You knew that becoming a parent would be a transformative experience. What you might not have expected, however, is how quickly the transformation would occur or how deeply it would affect your professional life, even before the little bundle of joy officially arrived.
The reality, though, is that if you want to make the most of your parental leave, if you want to be truly ready and prepared for that rare and precious time with your little one and your partner, then you need to start adjusting your work-life well in advance of the big day. This article provides tips for setting (and maintaining) healthy but firm boundaries for your parental leave, including strategies you will need to implement before, during, and after your leave.
Before your parental leave
Establishing firm boundaries for your leave should begin well ahead of time. You should begin by sitting down with your employer and having a frank and comprehensive discussion about your needs and expectations for this time. Ideally, you should negotiate for a minimum of 12 weeks of leave at full salary.
For fathers and partners of a new mother, paternity leave negotiations should also begin early on. Firm parameters regarding leave duration, pay, and the delegation of work responsibilities should be laid out at this time.
For example, whether you are the mom-to-be or her partner, you’re going to need to delegate your work responsibilities to a trusted colleague for the duration of your leave. However, the delegation of responsibility also needs to begin early on. Your colleague will almost assuredly need some extensive debriefing on your projects and clients.
Similarly, you will need to prepare clients, coworkers, and other stakeholders for your leave. This should include notifying them of the leave and your shifted work priorities as you prepare for it. You’ll also need to ensure that coworkers, partners, and clients know whom to contact while you’re gone and how to do this.
It’s also a good idea to craft an appropriate out-of-office email that you can activate when your leave begins. The email should ideally include your estimated return date, as well as the contact information of your delegate.
During your parental leave
When it comes to establishing boundaries for your parental leave, you’re likely to have already done most of the hard work. You’ve talked with your supervisors, and you’ve prepped your colleague to take the reins.
Now the key is to enjoy this extraordinary time with your new baby. After all, these weeks are both invaluable and fleeting. So focus on yourself, your family, and the new household dynamic that is emerging. This is the time to practice extreme self-care, which should include learning how to share caregiving responsibilities with your partner and taking breaks when needed.
Above all, you will need to permit yourself to enforce the boundaries you and your colleagues agreed upon. This may require you to lean on your partner for support and accountability when you feel tempted to check those emails or answer those intrusive work texts.
After your parental leave
Returning to work after you welcome a new baby into your life can be a very difficult transition. This, too, is a time to prioritize self-care. You may find, for example, that you are not ready to return to work when your leave expires. This, once again, calls for an open and honest conversation with your employer. You may be able to negotiate flexible arrangements, such as a hybrid work schedule.
If you are returning to the office, then you will need to be prepared for the emotional and physical challenges you are likely to experience. For example, having a new baby inevitably means experiencing disrupted sleep. Because of that, you can almost surely expect an afternoon slump. Planning ahead to address this energy free-fall can help you make it through your workday without being all used up by the time you get home to your little one.
For example, you’re going to want to ensure you eat a healthy and nutritious breakfast and lunch to help maintain your stamina throughout the day. You may also arrange with your employer to extend your lunch period so that you might work in a brief, baby-free catnap in the afternoon.
Above all, you must be careful to manage your workload when returning from parental leave. It’s neither feasible nor kind to expect yourself to dive back into work with both feet and automatically resume performing at the level you once did. Give yourself time and compassion. It takes a minute to get used to your beautiful new normal.
There is no more precious time in the life of a family than when you are welcoming a new baby into the world. With proper planning and preparation, you can establish healthy but firm boundaries for your parental leave. In the process, you’re setting the stage to enjoy these extraordinary and irreplaceable weeks to the fullest.
About the Author:
Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of topics but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to business productivity and marketing strategies.