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Taking extended maternity leave

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Three years ago, I chose an uncomfortable path in my career. It was not planned, and it was not premeditated to a large extent. But it was one that women the world over grapple with when they decide to start families of their own. In my case, I was on maternity leave and the only indulgence I was going to make was to extend it by three months.

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When the three months came and went, I experienced something I had not before – the fact that for the first time in my life something took more precedence over my career. My child. Over the last two years, I have met women who chose this path and shared some experiences along the way.

As difficult a decision as it is, there are going to be moments when taking extended leave for whatever reason is going to feel like it was the best decision for your baby but the worst decision for your career. In my experience though, the upside far outweighs any downside.

Brace yourself

Anything over the mandated three months is likely to leave you feeling some uncertain emotions once you rejoin your place of work. There’s a chance that you could be skipped over for promotions you had expressed interest in and if the company underwent a review period, you could miss on the chance to negotiate for a pay rise.

Sometimes, your colleagues may not feel as if you have the right to have taken extended leave and you may feel unwelcome especially if you have not been in the firm for a long time. All these could lead to you feeling self-doubt in your abilities. It is important to recognize that this is normal and it only increases with subsequent growth of your family.

Bounce back

The women I have spoken to have handled this situation in different ways. One of them, when she was getting ready to have her second child, took the time out to find an opportunity in another organization.

It is important to note that sometimes, it is easier to find a job while you are already within another organization as opposed to making a clean break and then starting your search. Another took the opportunity to take part-time course and make herself more marketable for the next step of her career.

Either way, take your maternity leave absence to rediscover what makes you excited and think about your value proposition in a new light.

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