Candace Alnaji
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The Mom at Law

There’s a lot to remember when planning for maternity leave. Many moms spend most of their time addressing the frontend of things—the tasks that must be done before we go on leave. We set a date (or let baby do it for us) and try to check off all the boxes on our to-do list. We notify colleagues and clients of our impending absence. We write the transition memo. We leave notes in the calendar and on strategically placed Post-its.

We work at rapid fire pace like college students burning through finals week to get to spring break. However, in all the excitement, there are some things that may fall by the wayside.

Here are five mistakes most expecting moms make before taking maternity leave and how to avoid them.

1. They forget to divide commission.

If any portion of your income involves commission, you’ll want to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding who will be receiving what from the clients you’ve handed off while you are away.

Much of this will depend on the arrangement you have you with employer. For example, if you are a personal injury attorney and have worked with a client for a year, you would likely feel invested in a case that closed while you were on leave— and feel you deserve some compensation. On the other hand, if you had only worked on a matter for a few months and your replacement did all the heavy lifting on a trial win or settlement, you’d likely feel less invested but perhaps still entitled to a percentage of the sum.

Therefore, you should know what to expect regarding the division of commission while you are on leave. Speak with your employer about from your share. Don’t pry regarding what percentage your replacement may receive for their work, but do learn whether your absence may affect your own.

2. They forget to communicate the division of work upon their return.

Another thing you should do before going on leave is establish what your workload will look like upon your return. Will you receive all your assignments back at once? Will you want all of them back at once? Will you have a say regarding how slowly or quickly you receive your projects back?

3. They forget to arrange lactation accommodations.

If you plan to breastfeed your child and think you will need to pump at work, discuss this with your employer and arrange for lactation accommodations.

Sure, there is a chance your plans to breastfeed may not pan out, but you will want to have these accommodations in place on your first day back if you do breastfeed. You won't want to worry about arranging them while you are home recovering from childbirth and learning how to take care of your baby, and you won’t want to have to worry about it on your first day back.

4. They forget to make flexible schedule requests.

Many working moms find a flexible schedule useful during the early months following their return from maternity leave, and some enjoy the flex schedule even longer. Having a day completely off or working from home one or two days each week helps many working moms transition back into work.

Talk to your employer about whether this could be an option for you. Even if your employer doesn’t have an official plan in place regarding flex scheduling, having the conversation may help initiate one.

Again, you may end up not needing it, but having the option available may help ease your transition back to work later.

5. They lack communication with their colleagues.

Establish expectations regarding the type of contact you expect to have with your employer and colleagues while you are on leave.

If you plan to have visitors from work during your leave, you should make sure everyone is on the same page regarding acceptable work talk. Maybe you’ll want to hear all the latest office gossip or maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll want your colleagues to contact you with whatever questions they have in your absence or maybe you’ll want them to avoid you like the plague unless it’s an absolute emergency. You may even change your mind during your leave, but you should still set the tone before you go.

In any event, be sure to take the time to focus on you and your new baby. The work will still be there when you return. Happy Maternity Leave! 

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Candace is a practicing attorney, working parents advocate, freelance writer, and proud mom. Her legal practice focuses on workers’ rights. She can be found writing about law, motherhood, and more on her blog as The Mom at Law.

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