Having a baby is an exciting time for women, and being able to take off from work to be with your baby for maternity leave may look like a luxury. However, women who return from maternity leave can experience new pressures and stress back in the office. It all can affect a working woman's performance, and management plays a crucial role in improving or worsening the situation for new working moms.
Many women feel overwhelmed upon their return from work after taking maternity leave. Given the tremendous amount of new responsibility they have at home, losing sleep, changes in their bodies, new expenses, and workplace commitments, it is understandable for a woman fresh back from maternity leave to be a bit stressed. Managers can aid in this transition by offering a flexible work schedule until the worker is ready to return full time. You can even divide the mountain of work on her desk among other workers to help lighten her load.
Having to leave a new baby is not easy for any mom. Maternity-leave laws in the United States protect the majority of workers' positions for up to 12 weeks. For some women, that's not long enough to get the hang of new motherhood, establish a bond with the baby, get the baby on a sleeping schedule so mommy can rest, and then go back to business as usual. But many families' economic situations make the return to work necessary. Understand that returning from maternity leave can really impair a woman's focus in those first few days, maybe even months. Allow returning mothers to leave work on time. They want to rush home and see that their baby is OK, handle their household, and get some rest so they can return to do it all again the next day.
Bring on the Guilt
Not initially, but within a month or so, you'll notice more sick days being used than before by women who return from maternity leave. This is in large part because most women have to take babies under 1 to a daycare facility where they are more prone to get sick and have to be kept home. Also, most moms aren't able to pump breast-milk for their babies while working. Breastfed babies tend to get sick a lot less than formula-fed babies. The guilt of their babies getting sick, along with the guilt of taking time away from work, can cause a strain on any working woman's performance. Designating an area where working mothers can pump milk if they choose to is helpful to a lot of women returning from maternity leave. Not making them feel any more guilt than they already do about caring for their sick babies is another way that you can show support.
Resignations might not happen initially, but you can usually see them over time. New mothers may quit to become stay-at-home moms or to find a position that is more fitting with their new role in life. If a woman does decide to quit, there isn't much that management can do other than support the choice, but if an employee seems disengaged at work, you can help by lending a sympathetic ear. For instance, if she doesn't feel comfortable with her childcare arrangement, perhaps you could look into having an on-site daycare for her and other moms who may be experiencing the same thing.
Christina Caldwell is a contributor for online publications such as Women's eNews and Little Pink Book. Her work has also been featured in the popular U.K. magazine "Black Heritage Today." Caldwell holds a bachelor's degree in marketing and communications.