Announcing your pregnancy at work and heading off on maternity leave aren’t always joyful occasions. Stigma around working mothers can seriously cramp your style career-wise, even if you’re completely committed to your job. Returning to work after parental leave is a huge adjustment, but, as we learn from communications strategist Lisa Durante, it’s also a huge opportunity to make a good impression with your manager and co-workers.
Lisa Durante spent more than 15 years in communications and change management, working for Fortune 500 companies in Canada and the US. Now, she develops training, workshops and other resources for working moms, helping them navigate the career changes that come with pregnancy, maternity leave and the transition into their role as working mothers.
If you’re working and planning a pregnancy, getting ready to start parental leave, or heading back to work, you don’t want to miss this insightful Q+A!
In our Sage Woman Q+A series, wise women share their knowledge with Tenth Moon Mother Care in the spirit of empowerment and sisterhood.
Tell us about you:
I’m Lisa Durante. First and foremost, I’m a mom to two sparkly girls. They keep life so very interesting – and it just keeps getting better!
They are also the fuel behind my work advocating for and supporting working mothers. We spend our lives telling our daughters their potential is unlimited (as we were once told) and then we send them out into a world that is so limiting for women, most particularly for mothers.
Much of my work is based on my knowledge and experience as a communications strategist. For more than 15 years I’ve led communications and change management programs for Fortune 500 companies in the US and Canada. The objective of my job is to help executives develop and deliver the right messages that will influence others to support their goals.
This is very much what I now do for working moms. Through my workshops and resources, I help working mothers develop the strategies and skills they need to overcome the unconscious biases that hold them back at work and at home.
Announcing your pregnancy at work can be stressful. What are your top tips for how to do it best?
The moment we announce our pregnancy at work, we are automatically perceived to be less productive, less capable and less ambitious than we were before our pregnancy. Sad, but true.
That’s why I encourage working moms to use their baby news announcement as a way to reaffirm their commitment to their careers.
A lot of us wait until the end of the first trimester to share our baby news. That’s not a rule. So, if you’re feeling exceptionally unwell and are missing work, tell your manager so they are aware. You don’t need them to think you’re no longer committed to your job before you announce your pregnancy. And, maybe they can offer you some support.
When you do share your baby news, but sure to tell your boss your intentions to keep delivering results, just as you have done up to now. It doesn’t stop with your baby announcement. You then have to do the work. You also want to be sure to plan your maternity leave so things don’t miss a beat during your absence.
What are your tips for household budgeting on parental leave?
Babies are expensive and money stress isn’t good for anyone. So, it’s super important to create a baby budget. This will help you keep your expenses in check.
I also recommend families take a really close look at the impact any career breaks will have on their income. Leave in Canada only covers up to 55% of your salary to a maximum of $485 per week. Take a look at what this means in terms of how much time you can take off or where you can cut back in other areas of your budget.
“The moment we announce our pregnancy at work, we are automatically perceived to be less productive, less capable and less ambitious than we were before our pregnancy.”
Is it a good idea to stay connected with work/work colleagues while on mat leave? How do you suggest doing so?
Y-E-S! As the saying goes: Out of sight, out of mind. Too many moms I’ve worked with tell me about missed opportunities because they didn’t know their department was going through changes or that a promotion was on the table.
I don’t recommend anyone work during their mat leave, but you do want to stay in touch to keep on top of news. Many managers don’t want to interrupt your leave, so you need to be clear before heading out on mat leave about how and how often you want to stay in contact. If there are specific things you want to hear about like team changes or if you want to be invited to team events like the holiday party – let them know.
You’ll also want to take matters into your own hands. Call your manager regularly. If you’re out for a full year, every couple of months is a good idea. Ask if there have been any personnel changes or if there are any new projects going on or follow-up on any projects that were going before your leave. Do the same with work friends or other colleagues you were close with. You can do much of this catching up over the phone, but if you can plan a visit or two to the office – with baby or without – that would really remind them you are alive.
Returning to work after being home with a baby is a huge adjustment. What can mamas do to set up for a successful transition back to work?
It’s definitely an adjustment! But it can be made easier by engaging in a few key conversations before your first day back on the job. Talk to your manager and clarify your role and responsibilities. Be sure to also discuss priorities and measures of success, so you focus your energy on the right things when you get back.
You’ll also want to talk to your partner, if you have one at home. If you’ve taken the bulk of parental leave, it’s likely you’ve taken on much of the load at home. You won’t be able to keep doing it all when you’re back at work. So, be sure to review your household chores and discuss a plan to better share the load, or what can be outsourced.
“Take matters into your own hands. Call your manager regularly. If you’re out for a full year, every couple of months is a good idea. “
It’s often assumed that working mothers aren’t as committed to their careers as they were before having children, and they are often overlooked for promotions and other opportunities. What can women to do to stay strong on their career path, while keeping in mind the realities of work-life balance with little ones at home?
We all have to advocate for our careers, but this is especially true for new mothers. The biases against moms are real, and too often, we think it’s our fault and that we have no control over what’s happening. That’s not true. Our words and our actions can go a long way in influencing people to think differently.
At work, women need to advocate for themselves – no one else is really going to do it. So get out there and tell others how amazing you are. Share your successes with your manager. When you do, be sure to focus on results you’ve produced, not the things you’ve done. Managers don’t care you made a phone call, they care you made a sale. Whenever you can show your results – maybe it’s a metric of some kind or it’s positive feedback – you have proof to back up what you’re saying.
There’s work to do at home, too, because the work-life balance needs to be shared with partners. Really take the time to talk about how, together, you will manage things. Who’ll do pick-up and drop-offs, how will you handle days when the baby’s sick. And, as I say above, sweat all the fine details of managing a home.
Check out LisaDurante.com to learn more about our training and workshops, and access our resources. We have plenty of free tools that can help moms at every stage of the new parenting journey.
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