Maternity leave is like that big pink elephant in the room, watching as you wrestle with power in a corporate world, patiently waiting for you to check out. No one speaks of its presence, yet how you take advantage of the “privilege” of maternity leave dictates your longevity in a profession you worked so hard to master. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, describes the trepidation in taking maternity leave like this:

“When I went out for maternity leave, you know, everyone was afraid to talk to me about it. So I worried. I worried about my job. I worried it wouldn’t be there for me”.

No mum-to-be wants to risk losing her job just before starting a family, nor is giving up a promising career acceptable either. So for those of us who want to start a family and keep a clear eye on our career trajectory, we are more likely to stay ahead of the curve by tapping into some of the maternity leave secrets that have worked for women in higher-level positions with happy kids at home.

But first, here is a caveat to ponder over:

Is Lengthy Maternity Leave an Outdated System for High-Achieving Women?

Women in high-level jobs are not only automatic role models for working women across multiple ranks, but are also subjected to greater amounts of public scrutiny. When female executives choose brief maternity leave, as in the case of high profile Yahoo! CEO, Marissa Mayer, who took two weeks after given birth to twins, or Ivanka Trump who took eight days to be back in the boardroom, their actions may be influencing decisions that other bosses make on traditional maternity leave. These women’s individual decisions unintentionally may impact other working mums labouring (no pun intended) near the bottom ranks of business.

The truth is that as we advance in our careers, we are granted more autonomy, and with it certain privileges not accessible to all women. These privileges include the flexibility to re-negotiate the conditions for maternity leave or the option to take a “working” maternity leave, which might involve making only a few strategic calls from a mobile, scheduling video conferences, sending emails, or participating in a short meeting to wrap up a contract.

Other privileges include a higher income that ensures several support systems are put in place at home, such as a nanny, day-care, and private nurse to help minimise the stress load as we balance work-life priorities.

Personally, I felt a similar fear to Sheryl Sandberg’s in my introduction to this topic. Unfortunately, it is a common and vicious cycle in which women are discouraged from their careers by a working environment not designed in our favour. Nevertheless, I have been inspired by scores of top female executives who made it to the top by going against outdated rules.

Here, I share four maternity leave secrets I feel will  help uplift your career and maintain a nurturing family life.

1. Decide Early On What Impact Your Absence will have During Maternity Leave

The nature of your work projects and its projected status up to the time of your maternity leave are factors used to determine length of maternity leave. Work projects may include delivering on important deadlines, closing of sales contracts, and  steering a new promotional brand to completion. Naturally, the health of your pregnancy will take first priority and dictate the course of action into maternity leave. Bottomline, your absence should generate little to no productivity loss or revenue loss, and minimise the risk of someone else taking over your spot.

2. Choose the Amount of Maternity Leave that Best Supports Your Work-Life Goals

Unlike much of the United States, European nations (and most other parts of the world) grant paid maternity leave with generous opportunities to nurture your baby. However, long maternity leave have statistically been shown to railroad many promising careers for women, putting us on a “mummy track” instead of a career track from which its difficult for us to exit. Therefore, choose maternity leave options that best suits your work-life goals.

3.  A “Working Maternity Leave” Keeps you Plugged in

With flexible hours and accessible work teams able to execute your decisions from home, you can opt for a working maternity leave and stay plugged into the developments of each work day. The reality is that with some managerial positions you can orchestrate the runnings of the office very carefully from home, keeping your career intact and baby happy with less effort than originally perceived. This flexibility is key why maternity leave may seem outdated for high-achieving women with lots of obligations.

4.  Have Open Negotiations with your HR Department

Consider having open dialogue with your HR Department about custom maternity arrangements. Start by negotiating your maternity leave requirements, discuss important contracts that can be handled from home, and recommend how staffing and projects can be planned around your absence. With formal arrangements in place, you can achieve blissful bonding with your child in the early months with little worry about missing out on job promotions or losing your job.

Let’s not feel insecure about wanting both a career and family.

I see a solidly growing number of fearless Fortune 500 females who have made tremendous success of carefully managing their careers and families–of course, with huge sacrifices–and that’s what it takes to be a in charge of your destiny. I am determined to do the same.