If taking time off work for a vacation gets you anxious when the next working day looms, imagine what it would be like taking months away from work, not to mention that giving birth and caring for baby isn’t quite the same as spending a week relaxing in the Maldives. “It is two extremes,” says Huimin, who took three months off work to deliver twin girls.
Like many mothers, she felt torn between wanting to stay home with her babies and going back to a familiar schedule of activities like emails, meetings and thinking up lunch places with colleagues.
Fortunately, her boss agreed to her working part-time for six months before deciding if she wanted to come onboard fulltime again. “It gave me time to ease myself slowly into a schedule and in the end I realise that while baby is a good break from work, work is also a good break from baby,” she adds.
“Typically it’s the new mothers who have adequate childcare support who will have less emotional stress going back to work,” says HR manager Alison Ang. But some insecurities still exist – you wonder if you’re still relevant in terms of skills and efficiencies, you wonder if the people have changed, and most importantly you wonder if your colleagues will think any less of your commitment to your role now that there’s a baby to get your hands full too.
Staying with the job
Cecilia Yong, 30, was already 32 weeks pregnant when a job opportunity came by. It was for a position she had applied about eight months ago but received no news after two rounds of interviews.
She was surprised when the human resources department (HR) called and Cecilia knew it was something she desired as she had wanted to go back to full-time work after having her first child. But how to break the news to HR that she was almost eight months pregnant with her second child?
Cecilia struggled for a bit as to how she could inform the company but still give her the chance to prove her worth. Finally, she told them the truth about her situation and if they were willing to hire her till she delivered. To her surprise, they did.
So just a few days shy of 33 weeks, she was hired as the communications manager in an American MNC. She worked for the next five weeks before she delivered her second child at 38 weeks.
“Till this day, I’d never know what made them hire a 33-week pregnant woman! Knowing that I would deliver any time, but they did. I stayed with the company for the next six years and we both never regretted the decision,” says Cecilia.
Because Cecilia proved to be an effective and efficient worker, her boss and employer agreed to give her another month’s paid maternity leave when she had her third child. Not to take her boss’ kindness for granted, she brought her laptop home during her maternity leave to keep in touch and up-to-date with company news and events.
It made the move back to full-time work after her maternity leave much easier. She could get back immediately into the swing of things at her office and colleagues as she was in communication with them during her leave period.
Cecilia says, “I never ‘left’ the organization during my leave. I was in most, if not all the e-mail correspondence and participated in as many project tele-conferences as I could. I even brought my son to the office when he was one month old, to celebrate the occasion with my colleagues.”