First-time motherhood is stressful enough without the fear of job instability after maternity leave—but unfortunately, this is a concern many working moms continue to face. That’s why it’s so important when managers assure their expecting employees that their baby comes first, and the company will still be there for them.
When Wanda Collins, a banking director in New Jersey and mother of three, was pregnant with her first child, she was “nervous and anxious about going out on leave,” she wrote in a LinkedIn post. “What will happen to my job? Will my baby be OK when I go back to work?”
“In the midst of all my self-imposed stress, a senior manager pulled me aside,” Wanda continued. “He said, ‘Wanda, take as much time as you need. Don’t come back before you are ready. Just be sure to come back.’”
This is the attitude more employers need to adopt. We know that having a flexible and understanding boss creates an environment in which all employees can thrive, but we also know that these parent-focused workplace policies are the exception, not the rule. Most employers don’t allow moms a gradual paid transition after taking leave, and they tend to grant extremely limited and unpaid time off.
Wanda admitted about that time, “I don’t know if I truly appreciated what he did for me. He made me feel valued, appreciated and actually let me take the time I needed to bond with my baby.”
Her boss’s attitude also made her return a little easier. “When I went back to work I didn’t feel pressured,” Wanda wrote. “I felt like it was the most natural thing in the world to take six months off to be with my baby.”
Five years and two more daughters later, Wanda still remembers her manager’s empathy, and urged other employers to follow his lead. “Maternity/paternity leave should be a time to focus on your family without worrying about your job,” she wrote. “If you are a manager of a man or woman about to have a child, look to see how you can ensure they feel valued and appreciated.”
Her suggestions? Flexible work arrangements or an extension of leave. “An extra few days or weeks will mean so much to a new parent. Find a way to let them know they are valued. I promise they will remember it.”