Planning a family means making lots of preparations. There is equipment to buy, childcare to put your name down for, space to make for the baby. Part of those preparations involve having conversations – at work with your employer about your maternity leave and return to work [how long you will take off, whether you will have KIT days, whether you will return on a flexible basis, etc]. You may have conversations with your partner, if you have one, on whether to share your leave through taking Shared Parental Leave.
You may decide that SPL is not for you, but it is important in any event to have the conversation, not just about what happens during the leave, but what happens when everyone is back at work. That means who does the drop-offs and pick-ups, who takes time off if the baby is sick or the childminder is away and so on. All the considerations involved will depend a lot on the individual circumstances of parents – what type of job they do, how much flexibility each employer offers, whether family and friends are nearby and can act as back-up care, etc. There are, however, some vital points for all to consider:
– Have early conversations before the birth to set expectations. Even if things change after the birth and either one or both of you feel differently after the baby comes, it is important to start the conversation before birth, before, during the exhaustion and turbulence of the post-birth period, you find yourself falling into certain patterns subconsciously. Talk as openly as possible about what you expect of yourself as a parent and what you expect of your partner.
– Keep talking, even when you are knackered. Once the conversation has started, keep the communication channels open. Things can change and the whole post-birth period is one of tremendous upheaval when you may question your very identity. Don’t underestimate the enormity of it all and don’t make assumptions. Review things regularly once everyone is back at work. Is it working how you anticipated? Is either partner happy with how it is working?
– Adapt – things may vary in both people’s careers. There may be times, for instance, when one parent has to focus more on their career and the other can take a lead in the caring role.
– Plan ahead where possible. This may involve weekly meetings to chart the week ahead, who is where, who can do pick-ups, who is around in case of an emergency. It is a good idea to also put longer term planning on the schedule early on, such as school holidays, inset days and the like. The more you can plan ahead the easier it will be to ensure there are no hidden resentments.