Tips for a successful parental leave transition

Article excerpt taken from Parents at Work: Can ‘the juggle’ ever be smooth? – tips for a successful parental leave transition

We were recently speaking with a client about parental leave transition for their working families when the word ‘smooth’ came up in conversation. The immediate reaction (and questioning) was, can the parental leave transition ever be smooth?

Over the years our coaching team have transitioned from parental leave themselves many times over and coached countless people transitioning back to work. It is a time filled with many, often competing, emotions – anticipation, sadness, joy, guilt, excitement, optimism, fear, happiness, overwhelm.

After spending many weeks or months at home with a baby the separation can feel daunting and frightening while at the same time the thought of getting back to your career, colleagues and drinking a cup of coffee while it’s still warm is exciting. These competing emotions are completely normal and healthy. All transitions take some adjustments and our emotions are all part of a healthy adjustment process.

By definition, a transition is the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another (Cambridge Dictionary). When we become parents and navigate the return to the workforce we are navigating the change from working person to working parent. It can be a complex and stressful time working through this new identity and reality.

Having supported so many parents and carers we know there are many common things parents experience during this transition but it’s also important to recognise that every experience is different. Many times we have heard parents comment on the differences in the experience of their own transitions with bub 1, 2, 3 and more.

So can this transition be smooth?

… The answer is yes. It is possible to experience a smooth transition through parental leave and the return to work, but smooth doesn’t mean perfect.

Setting ourselves up for success and preparing for the transition is key. Having a realistic mindset and expectations are critical. It takes time to settle back into work, realign your work and family priorities and navigate.

The key to a smooth transition includes:

1. Defining what success looks like for you and your family
2. Being open about what you need at work and at home
3. Taking care of your own wellbeing
4. Finding support and connections
5. Starting as you mean to go on, set boundaries and expectations early
6. Having a flexible mindset and being open to change – there will be days things don’t go to plan – that’s ok
7. Focus on what you can control and take one day at a time
8. Be kind to yourself – transitions take time to adjust to

Having or adopting a new baby or child in our lives should be a joyful experience for all involved and doesn’t have to be hard when we take care of ourselves and remain open to the challenge. It really is all in the approach!

LISTEN to one couples’ parental leave success story in the interview below:

Gender-Equal Parental Leave in Action – A Professional Couple’s Perspective

Read what some of our coaching participants have to say about their parental leave transition:

‘The RTW transition is challenging you don’t realise it until you experience it, the coaching sessions really helped me practically solve some of the challenges I was facing and normalised what I was experiencing.’

‘The coaching was so timely for me, it not only supported my transition back to work it also helped me to maximise some professional opportunities.’

‘I was seriously struggling on my return from parental leave, the coaching support and strategies had a hugely positive impact both at work and at home.’

By Lisa Davison, Head of Coaching & Facilitation (and mother of three) at Parents At Work.

To find out more about Parents At Work’s parental leave coaching and transition support programs please contact