If I had a pound for every time I heard this from an employer, I’d be a millionaire by now.
Admittedly, I don’t always hear it first-hand. It’s often the pregnant employee herself who tells me, that on her last day the boss offered what seemed like “a final farewell, even though I’m planning to come back”.
Then, the boss will deliver their parting shot: “I hope you enjoy your lovely long holiday!”
Employers, I have to ask: do you honestly think maternity leave is a “long holiday”?
Because if you do, it’s time to think again.
Pregnancy is just the beginning
Of all the life-changing events that occur during a person’s time on earth, motherhood can feel like the most challenging.
After all, bringing new life into the world doesn’t come with a handy, one-size-fits-all guide. Let’s forget the physical effects of childbirth for a moment, though these alone can come with a wealth of lasting complications.
You are suddenly responsible for a whole new person.
Not only is this whole new person is utterly dependent on you for its survival, but you now have to get to know one-another. This involves developing new rules and routines for everything… sleeping (when you can), feeding, bathing, bonding, playtime, learning, and nappy-changing.
During this time, your close relationships, and often your finances, will be pushed to breaking point. And as you embark on this terrifying new journey, there are lingering worries about how it will affect your career.
Will a colleague get promoted over you, even though they’re not half as productive? Will you be penalised for having to bring yourself back up to speed when you return?
What about flexible working… if you ask for reduced or altered hours, will the boss see you as a flake? Will the guilt of being torn between the duties of work and motherhood ever leave you? And what the hell has happened to your confidence?
(Seriously, does all that sound like a holiday to you?)
Of course, this is only if things go well. For some mothers, they sadly won’t.
When motherhood takes a traumatic turn
The following examples are taken directly from my many years of maternity coaching.
Lack of care and support following a long, traumatic birth
Development of a long-term, life-altering health condition following a birthing mishap
Diagnosis of a serious mental health issue
The baby is born with an illness, or needs surgery immediately following birth
Both mother and baby contract Covid-19 while in hospital
Death of a close family member during the period of maternity leave
Serious issues around baby feeding, due to undiagnosed tongue-tie
“It's so good to talk to someone who isn't my partner, isn't one of my family, and although external, still has my best interests and a duty of care for me at their heart.”
(Beyond EAP maternity coaching client)
At Beyond EAP, our coaching is designed to help new mothers navigate each stage of the parenthood journey, including those they feel are hard to discuss with their family and/or their employer.
While our approach is completely bespoke, tailored sessions focus on building resilience, strengthening mental health, and reducing anxiety.
This means that whatever happens during this transformative life stage, your employees can return to their lives and work feeling confident and able to cope.
You will also show your employees that as an employer, you are caring and enlightened; far removed from those who still mistakenly – and hurtfully – believe that maternity leave equals a long holiday.
If you'd like to talk to us, please contact us here.