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You did it! You’re in the home stretch of your pregnancy and can finally imagine a time when your baby will be in your arms and out of your belly!

Before you head into total nesting mode (and hopefully a long maternity leave), there are a few key considerations to remember so that you can be confident both your job and your reputation will be safe in your absence:

1. Have I made a maternity leave checklist?

Before you even discuss time off with your supervisor, it might be helpful to chat with others who have taken leave to learn about their experiences and challenges. Use their advice to craft a checklist to guide your leave.


Make sure your checklist contains the following:

-Documentation of all your work streams

-Careful identification of who will handle each aspect of your workload

-Knowledge transfer and training time to get replacements up to speed -

-Creation of any necessary documentation and materials for these projects

-Determination of when you will hand over the reigns

-Processes for communication and troubleshooting

-Relevant industry and trends research to keep up while on leave

-A careful plan of return

2. How involved will I be with work during my leave?

Make sure your supervisor, colleagues, and any external stakeholders are informed about your communication plan so that no surprises or confusion arise while you’re out.

Use your leave as an opportunity for direct reports and colleagues to grow in their roles with new challenges and responsibilities.

Create measurable goals so that your presence is felt while also implementing a supervision system for others to evaluate the performance of your team at regular intervals.

Promoting the professional development of others will produce mutually beneficial results upon your return.

Establish clear rules for communication, noting both expected outreach from you (e.g. check ins once per month) as well as boundaries for outreach from work (e.g. the who, how, when, and why).

3. When was my last performance review?

Prior to maternity leave is a great time to capture all of your recent accomplishments and make them known to your supervisor and team.

Try to get face time with any key players before your leave to express your commitment and focus.

You want everyone to remember your value even while you are out of the office.

This is your chance (armed with your handy maternity checklist) to demonstrate delegation, coordination, and mentoring skills as you portion out aspects of your role.

As noted above, devise metrics and goals for others to meet so that you can be a part of the progress during your leave and upon return.

Documenting these achievements can also be useful in case you encounter any discrimination during or after maternity leave.

4. Are my leave payments or vacation days in place?

There is often a lot of red tape to cut through to ensure your maternity leave payments are established, whether they are coming directly from your company, supplemented by a federal or state program, or some combination thereof.

Prior to starting your time off, meet with human resources to review your file and complete any missing forms.

This list of questions is helpful to prepare for your meeting and take action.

Get everything in writing and keep copies of all the forms so that you can be prepared for any disputes.

5. What is my plan for return?

In a perfect world, you would be rested and ready to return to work after your leave.

In reality, whether you want to go back to work or are dreading it, you will likely be exhausted and emotionally conflicted about leaving your baby.

No matter how long you are out, caring for a newborn can take a toll and you want to plan for a successful return in this new normal.

If possible, try to avoid starting on a Monday so that you don’t have a whole week ahead of you.

Even better would be to establish a graduated return that allows you to work part-time as you ramp back up.

Be sure to request flexible work options if none are in place already, as you could be the pioneer that shifts company policies.

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Motherhood is a practice in learning, growing and loving more than you ever thought possible. Even as a "veteran" mama of four young sons and one newly adopted teenager, Jalyssa Richardson enthusiastically adapts to whatever any given day has in store—a skill she says she's refined through the years.

Here's what just one day in her life looks like:

Jalyssa says she learned to embrace agility throughout her motherhood journey. Here's more from this incredible mama of five boys.

What is the most challenging part of your day as a mom of five?

Time management! I want to meet each of the boys' individual needs—plus show up for myself—but I often feel like someone gets overlooked.

What's the best part of being a mom of five?

The little moments of love. The hugs, the kisses, the cuddles, the smiles... they all serve as little reminders that I am blessed and I'm doing okay.

Are there misconceptions about raising boys?

There are so many misconceptions about raising boys. I think the biggest one is that boys don't have many emotions and they're just so active all the time. My boys display many emotions and they also love to be sweet and cuddly a lot of the time.

What do you think would surprise people the most about being a mom of five?

How much I enjoy it. I never knew I wanted to be a mom until I was pregnant with my first. My desire only grew and the numbers did! I am surprised with every single baby as my capacity to love and nurture grows. It's incredible.

How do you create balance and make time for yourself?

Balance for me looks like intentional planning and scheduling because I never want my boys to feel like they aren't my first priority, but it is extremely difficult. What I try to do is not fit it all into one day. I have work days because motherhood is my first priority. I fit in segments of self-care after the kids' bedtime so I don't grow weary.

What's the biggest lesson you have learned from motherhood?

I have learned that sacrifice is actually beautiful. I was terrified of the selflessness motherhood would require, but I've grown so much through the sacrifice. There is nothing better than living for something bigger than myself.

When did you first feel like a mom? How has your motherhood evolved?

I first felt like a mom when I was pregnant with my first son and I intentionally chose to change my eating habits so my body could be strong and healthy for him. I didn't have to think twice—I just did what I thought would be best for him. That decision being so effortless made me realize I was made for motherhood.

My perspective has changed with each baby as I've realized motherhood doesn't have to be one-size-fits-all. With my first son, I was a by-the-book mama and it was so stressful. With each baby, I have felt more freedom and it has made motherhood so much more beautiful. I have evolved into the mother that they need, I am perfect for these boys.

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