Maternity leave is a fantastic time to enjoy those first months of your baby’s life. In the UK we’re fortunate that our government’s maternity leave policies are flexible and generous to allow us to spend quality time with our newborn children. If you’ve worked for most of your adult life, maternity leave can be a bit of shock as you take a proper break away from work. Find out what to expect at each phase of your maternity leave below.
Arranging your maternity leave
After finding out that you’re pregnant, you’ll need to discuss it with your employers so that they can begin to make arrangements for your maternity leave. You’re entitled to up to 52 weeks maternity leave, which can now be taken as shared parental leave with your partner if that is your preferred arrangement. Reading a maternity and paternity leave guide for employers can help you to work out what your options are and prepare you for the discussion with your manager.
Most workplaces have their own unique policies for maternity leave, and you may need to contact your Human Resources department to establish how they apply to you. You have to tell your employer by the 15th week before your baby is due. However, many people do so earlier because they have doctors appointments to attend and have sickness during the early stages that could prevent them from working.
Unless you’ve gone into labour by surprise, you should have a couple of weeks before the baby is born to take care of last minute things and get your home ready for the baby’s arrival. Make sure you go through your pre-arrival checklist to make sure that you have everything you need in time. More importantly, you should take the time to relax and get some rest. Labour is going to require your strength, and you’ll want to make most of the sleep before the baby arrives.
After baby’s arrival
The baby’s arrival will be one of the busiest periods of your maternity leave as you go through the birth and then the first few weeks of the baby’s life. This will be a significant period of adjustment as you get into a routine and learn more about your baby’s wants and needs. It’s likely that you’ll suffer from a lack of sleep during this time and may need to work out a rota system with your partner family members and family members to make sure you get some rest while they take care of the baby.
During the first few weeks, it’s also likely that you’ll have a lot of visitors who will want to see your new arrival. Try and arrange visits so that they happen at certain times of day, and times you know there’ll be someone else at home to help you so that you can catch up with friends and family members without feeling too exhausted.
After paternity leave ends
If your partner is heading back to work once his paternity leave is up, this will be the first time that it is really you and your baby on your own. This is where you’ll really get into the swing of motherhood and be able to make the most of your paternity leave. Yes, it will be tiring, but it’s also a time to enjoy yourself as you develop and grow with your baby.
Enjoy some great tips on things to do with your maternity leave, meet with fellow parents and just take the time to bond with your baby. If you can get someone to look after the baby for a few mornings or afternoons as well, you’ll fit in some ‘me’ time as well and do those things that are difficult to do with a baby in tow. Go shopping, get your hair done and enjoy a bit of peace and quiet.
By the mid-way point of your maternity leave, you’ll have got into a great routine and experienced some wonderful memories already. You’ll be more confident leaving the house and have found activities that you and your baby love to do. At the halfway point you might already be thinking about what you’re going to do post-maternity and begin making preparations for going back to work. This is the stage where you’ll need to decide if you’re actually going to return, and whether or not you’ll be reducing your hours.
Halfway through your maternity is the time you might want to think about visiting the office. People will want to see the baby and see you, and it will be a good chance for you to catch up on what’s been happening while you’ve been off. ‘Keeping in Touch’ meetings are becoming more and more popular within maternity policies that will allow you to touch base with your manager and make sure that you don’t return to a whole new setup.
Returning to work
After having up to a year off, going back to work can be difficult. You’ll need to prepare to return to work and take care of things such as childcare and perhaps agree to a change of hours with your employer. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of getting up at the right time, getting the baby ready and adjusting to a new routine before you have to do it. If you’re anxious about returning to work, you might want to use up the annual leave you’ve accrued during your maternity leave to plan a phased return. This way, you can come in for a day at a time and build it up until you’ve fully adjusted to your new work/home life.
Your maternity leave is a special time that you should look forward to and enjoy. While doing the little things to plan for you baby’s arrival, you should also plan the sorts of things you’d like to do during your time off. However you choose to spend your maternity leave is up to you, so make the most of it and enjoy settling into your new life as a mum.