How do you prepare for maternity leave?

Clare Beynon spoke to mother of three, U4 Financial Controller, Caroline Howarth, currently at home with her third baby, for tips and insights on managing maternity leave.

Caroline, tell me about how you’ve juggled your maternity leave?

Babies don’t always go to plan. I was an accounting manager when Olivia was born prematurely and I was still at work. This resulted in finishing my hand over to my boss from the hospital. I was then out for eight months and returned four days a week.

At eight months’ pregnant with my second child I was interviewing for a financial controller position. I got the job and went on maternity leave two weeks later. I took six months off and relocated to U6, where I returned to work full time.

I was then promoted to financial controller in U4. Five years into the role I’m currently out on maternity leave again and I plan to return full time in July when Mark will take shared parental leave.

What have you learnt from your previous leave for this time round?

Planning is essential! You never know when the baby will arrive or the opportunities that may arise.

Plan delegation and team management carefully. I communicated my expectations to ensure my team could meet deadlines without me whilst still achieving their goals. I outsourced each element of my role to a different department head so the workload was spread out.

In the last three months, I completed all my department head reviews that would be due whilst on maternity leave and Janene sat on my PDMs so she was familiar with live projects.

What resources did you use while on leave and what have you learnt?

Choose how to be actively involved in the business. I made it clear to my team which projects I wanted to stay part of. My team text me when I’m needed and we schedule a call to catch up.

‘Keep in touch’ days are a fantastic benefit. I planned my KIT days before I went on leave and used them in specific ways: getting to know my new team in U6, interviewing for a new group rental manager, forecast meetings and attending a maternity coaching session.

I have learnt to say no. On KIT days, I stick to prearranged meetings so I’m not distracted.

How do you balance your career with family demands?

Organisation is key especially as I don’t have family close by. Mark is the cook, I clean. We share the pickups from school and have a rule there are no kid’s clubs at the weekend as that is family time. I utilise all the help I can with breakfast clubs and after school activities. I’ve had a nanny in the past but Darcey will be at nursery when I return back to work this time.

What’s your biggest advice to any new parent?

Make sure you always feel in control. Plan, organise and communicate what you expect from your managers, peers and team before you take leave. Agree expectations with everyone, and remember, it’s fine to say ‘no’.

Choose how to be actively involved in the business. I made it clear to my team which projects I wanted to stay part of. My team text me when I’m needed and we schedule a call to catch up.

by Clare Beynon

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