By Gabrielle Olya, GoBankingRates featuring Cecilia T. Williams, CFP®, AIF®, Director of Investment Operations/CCO at Halbert Hargrove

GOBankingRates wants to empower women to take control of their finances. According to the latest stats, women hold $72 billion in private wealth — but fewer women than men consider themselves to be in “good” or “excellent” financial shape. Women are less likely to be investing and are more likely to have debt, and women are still being paid less than men overall. Our “Financially Savvy Female” column will explore the reasons behind these inequities and provide solutions to change them. We believe financial equality begins with financial literacy, so we’re providing tools and tips for women, by women to take control of their money and help them live a richer life.

In today’s column, we’re chatting with Cecilia Williams, CFP, director of investment operations/CCO at Halbert Hargrove, about how to prepare a “maternity leave roadmap” to take the stress out of maternity leave, and how to actually disconnect when you go on leave. Williams has firsthand experience with mat leave and is sharing how the proper planning can help you make the most of your own so that you can enjoy that time with your baby.

Many women are stressed about leaving co-workers in a tough spot when they go on maternity leave, but the proper planning can ensure she is well covered. How far in advance should a woman start creating a plan prior to her leave?

I would say at least six months, so maybe around the time that you tell your employer that you’re pregnant. From our experience and what we’ve seen, there are just so many hats that you’re probably wearing, if you wait until the last minute to start documenting, there will be things you overlook or [things that get missed] because they don’t come up as often, like a quarterly task. Starting six months out and documenting everything you do will be safe. Then you have a long time period to build the procedures and make sure that you can think through your backups.

What should be covered in this roadmap?

You should document every single thing you do from the moment you sign in. What normal tasks do you do every single day? What do you do weekly? Make sure that you’re tracking it. The stuff that ends up tripping people up are the “obvious” things that you do every day but don’t think twice about. It could be very simple to move [these tasks] to someone, but it could be something that is a huge blind spot because it’s so obvious to you that you don’t think to write it down.

How often should this plan be reviewed and reevaluated?

You should have a check-in at least once a month up until your due date. For me personally, at my seven-month mark, I started transitioning all of my tasks to the backups that I knew were going to be handling them during my maternity leave [so that I could be there for] the run-through, and make sure that they could do the tasks themselves as if I wasn’t there. That way, if I missed something, they could ask me questions.

Make sure you go through that monthly before you go out in case your job responsibilities change or the procedures change, and review it and revise it. I actually still have my maternity procedures from three years ago because they were so well documented! If there’s something I do monthly, I reference that list still.

How can women ensure they actually completely turn off from work while they are on maternity leave?

That peace of mind is critical. You’re always worried, what if something disastrous happens? What if something big happens that the firm really needs your help on?

I had an agreement with my boss and my colleagues, if there was something catastrophic, they would call me. That gives you peace of mind that you don’t need to check your email, you don’t need to check in. If anything big were to happen, they would let you know. The chances of something happening are very small, but I think that takes away the urge to keep checking in “just in case.” If something were really bad, they will call you. It did help me a lot in relaxing — knowing there was nothing in my email I needed to check on a constant basis. It helped me with being present and ensure I was enjoying my maternity leave.

Any tips for dealing with the guilt that may come with offloading your work onto others?

That’s a big part of when you leave — you feel like you’re leaving everyone hanging and you feel guilty about it. For the guilt part of it, remind yourself that people are really happy for you and they want to help you. They want to step in and do what they can. For the most part, they’re so happy to help anyone out. Reminding yourself of that is really helpful. Of course, it’s a little bit more work for the people who are backing you up, but for the most part, if you can split the responsibilities between multiple people, it eases the workload a bit. Give yourself a break. Everyone’s excited for this new transition for you so they’re happy to step in.

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