In less than one month (!!!), I will be giving birth to my first child. Naturally, I've been thinking a lot about parental leave - and the stigmas surrounding it.
How much time is too much time? Will taking time off from work negatively affect my career? Am I abandoning my child if I go back to work?
Even as a business owner with the freedom to create my own maternity leave policy, these questions have been weighing on me. And I know I’m not alone.
I brought your burning questions about parental leave to Instagram Live, where I talked with Thai Randolph, President & COO of Kevin Hart’s LOL Network and co-founder of Sugaberry - a lifestyle brand created by and for moms of color.
We discussed everything from how moms can prepare for maternity leave, to how companies can step up to support, rather than alienate working parents. Here are a few key takeaways from our conversation:
You may feel the urge to get back to work as soon as you can... Don’t. It’s common to feel like you’re falling behind, being forgotten about, or putting your work in jeopardy by taking a full leave. Here’s some tough love: Business will survive without you. Your team can and will make the adjustment. If you’re an entrepreneur or business owner like me, your business may be your first baby, but unlike a real baby, it will very likely be there waiting for you when you're back in the office. As Thai said: “You can do it all, but you can’t do it all at once.” Maximize that precious baby time (and snuggles!) while they last.
Communicate your concerns early. As you prepare for your leave, you may have concerns about things like transitioning back into work, how your responsibilities will be delegated or whether your leave will slow down your advancement in your company. If you have a concern, the best thing you can do is talk to your boss or HR. They can’t read your mind and may not know that you need that extra assurance.
Your work-life balance is only as strong as your boundaries. Make your boundaries crystal clear long before your leave (and long after). If you won’t be checking your email during your leave (and Thai suggests you shouldn’t), say so. If you need to go totally offline while you take your child to their doctor’s appointments, let folks know. If you’re a leader, doing this normalizes boundary setting and creates the mutual understanding that everyone is a human being outside of work. What seems like even the smallest boundary can make a huge impact on the internal culture surrounding parenthood.
Companies simply need to do better by working parents. The U.S. is one of the few developed countries that does not have federally mandated paid parental leave, yet studies have shown the positive impact these programs can have on the economy. Thai made major waves among Fortune 1000 companies as a member of The List’s Class of 2020, fighting for better paternity leave policies and considerations for modern family configurations. We must demand better.
Whether you’re a soon-to-be parent like me, a leader to working parents, or even just a co-worker to working parents, this conversation is a do-not-miss.