The 2 Most Common Maternity Leave Fears — And How to Cope

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Career insights through early parenthood
A new addition to your life will lead to significant changes in your home life and your work life. 
Everyone handles change differently, and some of the changes you'll experience will be completely unique to your individual situation. But universally,  we can all benefit from acknowledging that we’re going through some significant changes.  
As an expectant (or new) mother, I bet you're experiencing a wide range of emotions and feelings as a result of  the big changes to your life. Some of those feelings are quite likely anxiousness and fear about your professional career. Your future at work just seems so unclear, right? I went through this, too. I’ve seen it from both sides — going through the transition to motherhood myself, and acting as an HR Pro behind-the-scenes at some big companies. 
Here are some of the common fears around maternity leave. And don't worry, I've included my professional advice on how to cope. 

1. Disclosing your family plans at work.

Fear of disclosing your family plans can depend on your workplace and the relationships that you have with your manager and co-workers. While not always the case, having concerns about disclosing your plans to your employer is pretty common. For example, you might fear that your employer will see you as less focused on your role, and on your long-term career overall. You may also have concerns about your employer and colleagues treating you differently.

How to cope:

Only reveal what your employer actually needs to know. There’s no need to get into things like "don’t worry boss I’m only having one baby."  This is none of your employer’s business, and it only further complicates the relationship or makes unconscious biases more prominent. If you only reveal what's necessary, understand that the perception of what you share is out of your control, and that a supportive work environment will support your personal pursuits as much as your professional ones. 

2. Losing your responsibilities at work.

Another common concern includes the loss of responsibilities or commitments within the usual scope of your role, as they are reassigned to other colleagues in anticipation of your maternity leave. You may fear that others will see you as a short-term contributor rather than a long-term asset within the company. This is especially true if they assume that you won’t be returning to work post-maternity leave.
Some expectant moms may notice a growing sense of gradual invisibility.  You might feel like you’re moving from feeling valued within the company to feeling unessential. The transition towards motherhood can create feelings of insecurity in a mother who perceives — accurately or mistakenly — that she is being excluded from long-term decision making within the workplace.
Combine these feelings with sore boobs, pants that don’t fit and hella hormones, and pregnancy can be a recipe for a complete and utter professional meltdown.  Sometimes, I cried in my car at lunch.

How to cope:

If your manager is reassigning work that you are capable of, and want to continue doing, ask about it. Go straight to the source (i.e.. your manager) and figure out their intentions. Try saying something like: “Can you help me understand why Frank has taken on these aspects of my role?  My current priorities would allow me to continue to manage this effectively."
I can’t guarantee this will work.  But instead of jumping to conclusions and making assumptions about why tasks are being rearranged, just ask. You never know; your manager might have assumed you wanted that work reassigned. That manager might actually be in the mindset that they’re helping you. At the end of the day, you’ll feel good knowing you’ve done your best to manage this situation and your reputation. 
I don’t think we spend enough time talking about this. Pregnancy and maternity leave absolutely have impacts on our professional careers. And as career-minded moms, we need to start talking about so we can get back to the business of enjoying our maternity leaves.  We’ve got to abolish the feelings that time away from work will inevitably set us back in our professional careers.

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Shauna Cole is the Founder of The Method To Your Mat Leave© - an online course that helps moms manage their careers through maternity leave. Shauna is a Career Expert and ex-corporate Human Resources Pro.  She’s got an MBA, is a Chartered Human Resources Professional and Senior Certified Human Resources Professional. A high-energy Mom of two boys, she’s obsessed with finding the balance between career and mom life (and also, wine).
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