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A lot of what we do at Educating Matters is focused on supporting those who are already working parents and the range of challenges that presents at various ages and stages.  We also support employees through the transition to becoming working parents, along with their managers. 


I co-facilitate sessions, pre, during and post leave transition workshops with my colleague, Catherine Oliver.

She covers more of the work context whilst I focus on home related issues.  Catherine set up Sky’s parenting network and has recently written a book called ‘Working Parents-to-be’, to share her thoughts and experience. 


‘I just can’t see how I’ll be able to continue to do my role as I have been’


‘My manager’s heart is in the right place, but they don’t seem confident to engage’


‘I didn’t get an invite to the Christmas party and felt really left out’


‘Some new joiners didn’t realize I’d worked here for years!’


‘I feel guilty for not feeling guilty!’


These are all comments we have heard in sessions from employees taking parental leave and returning as working parents. And they are very typical.  But what can you do to help yourself through this transition or support others you know who are going through it?


Think ahead

For most people, their main focus when they learn they are expecting to welcome a child to their family is, understandably, on getting ready for their imminent arrival. From a work perspective, the thinking generally does get much further than trying to understand implications for pay, how long they can take off and handing over their role. But spending a little time thinking ahead to your return, before you go on leave can make a big difference.  For example, by considering what type of flexibility you might need and having an exploratory conversation at work – while there’s no pressure on either side. Or by thinking about the type of contact you want, if any, when you’re off – so that everyone is really clear once you’re on leave. 


Work together

Set the tone from the start and try and look at your parental leave as a project you work on with your manager. What you can do to make this run as smoothly as possible – for you and your organization. That may mean for example, sharing an indication of how long you think you may be away (which you are not tied to but can be incredibly helpful in planning), or talking through options for changing working arrangements on your return, and working out a solution together (vs putting a request meaning you get a yes/no answer). This becomes even more important on your return to make sure it’s working for everyone, and you get the support you need. 


Create your own return-to-work plan

Consider how you might use tools like KIT days and accrued annual leave, to help you build a personalised plan for your return to work. For example, you might want to use them to ramp up slowly (working less days initially) or to extend your leave by adding a block of holiday to the end (so you start getting paid again before you are physically back).  It’s also worth considering what a good return would look like for you. What’s going to be both realistic and important in your first few weeks / months back to give you the best chance of feeling part of the team again as quickly as possible?


These are just a few ideas. If you’d like to know more about our ‘Parental Leave Matters’ programme of workshops and 121’s for employees and managers, do get in touch. 

And for those interested in the book, ‘Working Parents-to-be: your guide to parental leave and return…what to expect and how to make it work for you’ is out on Tuesday 4th June.

You can find it on Amazon ( and at all other good bookstores.