turn your parental leave into a career glow up

Make Work Suck Less

New this week from the home office

Hey Reader,

This special Thursday edition brought to you by a three-day weekend followed by school closures, delays, and me absolutely losing my mind looking at more snow in the forecast for this weekend.

I used to love snow days and long weekends! No more.

End rant. For now.

Today continues our exploration of all things parental leave and career transition as I've moved into my third trimester and lost sight of my feet.

We are fast-approaching the "the things that fall on the floor, stay on the floor" time.

Grab your cocoa and dig in.

leveraging parental leave for a career glow up

Parental leave is a period of career transition, and is often viewed as a pause or even a step back, particularly for women. I’m going to challenge that today. The period of parental leave and return actually holds untapped potential for significant professional growth. When we look at it as a strategic opportunity to reassess and realign, this is a unique change for a career glow up.

but first, the data

  • The US is one of only seven countries that do not guarantee paid parental leave. This means moms are the default social safety net for child care (but 45% of us are also expected to continue contributing at least half of the household income). Cue my Gloria rant.
  • 17% of women (compared to just 4% of men) stop working in the five years following childbirth
  • 1 in 3 women leave their employer after parental leave, with only 48% returning to their previous role
  • Not at all surprisingly, 2 in 3 mothers would prefer full-time work, provided they can secure adequate childcare

But going back to my first point… without enough paid leave and affordable childcare, this career transition equation becomes much more difficult. Some of us in the corporate world are incredibly privileged to get the (paid) time we need and to afford essential childcare to make this career glow up a possibility.

Ok, moving on.

navigating the uncertainty

With my first pregnancy in 2021, I leveraged the parental leave transition period to move from an individual contributor role back into people leadership, building an amazing global team.

This biggest challenge is all the uncertainty that comes with bringing a new child into the world (however you choose to grow your family).

That adjustment period is rough!

Will there be complications? How long will it take me to physically recover? What if I’m not ready to return to work?

With my first, I was 50/50 whether I was going to take a year or two to be a mom or return to work. The thing that helped me most through that period was a supportive manager who didn't push me either way and gave me the space to decide what was right for me, my family, and my career. In the end, having that time to bond and reflect on what I wanted my life to look like allowed me to go back after my maternity leave ready to take on a huge new challenge.

strategize with your manager

The key is to start the conversation early. During your pregnancy, engage in open dialogues with your manager to evaluate your career trajectory post-leave.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I want to return to the same type of work?
  • Are there aspects of my current role that no longer align with my professional goals?
  • Can I identify emerging leadership needs within the organization that I am uniquely positioned to fill upon my return?

A supportive manager can be your greatest ally during this time, offering guidance without pressure, allowing you to make decisions that best suit your family and career. Remember, it's okay to communicate uncertainty. A great leader will work with you to find a path that serves your best interests.

Here are some conversation starters that may help:

  • "I've been thinking about how I can contribute differently after my return..."
  • "Could we explore possibilities for my role evolution post-leave?"

embrace the opportunity

Real talk for the overachievers among us (myself included). A 12-20 week parental leave may look like a great chance to learn new skills or earn a certification, or sit and reflect. And hey, some of you superhumans may figure that out. For the majority of us, that time is spent in bleary-eyed zombie mode with a kid attached 24/7 to a boob and the never-ending cycle of washing pump parts and bottles. Here’s where I say, give yourself grace to not be an overachiever.

Your kid is alive? You’re doing great, sweetie.

The opportunity I’m begging you to embrace is this: do the reflection and preparation before you go out on leave. And then forget work exists. Spend that time getting to know your new tiny human and the new you.

It will pay off when you do feel ready to return to work and your career, whatever that may look like going forward.

next week in MWSL

Stay tuned as I dive more into parental leave preparation with how to build a turnover plan that ensures both you and your team can make it through your leave *stress free*.

cool people doing cool shit

Coffee with Nicoa

I'm excited to join Nicoa Dunne Cornelius' (de)caffeinated conversation soon to talk about building a life by design.

The Career Clinic Podcast

Listen to Ronnie Dickerson Stewart's pod on "staying, growing, or going" in your career. It's pure gold.

Cassidy Edwards

Need y'all to run, not walk to Yo! You're On Mute. by Cassidy Edwards, HR Leader and sneakHER mogul. She's sounding off and you need to hear it.

You got this.


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Hi! I'm Cassandra Babilya.

I’m a mom, certified career coach, ex-spy, and corporate culture leader. I'm driven to make work suck less by helping women break the burnout cycle, pivot with purpose, and thrive in their careers. I believe everyone deserves to wake up excited and energized for the day. Together, let's find the perspective you need to work, create, and build from a place of joy, not dread. #makeworksuckless

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