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How to be prepared for your Maternity Leave

You are very excited about having your baby, but in today's world of dual incomes and careers, maternity leave becomes all the more important in the life of a mom-to-be. The best way to organise this part of your life is to look at a step-by-step methodical approach and map out exactly what it is you want for your needs and those of your baby and other family members.

The first step is to know what your maternity leave benefits are. Maternity leave can be made up of sick pay, leave allocated time and holiday time. You will need to discuss this with your manager and then decide on the duration of leave depending on the demands of your job and the amount of recovery time you may need. Before you discuss this aspect of your medical benefits, it is a good idea to know what your company offers and what it expects in terms of notification and allocation of days.

Fill out the appropriate paperwork required to take your maternity leave. Your company benefits advisor should be able to help answer all your questions. It is important to get the right papers in order to avoid any confusion with regard to the leave you are taking. There may be paperwork from the doctor, so reach out early, so you don’t find yourself drowning in all the tedious forms you need to fill out. 

The next step is in the form of planning. You need a plan for your family and their financial needs based on the time you plan to use for maternity leave. You need a plan with your workplace in terms of their need to have a temp in your place or to cover for you while you are out of the office. There are government regulations in most countries determining the amount of time permitted and the amount of salary paid during maternity leave.

When you plan your maternity leave, you will have to consider how demanding caring for a newborn baby is. Once you have left the office to start your maternity leave, you do not want to be worrying about work issues. Make sure the office is notified of your intentions and you have left everything organised for your return.  Maternity leave is not forever; you are planning to go back to work. Showing your employer that you are dedicated and organised will give them more confidence in your intention to return to work after your maternity leave.

It is important to factor in preparation for your home too. Have a plan for a support system at home. It doesn’t matter if the baby is your first or second. This may even be an addition to a bigger family, but you need a home plan too. Family and friends will want to come and visit. If you feel you need complete rest for the initial time of arrival with your newborn, then it is OK to tell visitors you are not ready for them yet.  Have meals prepared and rides to school for your other children if you need that support. Remember, dads can take paternity leave and perhaps you want to make the early days of the new baby and your maternity a partnership responsibility.

Planning your maternity leave is all about timing. The choice to have more time ahead of the baby’s arrival or not is entirely up to you. However, there are certain Medical Leave Acts in place with requirements for how much notice you give your employer. Organising help at home for yourself within these time constraints is important. On the home front, it may help you to have a list of people who have offered to help and what help they have offered.  

A roster for siblings, school lifts, help with groceries or meals, visits and moral support and any other needs you have as a family. The less you have to worry about, the more time you can focus on the baby and enjoy your maternity leave. Don’t be afraid to make lists. Checklists and contact lists for support are a great way to know you have help and a backup plan.

Be prepared for medical expenses and the extras you may need for a newborn baby.  One of the important medical preparations is to get your new baby onto your medical insurance. Don’t forget to be prepared yourself with a maternity bag for the hospital and any reading matter you feel is helpful.

Most of all, take time out to prepare yourself. A little bit of spoiling always helps to go a long way toward an improved sense of well-being. Being organised and looking forward to the new arrival and the time you will have together through maternity leave should be a unique time of your life.

Elizabeth Stone, the author of How our Family Stories Shape Us, wrote:

‘Making the decision to have a baby is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.’ 

Preparing for maternity ensures you are ready for that journey into motherhood.