For many new parents, getting back to work after having a baby is the first - and biggest - hurdle to staying in a career.
What can really help is fully understanding the possibilities - both during and after parental leave - and having the transparent conversations that you need to have at work and at home so that both you and your team can plan ahead for your re-entry.
In this podcast, lawyer, author and entrepreneur @Sandra Runge takes us through some of the options, starting with her own experience as a cautionary tale: when she came back to her job as head of a legal department 10 years ago, she found an empty office where her computer had been, was told that her role had been outsourced, handed her notice and sent home. Although she was devastated at the time, she says now that the experience changed her life for the better.
Today, she gives legal and professional advice to parents who want to return to work; she has set up kindergartens to provide childcare solutions for working parents; she runs campaigns for better legal frameworks as the co-founder of ProParents; and she has written a celebrated book - "Glückwunsch zum Baby, sie sind gefeuert!” - or “Congratulations on your baby, you’re fired!"
All this experience has has taught her that preparing to come back to work takes more than organising child-care: it takes courage, communication - and perhaps a step or two outside your comfort zone.
She explains why brilliantly in this podcast, but essentially, her advice boils down to:
⭐️ Communicate, even if it means challenging the status quo. "Communication is one of the most important parts of a strategy coming back to work,” says Sandra. "Look for a conversation, ask for a meeting, come by when the baby is born, participate in activities of the company like a training day, or a summer party or Christmas party of whatever. Keep in contact with colleagues - and from time to time talk to your employer to ask for updates. I know you are in this baby bubble and it’s not always easy to go there - but it’s really good to be active and to show your face.” For employers, it can be a good idea to check in with your parental leavers from time to time.
⭐️ Be bold. “Ask for an onboarding after your parental leave,” suggests Sandra, so that you know "what will happen when you come back and who will tell you what your responsibilities are.” She suggests asking for a mentor too - it would benefit both you and your company.
⭐️ Cover your legal bases and put any important decisions on the record: "When you have meetings and your manager is saying part-time is no problem, fix it in a written form."
⭐️ Pave the way for others. By coming back to work as a parent, you automatically become a role model for others, gradually changing the culture in your place of work. For a company to be family-friendly, it doesn’t need to make a big financial investment, says Sandra: "it's more the mindset - that there are role models, managers in a higher position that work part time, fathers that work part time - that this is really the real life that is lived in the company.” You are a part of that!
♦️ I would like to add to this:
Whatever your company's policies, everyone can be proactive about removing those initial hurdles. If we all do it, we can change the narrative around parental leave and working parents, together ❤️
Listen to my full conversation with Sandra here -
and let me know what experiences you’ve had coming back to work after your parental leave - I’d love to hear from you!
Speaker: Sandra Runge - lawyer, author, entrepreneur
Interviewer: Dr. Ricarda Engelmeier - Founder @MyCollective
Music: sponsored by @Michaelkadelbach
Picture: Manu Wolf / Sandra Runge
Graphic & Production: MyCollective
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