Some women decide to stay home after having a baby. Others, for a variety of reasons, return to work after maternity leave. According to the Census Bureau, even though it was reported that many new moms were choosing to “opt out” of the workforce, this has actually not been the case.
But, it’s hard to return to work after having a baby. You have to figure out childcare. And how to get back into a normal sleep schedule. And how and what to feed the baby when you’re gone.
And the guilt. Oh, the guilt.
Guilt about leaving the baby with someone else (even if it is with a family member. Especially if it’s not). Guilt that you’ll miss first steps and giggles and toothless grins. Guilt that even though society tells you you need to be there to catch all those first steps and giggles and toothless grins and love every minute of it, you maybe, sort of, want to go back to work anyway.
But employers can make it easier for their returning employees! And, why shouldn’t they? It was likely other workers had to pitch in to take on the extra work while that person was gone. A smooth process will help everything go back to normal, which helps both the mother and the business. Plus, you know, it’s a nice thing to do. If you care about that stuff, I guess.
Do you have any property managers who are coming back to work after maternity leave? Here are some suggestions to ease their transitions.
Have an area where she can pump. Legally you have to anyway. This doesn’t have to be a permanent room, but it can’t be a bathroom. Would you want your food prepared in the bathroom? No. The only thing you should be doing in the bathroom, besides, well, going to the bathroom, is doing your makeup. Or gossiping. Or watching episodes of The Office on your phone. OK, so there are lots of things you should do in the bathroom. Pumping is not one of them. Give your returning mother a nice space. Maybe a leasing agent’s office. Or you could convert a vacant unit into a temporary space. Is the mother not pumping? Offer them a space anyway. First of all, it’s none of your business if she is or is not. That’s it. No second of all.
Offer flexible hours or the ability to work from home if possible. Yes, it’s tough because it’s a resident-facing position. But maybe the new mom can come in early some days and leave early if she needs to take the baby to a pediatrician appointment (there are so, so many appointments). And maybe some residents would appreciate the property manager having earlier office hours—then they can stop by on the way to work. And if she needs to work from home some days, she can take on community budgets, calling potential renters to follow up, or other tasks that she doesn’t need to be there in person to accomplish.
Start the transition early, and let her ease in. Don’t contact your property manager about work during her maternity leave. Just don’t. But, right before she comes back, send her a friendly email saying that you’re looking forward to her coming back, and say you’ll let her settle in and then meet with her to bring her up to speed. Don’t send an angry resident to her right away. The renter is angry because the person above their unit is playing TV too loudly? Well, the mother has been dealing with a screaming baby for what seems like forever. The blaring TV would be a welcome break!
Celebrate! Decorate her office or have bagels and coffee, so when she comes back she’ll feel wanted. It’s hard to come back after being gone. No matter how successful you are, it’s hard not to feel like you’re going to be replaced when you’re gone. And get the residents in on the act. Post on your social pages how excited the community is to welcome her back. Tell them to stop by for some bagels and to say hi.
Ask to look at baby pictures. But also, don’t make everything about the baby. I know, I know. All babies look the same. And newborns? They all look like angry old men. I have the most beautiful children on the planet (unbiased opinion, of course), and I look back at their early baby pictures and wonder why I didn’t realize how wrinkly they looked. But ask to see those baby pictures anyway. Your property manager will be thrilled to show them off. And then talk about the weather. Or about the latest season of Stranger Things. Or the job! Show her that you know she’s still a person—and a valued member of the team—not just a mommy. She’ll be sure to appreciate it.
Here are some wise words to leave you with:
“[Anticipating questions from reporters.] ‘Do you miss your kids when you’re at work?’ Yes, of course I do! Everybody does! And then, you know, sometimes, I don’t.” —Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation
What are some ways you’ve eased the transition for mothers returning from maternity leave? If you’re a mother at an apartment community, what made the transition easy for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Post your comments on our Facebook page or send a tweet to @MHNOnline or @jfiur.