Pregnancy is work, but as you build your career while you grow your family, it is more than a milestone. It is monumental. The intersection of work and pregnancy is significant and its importance is something to recognize, to normalize, and to celebrate.
With the right support–and some thoughtful planning, it can be a powerful moment to unburden your confidence, broaden your perspective, and unlock your potential for the journey to working motherhood and through it.
We spoke with Stephanie Kramer, the author of Carry Strong: An Empowered Approach to Navigating Pregnancy and Work, a beauty industry executive, and mother of two young sons to give you the insight into the 6 things you should do before you go on maternity leave to set yourself up for an empowering journey into working motherhood.
6 Things to Do at Work Before You Go on Maternity Leave
1. Ask for a review. Regardless of formal review process timing or if you have formal reviews at all at your place of work, meet with your “boss” or direct manager. Discuss how you are performing on your goals, day-to-day tasks, and as a teammate. This gives you a checkpoint not about your pregnancy, but to know where you stand at work before work will be a distant priority for a little while as you approach the end of your pregnancy, and your baby arrives. This is also a great moment to share your expectations of your manager, ask any questions, and set up expectations for what you will wrap up or what you will transition before you go on leave. Positive, clear, and collaborative communication is always essential, but this is a particularly great moment to practice it. If you’re a solo entrepreneur, review yourself—what do you need to wind-down, offboard or out-source and what are things that you can’t, but need to recognize the need for a system in the future.
2. Transition with your team. Create transition documents and meet with a month + to go, that way it’s smooth sailing for communications and less pressure on you and those you are transitioning with. What are the priorities and what are nice to have? What loops need to be closed or introduced to ensure that everyone is on the same page? Again, approaching this time with open communication and reciprocal support for this both very special and very normal moment at work is key. It’s an opportunity for everyone.
3. Check in with members of your board of directors. Your board of directors is your mentor and advocate sounding board—they often are the ones that help you through important career and personal milestones and cross-roads. Being pregnant at work and subsequently becoming a working-mom is a big one and it’s a great moment to both check in with them for support, but also to evaluate if you need to add (or subtract) someone to give you the perspective you may need right now and importantly when you return to work with a new incredible part of you. Do you have a working parent you aspire to as part of your board?
4. Do a walk-through of your work-day with baby while you’re still pregnant. Start when you wake up until you’re back at home (or if you work from home, when you switch off your “day” job). This visualization will help you to anticipate what you may need when you return, but also how you may feel. Ask the questions now to lift off some of what may be on your mind. For example, what does your commute look like now, how will that need to change? Or when you are at work where is the mother’s room/space should you want to breastfeed? Where is milk stored? Be as detailed as you can making lists as you go.
5. Assess Your Boundaries and Flexibility. Take a moment and think through what boundaries you have in place with work today. These can include when and how you respond to emails outside of work hours or can be your availability on the weekend or on vacation. They also can be how comfortable you are discussing your personal life or if you have a specific time you want to wrap up in the evening based on a personal obligation or interest. Think about what having a child will affect those boundaries that are already in place, what new ones you would like to have and how flexible you want them to be. Assessing those moments now allow you to recognize when you need to establish them further, but also how to navigate when they are crossed.
6. Take a photo of you at work. Whether that’s solo with a laptop or you in-action at your place of work, capture the memory for the baby book or to share some day with your child. Take a moment for lunch with your work BFF or team around you who are sharing in your joy (and often the majority of you day). You are navigating pregnancy and work, simultaneously, providing for your growing family now and for the future. Take a moment with pride to celebrate together.
Stephanie Kramer is an executive, adjunct professor of communications and mother of two. She is the author of Carry Strong: An Empowered Approach to Navigating Pregnancy and Work (Penguin Life, May 23, 2023).