Headed Out: 3 Things You Should Do Before Going on Parental Leave

Taking leave at work isn’t just for women giving birth anymore. It’s for dads too, and anyone adopting a child as well.

Time recently reported that according to a Pew Research Study, a new trend is in the works – more American women are choosing to have kids. While trends and stats change over time, one thing that will always be a concern is preparing for a new member of the family.

Most people immediately consider the necessities, such as diapers, bottles, and a nursery. But if you’re planning to have a child soon, you shouldn’t just think about what needs to be done at home — you should also plan for your absence at work.

What should you do first?

1. Check company policies. Know your rights before divulging you or your partner’s condition at work. NPR reports: “Out of 193 countries in the United Nations, only a small handful do not have a national paid parental leave law: New Guinea, Suriname, a few South Pacific island nations and the United States.”

So if you work for a progressive company that offers liberal, paid maternity (or paternity leave), count yourself lucky.

2. Plan for who will take over your duties while you are gone. You may not get to weigh in on this, but if you do, you should. Taking leave without a plan can cause many problems.

The first is that your job may only be done marginally, if at all. This could mean you return to a huge mess after your weeks at home with a baby. This could create a big headache for you. Worse, it may cost you clients, and the bosses may blame you, even though it wasn’t your fault.

Write out a plan, assigning tasks to those whom you think can handle them and hope for the best.

3. Agree on the terms of your return. It may seem strange to talk about coming back to work before you’ve left, but it’s a necessity. Your bosses and co-workers may handle your absence in a variety of ways.

Depending on the type of business you are in, they may just keep dumping work on your desk every day that you are gone, expecting you to deal with it when you get back. This can seriously backfire – when you return to the office you may not be willing or able to put in 50-hour workweeks.

Just as bad, your co-workers may pounce on your accounts before the door shuts behind you, and you may find yourself starting from square one when you return.

Before you leave, try to determine how tasks will get done when you’re gone, which work you will resume doing when you return, the date of your return and the number of hours and days you will work as you transition back to full time.

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