1. Have a proper handover plan
The first step towards a smooth reintegration is proper planning before maternity leave. Have a handover plan in place, detailing which of your key accounts and responsibilities are to be distributed among which people, and what knowledge and skills are needed to be transferred.
During your maternity break itself, plan regular communications with your colleagues so you can keep abreast with any work developments. With some knowledge of what has being going on in your absence, the return to work will be a much smoother one, both work-wise and also socially.
2. Organise regular meetings
When you’re finally back at work, plan regular meetings with your team and managers to catch up on the ongoing projects and timelines. A weekly meeting with your boss during the first month will help iron out the kinks and raise any issues. Your proactivity is also a professional move that your manager will most probably appreciate. Set your objectives as soon as you return and use these meetings to discuss them, along with your career path.
The first week in which you return to work is a crucial one. Do not be afraid to ask for help to relinquish your doubts and get back on the same page as everyone else.
3. Opt for a phased return to work
Where possible, request for a ‘phased’ return to work. This allows you to ease into the work schedule whilst still being able to tend to the needs of your newborn. This usually means working for less hours or days during your initial return, with a gradual build up to your original full business hours.
If your employer is not as flexible, you can try to negotiate to use up your accrued leaves during this period. This not only helps to rebuild your confidence in the work place but also allows you to strike a proper balance between family and work life. If you work in a more relaxed and flexible environment, like a start-up, you can even try to request to work from home in your first week or so.
4. Know your rights
Legally, you have the right to return to the exact same role and position you were working in before your absence. In the case that your organisation makes significant changes to your role during your leave, be sure to analyse the alternative role in detail and assess the circumstances.
However, if your employer refuses to revert your position and job scope, be aware of your legal rights and seek help if you believe you have been unfairly discriminated against and dismissed.
5. Select your childcare thoughtfully
Choosing the right childcare is a major concern for most working parents. Flexibility, availability and costs can vary quite dramatically across Singapore. Depending on the area, you may have to pay anywhere between $300 and $2,000. Do your research and assess the needs of your child and how you would like your child to be raised in his/her formative years.
Some childcare centres provide basic Lego and educational toys, while others introduce modern technology and equipment to your child. Some childcare centres even provide basic preschool education. The most important thing is that you have to be satisfied that the centre should assure you of the safety and well-being of your young one, the hours you are away at work.
6. Stock up on the essentials
Last but not the least, it is extremely crucial that you have all the essentials in place before you return to work. You’re back in the world right after a huge transition, and things will be easier and definitely less embarrassing, if you are prepared. Here’s a short but useful list: a breast pump to pump and store your breast milk; nursing pads in case meetings run late and you are unable to pump out the excess flow; healthy snacks to eat at regular intervals; and a decent and functional tote that will carry all of the above.
Having both feet in two different worlds can be quite a daunting affair for a new mother, especially in the corporate setting where not only the work, but social pressure to perform is high. Don’t be too afraid to take it at your own pace and find the right balance between work and family, with the support of your spouse and colleagues of course! We live in the 21st Century and there is no reason why motherhood should impede you from achieving excellence in your professional careers.