Until the US gets its act together and realizes that only giving 3 months off to care for a newborn is ludicrous, we are stuck making the best of what we’ve got. Employers have the ability to make the return to work transition easier for moms, supervisors and teams by following these steps.
- Not the same– do not expect your mom to come back and do the same job, the same way she did prior her leave. You’re now dealing with someone who has significant sleep deprivation, an incredibly emotional adjustment to leaving their tiny human in the care of someone else and trying to re-engage mindshare that has been reserved for nursing, diapers and nap-time.
- Make a plan– even if you were ahead of the pack and actually made a plan for when, where, and how mom would return prior to her going out on leave, revisit it right away when she returns. Things may have changed, arrangements forgotten, tweaks needed, or not. Either way, create the space for all parties to align, listen to one another and be respectful.
- Communication– send out an announcement telling everyone when she returns. Hopefully you already shared something with the team when she had her baby but include a note about her new bundle again. It demonstrates care, transparency and humanism.
- Check-in– if you’re on the right track and you’ve reset expectations, had an initial re-immersion meeting, sent out great communication, then you need to check in again, and again. This is the time to be high touch with your new mom. Not to hover, micro mange or drive her crazy, but just to show that you care. Be clear about that, don’t confuse the message and listen. How is she balancing the new life, how’s sleep, is she feeling confident about getting back into work flow, etc.
- Don’t assume she wants less– it’s common and often with good intent that employers assume new moms don’t want to be invited to the big projects, asked to join the high level decision teams, etc. Sometimes that’s true, but very often it isn’t. Moms are already dealing with low self esteem from her body changing in ways never thought possible, feeling imbalanced, exhausted and a variety of other self depreciating self talk; don’t add insult to injury by treating her like she’s not a valued or competent member of the team as well. Ideally you have already talked about this in your previous conversations with her, but be 100% sure she’d rather not be included before you remove her from that invite.
Yes, every mom/ employer situation is unique but these themes have been proven across industries, organizations and roles. Handling this transition well could be the difference between retaining her or not.