Transitioning from maternity leave to full-time work
By Michele Majul-Ibarra
Wishing you all a very happy and prosperous New Year! From Michele Majul-Ibarra and family.
Expecting a baby is an exciting time for any parents as they are about to embrace one of the most rewarding transitions in their lives. It is also very normal to experience emotional ups and downs as new parents think about how many responsibilities they will have for a baby as well as for their home and work.
What do the statistics say?
According to a 2009 Statistics Canada study, nearly 90 per cent of new mothers took a parental leave, averaging 48 weeks. By comparison, just 11 per cent of men outside of Quebec, which has its own paternity leave program, took an average of 2.4 weeks of paid time off. This number represent that traditionally, women take on full responsibility for caring of their children. On the other hand, there is a good reason as to why there is such a low number that represent men who take time off to take care of their children. According to Ankita Patnaik, a Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University’s Department of Economics who has studied parental leave, employers are often caught off guard when male employees request to take leave to care of their kids. She indicated, “If you choose to take leave then you face a situation where you’re sending a certain signal to your employer. That will set you off on a different, lower wage trajectory or perhaps you’ll be less likely to be promoted.” Jennifer Berdahl, a UBC Sauder School professor and expert in workplace gender issues says that social implications are worse for men, while social reactions for women taking leave are quite positive.
Speak with your boss
As soon as you return from maternity leave, scheduling a quick meeting with your boss would be a great idea and probably the first thing that should happen. Returning to work from a year of leave can be overwhelming. Just to get your head wrapped up around on things, it would be a good thing to talk about any changes that you need to be aware of. These changes could include reorganizations, new processes and new leaderships.
Prioritize at work
With meetings going over, and your boss requiring something completed by the end of the day, it becomes more of a challenge for working moms to balance obligations to her kids and work. Let’s face it, work and family life cannot mix and there is no mom in her right mind who could realistically take on a ridiculous amount of work knowing that it would impact her home life. Should this happen, it would help to be honest about how you feel about taking on a project. For example, you could respond to your boss’ request by saying, “Let me check my to-do list to make sure this is something I can commit to. Could I get back to you by the end of the day tomorrow?” Alternatively, you could also say, “Yes, I would be more than happy to help, however I would have to put this project on hold in order for me to take on this new one. Would that be alright?” Being as specific as possible would help your boss to weigh the two tasks and decide which needs to be put on the back burner. At least this way, there would be no need to put in extra time to do work at home.
When my first child was born almost three years ago, life as I knew it changed forever. However, when my second child was born about a year ago, life changed even more. I thought having developed “mommy skills” with my first born would prepare me for my second one, but the new role that I had to take on as a mom of a toddler and an infant tested me mentally and physically beyond anything else I have ever done.
When the time came for me to return to work a couple of months ago, the transition was just as tough as the time I became a mom for the very first time. In fact, returning to work was not as easy as going back to work after a vacation. Like many women, the adjustment took a while for me as well. The first few days of my return were a mixture of excitement and challenge as I settled into yet another new routine.
The journey to parenthood is one of the big transitions in life. With good preparation and a proactive approach to work and home-life balance, returning to work after leave can successfully be accomplished.
Michele Majul-Ibarra is a Human Resources Officer with Canada Post Corporation. She graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and a Certificate in Human Resource Management. She has also earned the C.I.M. professional designation (Certified in Management) from the Canadian Institute of Management through the University of Manitoba. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org