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Ah, the thrilling rollercoaster of pregnancy as a CEO – juggling spreadsheets and morning sickness with equal finesse! As a leader who’s recently been on this wild adventure and really struggled to find insight and advice online while having my initial “omg, I’m pregnant” moment – I thought that some might find it helpful to learn from my experience of how I managed to navigate pregnancy and maternity leave.

Firstly… Announcing the News: More Than Just Baby Babble

You’ve got big news to share, and it’s not about a new revenue stream. Announcing your bun in the oven to the team can be nerve-wracking, but remember, you’re not unveiling a surprise merger. Most people will be genuinely over the moon for you, not to mention relieved that your sudden aversion to office coffee finally makes sense! Just make sure that you break the news with a thought-through plan and timeline for reassurance.

The Handover Process: Passing the Baton with Pizzazz

Relax! Handing over responsibilities doesn’t mean you’re passing the buck; it’s a chance for your team to shine while you embark on mamma duties. Make a plan, do a trial run (not like a marathon, more like a baby crawl), and watch your team thrive in the spotlight.
We trialled my leave for two weeks, two months before my due date to make sure everything was planned for, and everyone (including me!) could start getting used to the idea of me not being around.

As the due date gets closer bring team members to meetings to also warm partners up to the idea of you not being around for a little while and to make the handover as smooth as possible.

Partnerships are especially important to our business model at Welsh ICE, and so I made a point of booking in meetings and setting out the plan with key partners early on – before the bump becomes the elephant in the room!

I also sent a blanket email to partners just before going on leave, accompanied by a LinkedIn post explaining who else in the team to reach out to around different aspects of the business while I was away.

And finally, just make sure you have as much as possible saved on a shared drive – evidence of important conversations, and work you’ve done towards projects etc… and give a team member access to your emails while you’re away.

Duration of Maternity Leave: Balancing Baby Coo’s and Boardrooms

Deciding how long to hibernate in baby land is like choosing between decaf and espresso – it’s a personal brew. From savouring nine months of baby bliss to hopping back into the hustle in three months, find what fits your cup of tea (or coffee). Naturally, the length of time you choose to take off will also steer the plan. For me and the team, if I had taken any longer off, we would have needed to consider maternity cover. I weighed up the pros and cons of this and presented the options to our Senior Management team to ultimately help me make the final decision of what the appropriate length of maternity leave would be right for both me and the business.

On this occasion, with baby number two, three months felt ideal with a phased return. Although admittedly, living it out did stir up lots of mixed feelings as I entered month two of my leave. I wanted to come back, and to be back involved with exciting developments, but equally, I was fully aware that you can’t get back precious time with a newborn, and I was loving every moment! 

The Return to Work Plan: Because Even Supermums Need a Game Plan

Coming back after the baby’s debut requires finesse. Consider a phased return, like dipping your toes back into the water before doing a cannonball back into the business pool. It’s all about finding that work-life-baby balance.

Personally, I took advantage of Keep in Touch (KIT) Days, choosing to take three, one a week on the final three weeks of my leave. This was a great way to ease me back in, although – WARNING, switching off again between these days was more of a challenge than I anticipated!

But still, I’m glad I chose to do this. As I write this I am using my final KIT day before I return to work officially next week! And I’m now feeling excited and ready!

For the first phase of my return, I’ve opted for working three days a week for the first 12 weeks – two from home, and one from the office. This also makes the earlier-than-average return feel much more comfortable for me and my support network at home.

Childcare: From Nappies to Deal-Making

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, so embrace what works for your circus. Whether it’s a family tag team or a professional nanny, find what works for you and roll with it.

My advice is to establish a routine as early as possible to make the handover of baby to childcarers seamless (check out the E.A.S.Y routine, and the Baby Whisperer Book to help with this).

Also, if you choose to breastfeed, stock the freezer up with expressed milk in advance of returning to work.
There is something reassuring knowing that baba is getting plenty of nutrition from you without you needing to be attached!
Although… this blog is not intended to pressure anyone to breastfeed. Forget “breast is best” – Fed is best.

Confidence Post-Baby: Rocking the Breast pump and the Boardroom

Sure, your wardrobe might be more fluffy onesies than your typical work wordrobe for a while, but confidence is still your best accessory. Embrace your new curves and perspectives – you’re a CEO, baby spit-up and all!

Personally, Vinted has become my best friend for finding clothes that fit my new curves and allowing me to express breast milk in the office with modesty without breaking the bank… although, there’s no covering the undignified, moo…moo…moo-ing of the breast pump – which has become a bit of a joke among the team. 

Conclusion: Where Work Meets Womb

Balancing work and family isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon relay. With a little humour, lots of planning, and even more support (looking at you, male colleagues), we can create a workplace where new mums and offices thrive.

So, here’s to CEOs who conquer board meetings and bedtime stories – because leadership transcends gender! Parenthood and more to the point – motherhood, shouldn’t force sacrifice to a woman’s career.

NEXT: Read What is Coworking?