Many new moms imagine maternity leave as a relaxing time to bond with their new baby. You might picture spending your maternity leave taking long walks with your baby, gazing into his precious eyes and reading your favorite children’s books over and over as he drifts off to sleep.

However, many moms face the reality of feeling pressured to work during their maternity leave. Conversely, some moms are disappointed that their office does not remain in contact with them during their time away. Each mom has different expectations when it comes to maternity leave. It is important to discuss both your needs and your employer’s needs long before the baby arrives.

Pre-planning and clear communication are the keys to a successful maternity leave. Several months before your due date, request a meeting with your supervisor. During this meeting, discuss the details of your upcoming maternity leave. How long will you be away from the office? Are you willing to accept phone calls or e-mails? Who will cover your normal duties during your leave? What paperwork needs to be completed? Does your supervisor have any concerns regarding your absence? Acquiring clear answers to these questions will align your plans with your employer’s expectations regarding your maternity leave.

Every time a woman leaves the workforce because she can’t find or afford childcare, or she can’t work out a flexible arrangement with her boss, or she has no paid maternity leave, her family’s income falls down a notch. Simultaneously, national productivity numbers decline.
Madeleine M. Kunin

As you approach your last day of work, compose an e-mail to send to your supervisor outlining your plan for maternity leave. Once your supervisor approves the plan, forward the e-mail to each of your colleagues. The e-mail should clearly state the start and end date of your maternity leave. It should also give guidelines for communicating with you during this time. For instance, you could state that you are unavailable by phone, but you will be checking your e-mail around 10:00am each Tuesday and Thursday to deal with any pressing issues.

Your e-mail should also give information regarding the contact person for your projects while you are away.

Once you, your supervisor and your colleagues all understand your maternity leave plan, you are free to relax and enjoy the most important thing: your new baby! Be polite, but consistent about your communication guidelines, and be sure to keep up with your end of the communication plan.

Work projects will be there when you return to your job, but you only get to spend the newborn days with your baby once. By planning carefully and practicing open communication, you can enjoy your maternity leave without alienating your workplace.