Updated: Mar 9
Clare Stafford Taylaur, an organizational psychologist, facilitator and coach, set up Conscious Consulting to help companies evolve in alignment with their desired culture and values. With over 15 years of corporate experience, Clare is keen to share her expert advice for crunchmoms to easily transition back to work after maternity leave. Here are some tips to get started.
Tell us about Clare and your career journey so far.
I worked in People & Organization related roles for 17 years, latterly as the Head of HR for a global investment and asset management firm. When I had my first child, my firm was growing rapidly. They had just opened their first international office in Rio de Janeiro. This was closely followed by Hong Kong, San Francisco, New York, London and Moscow.
I worked really hard to get to the level of being on the leadership team. With both a seat and voice at the male-dominated table, I felt it was important for me to return to work post maternity leave. I wanted to keep going and continue the learning curve.
Eventually the international travel and long working hours made me realize that I needed to leave if I wanted to have a second child. I'm so pleased I went back after Vincent as I learnt so much in that 1.5 years as the business grew and evolved quickly. At the same time, I really appreciated the time I had at home (who knew there would be a pandemic) once Otis came along.
Otis is now 14 months, and I've set up my consulting firm Conscious Consulting with the aim of having a career that allows me to use my qualifications and experience, work from home and spend time with family.
What are the most common concerns working women have about their career and pregnancy?
Naturally this is a sensitive time for a woman. We are primarily concerned about bringing a baby into the world, and want our employers to empathize and support us.
Individual concerns depend on the organizational context. Are there lots of women working there, do the men there have kids, are they set up for maternity leave so there is sufficient cover, and is the role protected / kept open for their return.
In addition, the policy around maternity leave plays a part – is it 45 days or 6 months – and is the organization open to extending the maternity leave with annual or unpaid leave if required.
If the employer is experienced and supportive of maternity leave then I feel that there are almost no concerns for the working woman. If the employer is not well versed in best practices for maternity leave, then it can be a difficult time as the working woman may feel like she has to negotiate for her right to take the appropriate time out to care for her child.
What are the most difficult decisions women need to make after having a baby?
In my view, the main choice is being honest about what is best for you as a mother. Everyone's situation is different so it's impossible to know in advance how you will feel about returning to work, being a working mother or being a stay at home mother, until you try it out.
Usually it takes some experimentation and also time. This is what I want to explore in our session together, to map and understand your current system, and see if there is a need for a shift or additional support.
What are the most difficult conversations that moms have after returning to the workplace?
One example could be negotiating adequate family time, especially when being asked to attend work calls during dinner, bath and bedtime. In these situations, the woman needs to be upfront with the team about the time she is available for work, and what is non-negotiable on the home front.
Another example could be being put forward for new projects as perhaps leaders may assume a working mom may wish to spend more time at home, but, in some cases, she may want to continue to be involved in meaningful and exciting projects...even if she has to be a bit more flexible on the home front. In this case again, good communication is key so make sure your team are aware of your priorities and capacity.
What forms does one need to fill or have in writing? What are the benefits, health insurance plans, or other legal aspects to be aware of?
Each company will have its own procedures. Typically this begins with notifying your intended start date and duration of maternity leave – either in the HRMS system or a written form.
Once the baby is born you need to get the birth certificate, and provide this to your HR team so they may request an insurance card for your baby – note that if your baby has to stay in hospital post birth, this is all covered under your insurance. Only when they leave hospital, and you need to return for appointments, will you be asked for their insurance card.
Next is the Emirates ID and in order to get the EID you first need a passport. This process depends on your nationality but once you have the passport, you can get the EID. I highly recommend outsourcing this entire workstream to your husband as you will be too preoccupied with your baby to think about forms and admin processes!
From a company perspective, they will need the Emirates ID, and passport copy of your baby. Typically the additional benefits you get for your child are annual flight tickets to your country of origin, and education allowance from the age of three or four, depending on your company policy.
What’s the best way to stay informed of ongoing opportunities and organizations while on maternity leave?
This is an interesting question, as I remember switching my work-brain off for the first six months after each of my children were born. However, you do get time to browse the internet during the long hours of breastfeeding and sitting with your baby asleep on you. I personally like LinkedIn and follow various companies there, and am in groups that interest me, so I often find news and articles of interest as well as work opportunities. It's also a good forum to connect with ex-colleagues.
Otherwise stay in touch with your manager, or other people in your team who you have a good personal relationship with – ask them to keep you updated on what is going on in your company.
Honestly though times flies while you're on maternity leave. Before you know it you'll be back in the office feeling like you never left!
How do you hope to see the professional landscape evolve for working moms over the next decade?
This is a BIG question. I hope that we continue the movement from the traditional, mechanistic, command and control organization, towards the humanistic, networked and empowered organization.
The 21st century is known as the Sophia century, which is the century when women will birth new ideas, organizations, structures and systems. It's up to us to create the working world that we wish to inhabit. I feel in the next 10 years we will step into our power and start to shift the reality of our world of work.
Don't forget to register for Clare's Connect with Crunchmoms virtual talk on Sunday, 7 March at 12 noon.