Returning to Work: The Basics

Not surprisingly, the whole concept of returning to work after having a baby starts the day you get pregnant.  I wish we lived in a society that treated maternity leave as necessity and not a burden.  I wish we all could have jobs with unbelievable paid maternity leave (looking at you Google), but we don’t.

I have taken maternity leave twice now and I had less than ideal circumstances with both.  My first piece of advice is to know your rights and know your employer’s maternity leave policies.  Ideally, you should talk to your HR director (or whoever holds this information) before talking to your supervisor/manager/boss.  Know what is available to you before you even spill the beans.  Before I got pregnant with my first child, I naively thought that every job was protected by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  This is, unfortunately, not the case.  When I told my supervisor that I was pregnant, it did not take her long to drop the bomb on me that my job was both not protected under FMLA and that she was only required to give me 6 weeks of time off (insert face drop). I was completely caught off guard by this information and naturally emotional (thanks pregnancy hormones!) so I didn’t even know how to respond. I didn’t have a game plan of how to negotiate this while 1. getting the maternity leave that I wanted and 2. not jeopardizing my job.  Lesson learned. When I told my (different) supervisor that I was pregnant with my second child I already knew that my job was protected under FMLA, I knew how much paid time off I had already accrued and could accrue before having the baby, and I knew what I wanted. I was more confident and knowledgable going into the conversation.  I was better able to negotiate without letting emotion get the best of me.

Once you have established your maternity leave and likely still have six months (give or take) before your baby arrives, you can sit back and enjoy the rest of your pregnancy right? Wrong.  Now you have to start looking at daycares/nannies/home daycare providers/etc.  Infant childcare spots usually come at a premium and can book up MONTHS in advance. We paid $50 a month for about 5 months to hold our son’s place at a home daycare provider.  Your financial situation and what you want in a child care provider will direct your search.  I was not a fan of the traditional daycare center associated with the hospital that I worked for and most other daycare centers didn’t impress me either.  That’s why I made the choice to look into home daycares. For the record, we don’t have the means to have a private nanny, but if you do, more power to you! Even before your baby is born you’ll panic over the thought of anyone else but you taking care of your bundle of joy.  While it may have been slightly neurotic, I made a list of questions. I asked lots of questions. I researched. I interviewed. I thought. I prayed.  As with the decision to return to work, I changed my mind multiple times a day.   You should feel good about your decision. It should fit your wants and needs.  At the end of the day you should not have a bad feeling about the person you chose to care for your unborn child.  I’m convinced that “mommy instinct” kicks in the second you get pregnant.

For what it’s worth, my second child started at a traditional daycare where my first was attending preschool. Needs change with each kid.

My final piece of advice as you prepare your maternity leave and ultimate return to work, plan ahead.  Babies come when they want. Everyone will tell you that you’ll be late with your first born and you’ll go into labor a week early (personal experience).  When you get pregnant with your second you’ll be convinced that since your first born came early your next surly will as well.  Then you’ll be past your due date and looking at an induction (also personal experience). You’ll plan a vaginal birth and end up having a c-section.  You have to make your plans, and plan for the unexpected.  That’s what motherhood is all about anyway!

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