Part 2: Making Maternity Leave Work for You

Pregnant woman sitting in a rocking chair looking at her belly

There are many opinions about how to approach maternity leave, and rightfully so. Each new mom and their employer have a different set of needs and expectations. This two-part series suggests some key things you should consider while planning your maternity leave. In Part 1: Making Maternity Leave Work for You we talked about:

  • Starting your leave early
  • Saving your vacation time, and
  • Easing back into work.

Here are some additional things to consider.

Propose an alternative work schedule.

Returning to work full-time, or being in office every day, may not be the best fit for your situation. It all depends on you and your baby’s needs, your role/work responsibilities, and your employer’s needs. Again, the right setup is different for everyone. If your role, responsibilities, and personality are a good fit, there may be an opportunity to adjust your working schedule and/or environment:

  • You may want to return to work earlier, but work part-time or work from home. This is a win-win for everyone. It allows you to ease back into work and your employer has you reengaged earlier.
  • You may want to work from home full-time or 2-3 days per week.
  • You may want to work part-time for now.
  • You may want to take a longer leave or not return at all.

Be sure you clearly communicate your needs to your employer, but be open to considering their perspective. Propose a few options so your employer has choice and flexibility, but only propose what you can live with.

As for the appropriate period of time, an alternative schedule that lasts until baby is six months to one year seems to be a reasonable length of time. Six months is often a magical turning point in your baby’s development and your recovery.

  • Babies are much more interactive, communicative, and wanting to socialize.
  • Breastfeeding is more established.
  • Routines and sleeping/eating patterns are more established.
  • Many women are ready to be active outside of the home, and wanting to return to work.

Understand your partner’s parental leave.

Knowing what parental leave is available to your partner, and having a plan for saving/using their vacation time is as equally important as it is for you!

Having your partner at home the first week or two after birth is ideal (and a luxury) for an extra set of hands and for bonding time with baby. Also, many women find that having their partner at home at the end of their maternity leave makes the first week or two back at work more manageable. You could use your partner’s parental leave and vacation time to maximize the amount of time you are able to keep your baby at home before starting daycare.

Know your budget constraints.

There will likely be financial implications in any scenario. Make sure you have an accurate picture of your finances and the potential impact of taking unpaid leave, moving to part-time work, etc. The more informed you are about your actual expenses and financial health, the more confident you will be in your decisions.

Be open to change and know your value.

Be flexible and open to change. How you feel about your maternity leave may change after you hold your baby for the first time, or in the early days at home with your child, and that’s okay!

Whatever you decide, make sure you choose what works best for you! This is a very brief, but important phase of your life. And, while it might seem like forever to your employer or colleagues, your time away from work will be brief compared to most women in the world.

Remember your value as an employee! You will get back into the swing of your work routine. It might look or feel different, but you will return.

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