is useful to appraise work to date and to set (reviewable) objectives for your return. Discuss any concerns that you may have about your impending absence. If you have any serious worries, make sure these are documented. If, for whatever reason, you are unexpectedly away early, you can still send a last update by e-mail, summarising key points you would like to make.

Author: Tamsin Crook, founder of Making Careers Work – a maternity coaching and career support service which helps mums and mums-to-be reach their full potential in their careers within the dynamic context of their family life. As a mum of three boys herself, she understands the desire to try to balance the needs of the family with personal career ambitions – not always straightforward!  Tamsin works with women at all stages of motherhood, and is based in Thames Ditton, Surrey.

Tamsin is one of the key contributors to Mum & Career and has written most pages on Maternity Leave for us