Having A Baby? 4 Startup-Friendly Steps To Prep For Your Leave 👶

Having A Baby? 4 Startup-Friendly Steps To Prep For Your Leave 👶

Yay babies!!!!!!

Very similar to startups.

They never go exactly as planned, more expensive than you thought, but you can’t not love them!!!!

Last week, we talked about free and low cost ways that startups can support expecting parents (even on a tight budget)!

This week is for the expecting parents!

Having done 2 parental leaves, at 2 different startups, both times as the first parent and/or mom to go out on leave, I’ve learned a few tricks along the way.

YES: high level structure, planning, communication
NO: Trying to cover every detail or scenario ahead of time

As we know, things at startups change quickly. By the time you update documentation, it’s out of date.

So, while it’s important to have some documentation, it’s a fool’s errand (aka exhausting and unnecessary) to overplan or cover every contingency.

Here are my 4 recommendations (PLUS **TWO** TEMPLATES) to prep for parental leave!

1. Set up a password management tool.

The most high tech recommendation on this list.

Get yerself a password tool so you can easily share logins, store credit card info, and whatever else you don’t even realize you use regularly.


  • Security, duh. Spreadsheets of passwords are a normal but terrible startup practice. Password managers let you share passwords securely. Not that Slack or a Google Doc isn’t a good option. 🙃🥴😂

  • Control access to the sharing of passwords or other sensitive info — including keeping track of who has access to what (aka that intern from 3 years ago who can still login to your AWS account…).

  • Database — it’s easy to miss or forget a tool if you make a list. A password manager gives you a comprehensive list on-demand, no remembering necessary.

  • Always up-to-date. No need to update a separate doc or reshare a new pw with someone. If you update a password, it pushes updates automagically to anyone else sharing that login.

I like LastPass (I’ve used it for a long time and it does what I need) but there are other good ones too.

2. Create a point-of-contact spreadsheet.

Less is more when it comes to product design and parental leave documents.

Here is my favorite format for a parental leave planning document:

It’s a single-source-of-truth spreadsheet to be circulated across the company, pinned in a Slack channel, reviewed before you leave, and generally get aligned on!

In case that’s not simple and clear enough…I even made you a TEMPLATE:

The O’Daily: Parental Leave Planning Template

Obviously some important pre-work goes into this:

  1. Identify what you’re responsible for (more than you realize because #startups 😂)

  2. Figure out who can handle it while you’re out (let someone spread their wings!)

  3. Run it by your boss, the people handling items, their boss, etc. Get approval from all stakeholders.

  4. Highlight any major gaps in training, coverage, or resources and come up with a plan!

It’s usually 5-20 lines (aka “Items” that need coverage). More than that and you’re getting too granular.

For example, if you normally plan the company offsite, there may be 10 people who pitch in to help with different items but only 1 “who to ask/DRI” person on the doc.

3. Establish a communication plan.

Parental leave is not one-size-fits-all.

Hopefully someone asks you what you want but either way, spend some time thinking about how much and in what ways you want to stay up-to-speed on company happenings.

Your initial thought may be, “Not at all,” which is valid and possible in some roles.

But what if your manager leaves? What if the company has a major product pivot? What if they hire someone for your team? What if you’re the CEO or C-suite?

There may be certain decisions or items that come up so talking about when and how to reach out ahead of time can be helpful.

Your communication plan is a great item to add as Tab 2 on your ^^ Point-of-Contact Spreadsheet!

(Yes, it’s already included in the Parental Leave Planning Template!)

For example, here’s my plan from when I was a startup COO and took 12 weeks:

  • Company weekly update email sent to my personal email

  • Work email stayed active with a parental leave OOO but I turned off notifications

  • Signed out of Slack

  • CEO or team members would text me if something was urgent or important

I think I might have gotten 1 text about a password/login issue and the CEO called me about hiring a Chief Customer Officer (who I had already met and was awesome). Perfect!

Everyone was very respectful and never took advantage.

If you want to stay more involved, be clear about decision making and communication expectations. (Tbh - these are always good to be clear on, even without a baby!)

Clarify communication and decision questions like:

  • What decisions can the team make, what do you need to decide?

  • How quickly will you respond?

  • What channels will you respond on?

  • If no response, should the team wait or do what they think is best?

NOTE: You have to follow your own protocol! If you say, I’m not checking email but then you reply to email, that’s confusing. Then people will email you and expect you to reply. And you’ll be like, why is no one respecting the plan?? And then you have to look in the mirror and say, oops, and do a reset. 😁

4. Implement your plan before you’re out.

Remember that awesome spreadsheet of who does what while you’re out?

Start it several weeks before you plan to be out!

  • Dress rehearsal! Starting early lets everyone practice, ask questions, figure out where the gaps or sticking points are before you’re unavailable.

  • Unknown timeline. Babies arrive when they want to. Sometimes early, sometimes late. So let’s just go ahead and plan for early so we’re pleasantly surprised if you’re around for longer.

  • Calm before the storm. Expecting a baby whether you’re growing one, someone close to you is, or you’re adopting is busy and exhausting work. What better way to give yourself a teeny tiny respite by handing things off a little bit ahead? It’s smart for the business, for your own health and wellbeing, and for the baby! Being stressed out of your mind is not the ideal way to welcome a child into the world — though it’s happened many a time and turns out fine! 😉

BONUS: Standard Operating Procedure Template

Jacey Cadet is our incredible VP of Marketing and Community at Atlanta Ventures — who just had a baby!!!!!!!!


Jacey was already an organization and process power house so this wasn’t “new” for leave but rather her normal MO.

Every event, podcast, newsletter, social post, or any other thing we’ve done 1 or more times, has a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) doc.

She kindly shared her Standard Operating Procedure Template knowing I was writing on this topic!!

Steps, tools, timeline, copy, images, everything you could possibly want all in one doc or folder.

This is great for known and recurring activities especially with multiple stakeholders.

As I mentioned before, some startup tasks or projects are too “one-off”, evolving, or even unknown, to document. Then your best option is to train at least 1 person, ideally 2, on the basics and let them run with it from there!

Plan well but don’t go crazy.

Yes, you want to do a reasonable job of preparing others and covering your responsibilities.

But it’s a startup, people!!!!

There’s no way to cover every possible scenario when things change so quickly and everything is an edge case.

And if your company is doing it right, there are good people around you who will do a great job while you’re out! (If there aren’t, that’s another issue, unrelated to parental leave. 🥴)

So do your prep work and then let go.

With babies and startups, you can only control so much.

Let the fun and joy of the adventure unfold!

What’s your best advice, resource or tool for expecting parents to prepare for leave? What worked well for you? What was the most helpful advice you received?