When our son completely rejected his day-care, we had no choice but to keep him at home, I was lucky that FT was doing fine without me. It took us another 4 months to find a solution. I love my kids, but I have so much respect for stay at home mums. I had a brief view of that world, and I can tell you that running a company is a thousand times easier than looking after a baby full-time.
If you’re used to having high standards in your work life, it will naturally extend to your personal life too, so please be kind to these women. If they were high performers before they went off, that will still be there, but you have to be patient and accommodating to support the switch back to work.
Even driven women will face the inevitable self-questioning that comes with having so much time and space away, caring. This is why we lose so many women after they have kids – how could anything compare to that? It can’t.
But for many women, like me, coming back also feels like a breath of fresh air. Conversations with other adults, finishing a job, feeling productive.
So why do so many employers struggle to keep their top female staff onboard? Mostly, it’s a lack of realization about how hard the transition is from caring, to coming back to work. Torn loyalties, sleep deprivation, and just huge pressures on time and energy. Don’t resent them for their maternity leave, it was probably one of the hardest periods in their lives.
Here are the top 7 things employers can do to ensure women returning back at work from maternity leave can make a successful start;
1. Keep lines of communication open.
Don’t just say ‘we will support you.’ Talk is cheap. Show them you support them by your actions. Call them from time to time to see how they are, and when their child is sick, be understanding. Don’t hold it against them – they will be as frustrated as you. Every ounce of understanding and flexibility will come back to you in retaining them.
2. Assign an onboarding buddy.
Someone to remind them on where the login/project details are, or provide a refresher on the main tools. Give a solid run-down of all clients/ projects they have missed – someone who will be understanding if they are forgetful or tired.
3. Offer flexible/ predictable work schedules.
Allowing parents to drop off/ pick up children from daycare, visits to after school activities, and responding to unexpected events is key. We only have one shot at being there for our kids. It will not last forever.
4. Keep offering career development, at the right time.
Obviously most women will not want an increase in responsibility the minute they return. But it is wrong to overlook women just because they have had kids. The same intelligence and potential is still there, don’t overlook it.
5. Understand that women /men with small babies will struggle to make after-work commitments,
especially demanding ones. They just won’t feel able to put on their best and engage in difficult or lively conversation while operating on limited sleep.
6. Keep offering social events.
If there are social events taking place, they might want to join in, but equally, don’t be upset if they don’t. It’s hard to predict what pregnancies and babies will be like! Just keep them in the loop.
7. Offer infrastructure where needed
a private lactation room for women, a parking spot near to the office, or even a temporary access to one if it helps.
Understand that this is a temporary time in which they will need more support and understanding than normal. Good employers will grant this, and get a very committed member of staff in return.