Where Am I? The Challenges & Opportunities Presented After Returning From Parental Leave

Mar 26, 2024

Author’s Note:

As a non-birthing parent, I understand my experiences around parental leave likely differ from ACW’s core audience and do not cover all considerations. However, I do hope to shed light on an issue that impacts many American workers — and, disproportionally, women.

Naturally, there are quite a few considerations that I do not touch on that generally only apply to birthing parents. Simply put, it’s not my place to describe those considerations, and this blog will focus on my own personal experiences.

How to Make the Most Out of Your Parental Leave & Return to the Office

When my son was born, my organization granted me extended parental leave — a privilege I recognize not enough people in this country receive. While work admittedly slipped lower on my life priorities during this precious time, I’m the type of person who likes to hit the ground running. So, after a few months dormant, here’s how I pursued an effective return to the office.

Step 1: Planning!

The key to a successful return to work involves considerable planning before your leave begins. The moment we learned my wife’s due date, I sat down with my manager to discuss the full away-from-office plan.

Now, this will look different to everyone depending on their role, but I found checking the following items off my list gave me peace of mind:

  • How long are you taking your allotted leave? Are you splitting it up or taking it all at once?
  • How can you delegate your role’s core responsibilities to your teammates? What training is required to do so?
  • What projects can be accelerated and completed before your leave? Which can wait until after your return?

Speaking as a manager myself, the sooner this conversation happens, the better. Additionally, work coverage is the last thing you want to stress about in the weeks leading up to your parental leave. At a time when not much felt certain or locked down at all, I felt secure when I took the time granted to me, thanks to this preparation.

Step 2: Clear-Minded Approach

I hear many people worrying about falling behind because of parental leave. I also hear about people who work through their leave, albeit in a reduced capacity, to stay on top of their jobs.

Say it with me: “NO.”

I think it’s important to remember why you’re taking parental leave in the first place. As the non-birthing parent in my relationship, I cannot speak to the physical recovery that needs to happen, but mentally, I was all over the place during my leave. This was due to a lack of sleep and an immense preoccupation with the new little one I was suddenly responsible for.

Working during your leave may even violate the terms of your company’s parental leave policy, so take the time, and actually grant yourself the ability to disconnect from work.

Disconnecting from my job temporarily gave me the opportunity to focus on being a new father. It helped strengthen the relationship between my son and me.

Not only that, but when I reentered my role, I was able to approach work with a new perspective. When I returned, I noticed several processes we were doing that no longer made sense. I attribute my time away from the day-to-day of the job to providing this clarity.

Step 3: Take it Slow

Does the idea of a full inbox scare you? If so, you’re in like-minded company. On my first day back, I strived to knock out as much waiting for me as possible. Perhaps six hours into sifting through emails, I realized this was not productive nor a worthy use of my time.

You will have a lot to catch up on, and that’s okay. Take the time you need to get acclimated. Trying to check off all your pending tasks as soon as possible is like running a marathon after sitting on your couch for a year. In one scenario, you risk severely injuring yourself. In the other, you risk severely injuring your psyche and potentially burning yourself out immediately. Not worth it.

I found solace in a slower-paced re-entry period into my role. This slower pace, mixed with the clarity of mind I spoke about in the previous section, enabled me to approach my job with a fresh perspective and desire to knock it out of the park.

Final Thoughts

When I was considering how much time I could afford to take for parental leave, my manager gave me the best advice I’ve ever received:

“You will never get this time back with your son again.”

That simple sentence hit me like a ton of bricks.

If you’re fortunate enough to work for an organization that offers parental leave, take as much of it as you can. Not only is this beneficial for your relationship with the new little one in your family, but it may also offer some much-needed fresh perspective in your career.

About the Author

Max Schosid is the Director of Channel Content Marketing and Communications at RingCentral. He is deeply interested in the art and science of effective content marketing, and has worked across industries in marketing organizations for over a decade. Before RingCentral, Max was the Marketing Production Manager at CleverFunnel Digital, a digital marketing agency for early-phase startups.

When he is not pondering good content, you’ll find Max with his wife, Madison, and his son on a hiking trail somewhere west of Denver, Colorado.