The Value of Strong Boundaries Before, During, and After Maternity Leave
Productivity isn’t everything. When you’re starting a family or welcoming another child to your home, learning to balance your career and family becomes more important than ever. Expectant moms need time to nurture their bodies, soothe their minds, and prepare their homes — and once your child arrives, you’ll want to spend as much time bonding with your newborn as possible.
Getting the boundaries you want from your workplace is an effort that begins well before birth. When you learn to say no, set expectations, and prepare your team before you’re on leave, you can set the foundation for a healthy work-life balance and walk away without any worries or guilt. Setting boundaries early — and taking steps to maintain them — is key to avoiding “emergency” calls from your company and clients while you’re on maternity leave.
Strong boundaries aren’t just great for you and your child. They can also help you enhance your personal relationships, including those with your partner and any existing children, who may experience a drastic shift in family dynamic when your new baby arrives. By clarifying your availability before, during, and after maternity leave, you can dedicate time to family bonding and never worry about work getting in the way.
With the value of strong maternity leave boundaries in mind, let’s dive into some tips for setting the right boundaries.
How To Set Strong Boundaries Before Your Maternity Leave
The moment you announce your pregnancy in your workplace, your manager and team members will start to wonder what it means for their workloads and responsibilities. The best way to ease their concerns while emphasizing that you won’t be available to work is by starting transparent conversations with the people who will be affected by your leave.
At least two months before your maternity leave, make an action plan for your absence. Identify priority tasks that you’ll complete before you leave, then choose who will take over each of your responsibilities while you’re gone.
Preparation is essential for ensuring your maternity leave is free of work calls. Start training employees to take over your tasks at least a month ahead of your leave. Additionally, maintain open lines of communication with them so they can freely ask questions until they’re comfortable in their temporary role.
If you want your work-life to look different when you get back to work, start conversations with your manager about post-maternity leave expectations, too. For example, you can request to work from home or go hybrid — at least until your baby is weaned — or simply clarify that you’ll no longer be available for overtime.
If you work directly with long-term clients, don’t forget to loop them into the conversation. Reassure them that they’ll still get the service they expect, but clarify which team members they’ll be working with instead. Facilitate an introduction to ensure they form a relationship before you’re gone.
Maintaining Boundaries During Your Maternity Leave
Your maternity leave is your time to disconnect and focus on your new family. However, sticking to your own boundaries can be the most difficult thing. Whether you’re feeling guilt that’s driving you back to work or you’ve peeked into your inbox (where emails are piling up), it’s important to remind yourself that work isn’t important in this stage of your life.
Getting into a home routine is a great way to keep yourself occupied with your baby. Schedule meals, naps, playtime, and snuggles with your child, and make sure to make time for personal care. Chat with your partner about when they’re available to take over responsibilities, so you can schedule showers and nap times for yourself.
At the start of your maternity leave, double-check that you’ve set an away message — which should include the time frame of your leave and alternate points of contact — for anyone who emails you at work. In the rare event that you do answer an email, make sure to be firm that the person you’re emailing shouldn’t expect another response until your return date.
Finding Balance After Maternity Leave
When you return to work, you may be tempted to get right back into the groove of things, working the same hours at the same pace as you did before your leave. However, this may not be a good option for every mom. For example, you may need to be home earlier or more often than before due to childcare needs. Reevaluate your collective needs, then have another conversation with your manager and team members to readjust expectations as needed.
Caring for yourself is essential, too. The transition between maternity leave and work can be rough on new moms physically and emotionally. If you’re experiencing extreme fatigue and afternoon slumps, consider taking breaks to go outside, nap, or exercise, which can all help you regain your energy. Don’t be afraid to take mental health days if you’re struggling with missing your child or postpartum depression.
Constant communication is key to setting strong boundaries once you’re back from maternity leave — especially as you discover a need for schedule shifts due to your baby’s needs.
This guest post was authored by Ainsley Lawrence
Ainsley Lawrence is a writer who loves to talk about how business and professionalism intersect with the personal, social, and technological needs of today. She is frequently lost in a good book.