Whether this is your first, second, third or more (and if so, we salute you!) leave, some basic preparation and planning can make the most of your time at home, while ensuring a seamless transition for your employer and coworkers.
Between a busy career, designing the perfect nursery, researching stroller technology and devouring every bit of information on newborns, at one time your leave might have felt far off. Now that it’s almost here, how do you prepare to make the most of your leave?
Whether this is your first, second, third (or more) leave, some basic preparation and planning can help make the most of your time at home, while ensuring a seamless transition for your employer and coworkers.
Once you’ve notified your employer that you are about to embark on this exhilarating adventure known as parenthood, help ensure a smooth transition for your employer and everyone else impacted by your leave. Schedule one or two meetings with your in-house HR department and manager a few months out, and again a couple weeks prior to your departure.
- Create clear guidelines on how you want to be contacted (if at all) and what is appropriate in terms of contact while you are out of the office. Depending on your level of involvement in projects or overall responsibilities, you may prefer occasional check-ins from a co-worker or a manager. Set the parameters — and stick to them — of how teammates should contact you.
- Confirm with your HR manager prior to your departure what your options are for unused vacation days, sick days, personal/lieu days. Depending on your company’s maternity/paternity policy, you may be able to extend your leave; however, it is better to ensure everyone knows your planned return date up front so no one scrambles to cover your responsibilities.
- Invest time in a thorough “While I’m out” document that can be easily shared and is saved in a central location for everyone relevant to access. Add in key details on specific programs or clients that will be useful background for someone pinch hitting while you are on paternity or maternity leave.
- Wrap up as many loose ends as possible in advance of the delivery date. Prep your out of office notifications, voicemail, desk/office area for your departure and remember that babies are on their own timeline. You may find yourself making an early departure because of your baby-to-be’s unexpected arrival.
The emotional highs of finally having your newborn at home shouldn’t be impacted by worries about finances or the future. While you are waiting to meet the newest member of your family, invest some time thinking about your new fiscal realities.
- Depending on your employment status, you may be eligible for benefits both financial and health-related through your employer. Be sure to ask for a detailed list that outlines what financial benefits (salary top up, eligibility for a shared bonus pool) you can apply for and/or exercise — including dental, vision, massage — while you are on temporary leave.
- If you are not already participating in a program, consider life insurance. Now that you have a newborn, this protection makes even more sense and financial planners will tell you this can be the basis of a sound financial plan for your family.
- Consider an RESP (Registered Education Savings Plan). University and/or College may seem a long way away when you are changing diapers, but the benefit of time allows you to save for your child’s academic future with a small contribution each month.
- If you qualify under Canada’s federal EI maternity/paternity benefits program, note that you can, “Begin receiving benefits during the eighth week before your due date (or actual week you give birth).” Don’t delay in applying as you may risk losing benefits. Applying online takes approximately an hour and requires several details from your employer, so best to apply before you are juggling a nursing newborn in front of a laptop.
Regardless of how long you plan to be out on leave, prepare for changes in your daily social interactions. There are dozens of ways to engage with other new parents to help celebrate — and occasionally commiserate — having a newborn.
- Most neighbourhoods have mom groups welcoming new members to share experiences, advice and activities. If you are new to an area, check out the local library, drop by a preschool or literally take a walk and ask any new stroller-pushing parent about what is available in your community.
- Online baby/parenting forums and websites can help keep you feeling connected to the world during early morning feedings or between naps. Welcoming, entertaining and helpful forums like Canadian Moms Community and Baby Centre can keep you connected, and often wryly laughing with other moms, dads and caregivers when your daily social network temporarily changes.
The idea of travelling with an infant within the first few days of their arrival may seem overwhelming, but once you get into the swing of things, making the most of your leave can include visiting relatives or starting new family traditions. Preparation (like any outing with a newborn) is key; although, in the case of travel documents you’ll need your bundle of joy to be born before you can apply.
- Once your baby is home, apply as soon as you can for a copy of their birth certificate and obtain passport photos. It can take four to six weeks or longer to receive the necessary documents for a passport application (based on how quickly you can access the necessary details.) Check the Canadian government’s website on child passports to help ensure your application is quickly approved.
- If you are a single parent or travelling alone with your newborn, it is often recommended to obtain a notarized consent letter confirming permission has granted by the other parent (if applicable) to take your child out of province or country.
Return to Work Life
As the saying goes, parenthood, the days can be long but the years are short. Suddenly, after months of being home with your baby, the time will come for you to head back to work. While it may be a harder transition than leaving was, there are some key ways to make things easier.
- Although you may have already exercised extra vacation time, talk to your employer about returning in a staggered fashion if possible. Working three days a week in the office and two days a week at home (with childcare on hand) may help everyone adjust. If this isn’t possible, you — and your baby — may find it easier to use your last weeks to replicate your leaving for a few hours each day to get some well-earned me-time (a haircut, massage, clothes shopping) while preparing you both for being apart for longer stretches.
- Mothers who are breastfeeding will want to ensure there is a private and secure space for pumping. Before you return, talk with your HR department about providing a designated room, or implement a different plan to maintain nursing.
- Returning to work can mean changes to household roles and expectations. Having conversations on how to deal with these changes prior to returning to work can better prepare you and your family. Understanding new roles and responsibilities and committing to communication can help any potential conflicts when heading back to work.
Regardless of how much time you have on your maternity/paternity leave, becoming a parent for the first time, or multiple times, can be an adventure — and like an adventure, preparation can help you to make the most of it.
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This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.