I was asked to be part of an International Women’s Day panel this week. There were a total of six women on the panel representing different aspects working womanhood. It was an incredible experience, and I got great feedback from various people, both men and women, about the format and diversity of voices that were shared.

I shared my Q&A on my stories but was asked to post it on the blog because it was too hard to read (sorry!). So here it is – my advice for mamas going on or returning from maternity leave…

Question: Parita, you’ve been on maternity leave while working at XXX. What advice would you give someone else who is about to go on or return from maternity leave? 

Answer: So my answer is three-fold.  But before I talk about that, I just want to say it’s important to acknowledge that the person who leaves the office on day 1 of maternity leave is not the same person who returns on day X.  What you need and want from your job and organization will change because you’ve just started the ultimate job of being someone’s mom.  This isn’t something I thought too much about before my leave, but I think it’s important to understand and acknowledge this.

With that being said, the first thing I would tell someone who is about to go on maternity leave or about to return back to work, is to think through what it is you now need.  Do your hours still work for you?  Do you need some flexibility to work from home?  Can you still travel?  Think through the role you left and figure out what elements still work for you and which ones need to change. 

From there, come up with a plan.  One that focuses on you as well as your team.  Think through how the things you need will impact everyone else and how you can mitigate that to whatever degree.  Think through any other challenges and barriers, any potential benefits, etc.

Once you have your plan mapped out, put it in writing and talk to you manager about putting it in action.  For example, I knew I needed/wanted Fridays off when I returned from leave so I put pen to paper and submitted a request to be on a 4/10 schedule.  I’m flexible to work on Fridays and my team knows that, and it works for us.

The thing is that no one knows what you need or want but you, and this really goes to everyone, not just working moms.  You have to ask for what you want because, trust me, no one cares or thinks about you as much as you do.  And at the end of the day, the worst thing anyone can say is no.  And if that’s the case, the ball’s back in your court to figure out your next steps.

*And yes, I am that person who types out her response word for word. But I do that because I don’t want to veer to far from the question and because I want to make sure I cover everything.

By Parita

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