You’ve invested in the ultimate pram and decorated an Insta-worthy nursery, but there’s much more to consider when preparing for a baby. You’ll receive a truckload of advice—some valid, some less so—and it will likely centre around labour and the first months of parenthood. While ultimately you can’t control what sort of birth you’ll have (or what sort of baby!), one thing you can take charge of is your parental leave journey. Jodi Geddes and Kate Pollard share how.

Having a baby is a huge life transition however we don’t often take the time to think about the impact on our career, how we will navigate flexible working or juggle work and family life when we return. We’re so focussed on our baby’s arrival that when it comes to work we rarely think beyond childcare waitlists and having a job to return to. Organisations don’t always have robust policies in place to support new parents and, even so, roles, staff and organisations often change while you are away. All of these things can lead to many parents finding their confidence takes a hit when returning to work.

By thinking about your career and putting a plan in place with your manager, it will help you prepare and maintain your confidence throughout your parental leave. After speaking with many parents, we know that these simple steps will set you up for a successful return both personally and professionally. And it could be the best career move you make!

So, how do you set yourself up for a successful return to work before even starting parental leave?

Manage expectations

Start by initiating an open and honest conversation with your manager about your aspirations, potential opportunities, and ways to keep in touch while you’re on leave. It’s a common misconception among expectant parents that pregnancy isn’t the time to be open about your needs and ambitions. Undefined expectations can lead to misunderstandings or feeling overlooked. Now’s a great time to initiate career conversations and develop strategies to manage the transition.

Request a performance review

A performance review before you start your leave not only helps manage expectations, but serves as a reminder to your employer that personal development and career progression are as important to you now as they were pre-pregnancy. Formal reviews present the opportunity to discuss pay reviews, bonus potential and opportunities for promotion while you’re on leave.

Draw up a parental leave plan

This is a plan for you and about you! Consider it a simple document for your manager (and others) to refer to in your absence. It should lay out the time before, during and after parental leave from a career perspective, and include:

  • personal details
  • leave details: key dates
  • requested leave period
  • handover plan: projects; deliverables; key items your manager/team should know
  • Keeping in Touch plan: how you’d like to be kept updated by your manager and how often; other key contacts and why each is important; how you wish to stay connected; how you’ll communicate; list of specific team meetings, training and events you’d like to be included in whilst on leave; how you’ll use your Keeping in Touch days (see below)

Use the Circle In Parental Leave Plan and Keeping in Touch templates to guide you.

Stay connected

So, you’ve prepared your parental leave plan, your manager is on board and you’re ready to welcome your baby into the world. After the teary goodbyes and activating your out of office, remember to stay connected while on leave by making use of your Keeping in Touch days.

Keeping in Touch days are a fantastic resource and allow you to work up to ten days during your leave period without losing any unpaid parental leave or government-funded parental leave entitlements. There are many ways you can use your Keeping in Touch days and they provide an opportunity to:

  • become familiar with new or updated processes
  • be involved in forward planning discussions or meetings important to your role
  • complete training or update skills before returning
  • keep up-to-date with your industry and organisation / maintain networks by attending conferences and events
  • transition back to work by spending time in the office catching up with your manager and team

So, as soon as you start your pregnancy vitamins, also start working on your plan. Set clear expectations from the very beginning, be organised and stay connected. This will facilitate a smooth parental leave transition, set you up in the best possible way for a stress-free parental leave experience, and have you returning to work with confidence.

For a comprehensive guide, visit the Circle In Parental Leave Checklist.

Join our circle (it’s free!) and access exclusive career resources including templates and checklists to help you manage every step of your pregnancy, parental leave and return to work journey.

About Kate and Jodi

Kate Pollard and Jodi Geddes are the co-founders of Circle In, a company committed to supporting working parents through their parental leave and return to work journeys with a range of practical online materials, tools and resources. We have recently launched a Stay In Touch program for businesses that builds working parent communities. This end to end online program supports, empowers and educates parents throughout their parental leave journey and helps them return to work with confidence.

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Image credit: Leah Ladson