Having a good support network is important for any task you are trying to accomplish. This is especially true whenever you are trying to take maternity leave. Thankfully for working moms, it can be easy to find professional peer support from women who have gone through what you are experiencing, if you know where to look!
The first place to look is your informal network within your own office. It is always nice to have people in your own office to talk to when it comes to pregnancy and leave time. (Even having just one person who really understands can be very beneficial.) If women from your office have taken off for maternity leave, they will most likely have the “inside scoop” on how it works within your specific workplace. Each business or company is different, so knowing what your friends and coworkers experienced in terms of how much they still needed to keep in touch with work, how much of a workload they had to come back to after leave, and what struggles they may have faced can help you to better understand what you may experience.
Knowing is half the battle, and it really puts your mind at ease if you have a clearer understanding of what to expect when you take time off from the office. Your informal network can also give you tips and support in terms of which people to approach before, during, and after maternity leave to make sure that your transition goes smoothly. It also is nice to have a friend “on the inside” to keep you up to date on what is happening while you are away.
The next place to look is on the internet. New moms groups on Facebook and mommy blogs can be both a blessing and a curse. Many groups have questions and answers to problems that you may not have even considered before about maternity leave. The “outside view” can help by giving you different questions to have answered by your superiors, different ideas of how maternity leave can be adapted to different situations, and different views and feelings about taking time off. They can also provide a 24/7 supportive environment and a place where you can feel connected to the “real world.” Women in these online groups can answer questions at all times of the day and night and can give comfort if you start feeling lonely or disconnected from the world outside of your new baby.
You should try to be careful though, because they can also be places where you get “lost down a rabbit hole” of both information and unhappy moms who may not be having a great maternity leave experience. Make sure you stay focused on the positive posts and comments and know that these women are looking for support as well. You can even be a positive, supportive voice to them, too! Sharing your own story can make you feel more involved in the community, and it can be very cathartic for both you and the other mothers.
Finally, if you are struggling to find someone through your informal network or online, talk to your human resources office. Your company may have amenities, such as an employee assistance program or confidential counselors who can put you in touch with other women or support groups for new mothers. Also, try talking with your OB-GYN because she or he is probably looped into available support resources.