Today in my OB's office, I overheard a 38-weeker scheduling her next visit. She could do morning or evening, she said, because she was on leave now. Lucky woman! My green-eyed monster jumped over and ate her. (Hey, at 35 weeks I'm pretty vicious.) I want to be on leave now, too!
This is my second time around, so I already know the relief of not having to wear pressed pants and heels every day for 12 blessed weeks. I already know what it's like to clear off my desk and not see it for three whole months. (Hint: Both awesome.) I already know how it feels to spend weekday mornings with Matt Lauer and Company rather than with my manager and cube-mates.
I also know this: My goal from last time -- a three-month, no-contact "vacation" from work -- was not such a grand idea, after all.
Sure, time to focus on my new family was -- and is -- important. What an awesome responsibility it is to bring a new person into the world! Surely babies deserve nothing less than our full attention for as long as we can manage it.
But here's what happened when I eagerly bade my professional-self goodbye during my first maternity leave: I was out of the loop. A co-worker with whom I worked closely left the company -- for our most notorious competitor -- and I had no warning, no idea. I guess had convinced everyone that that I didn't want to be bothered, so I found out two weeks later, and was very shocked and saddened.
That probably won't happen to most people, but it's a good illustration of why I think it's detrimental to completely cut yourself off when you're on leave -- even though it may be really tempting. Staying in touch (a weekly email check, instant messaging, a phone call, or lunch with a co-worker) will benefit you in numerous ways.
1.) You're getting out of the house -- or out of your head. Matt Lauer can only take you so far, after all. And, even though we know reading the Internet and chewing board books is fun, focusing your mind on professional things -- projects, clients, company news -- is good for your self-esteem.
2.) You'll make it known to your company that you value your job, and are doing your best to stay on top of things. That will work to your advantage if you're planning to negotiate for flex-time or an alternative schedule when you get back.
3.) If you go for a work-visit near the end of your leave, you can present your plan for returning. While everyone's cooing at the baby, an impromptu meeting with your manager will let her know when and how you plan to be back. You get to buck up and make the commitment, and they get to put it on the calendar.