Many women are torn when considering taking time from their career to have a baby. On the career side, they are worried about being forgotten by their team (and their boss), whether their pay growth will suffer in the short and long run, and whether they will lose out on potential promotions. On the family front, they worry about childcare, about leaving a baby to hired help when they return to the workforce, and about impending exhaustion! While there is no advice that will calm all of these worries, there are some pointers that can help. In our feature video, Political Strategist Aya Desimone offers up some great advice on how to prepare for maternity leave whether you’re in your 20’s or 30’s.
In your 20’s
If you’re in your 20’s and don’t have babies on the brain yet, it’s still a good idea to plan for your potential maternity leave. I know, it’s hard to think about changing diapers
when your biggest concern is where to meet your friends for drinks or that next fabulous vacation, but you won’t be sorry for being prepared if or when the time comes. If possible, sock away some extra cash to cover the expense of having children (unpaid leave, child care costs, unexpected health care costs, etc.) and learn from friends or colleagues who have gone through the process. Overall, the best way to ensure your career doesn’t suffer, is to always fully engage and network with colleagues, so they know and understand your worth.
In your 30’s
If you’re in your 30’s and in a more senior level position at your company, engage your team and your immediate supervisors/managers on not only your plan for your time away, but also your plan for reentry. In fact, according to Aya, planning for reentry is even more critical than planning for your time away! The key is to communicate and make sure your plan for your maternity leave aligns with your team and supervisor’s vision. If not, make adjustments accordingly before you leave. Returning to work after a baby is challenging enough, so do yourself a favor and try to make that transition as easy as possible by knowing what to expect upon your return.
Know your company’s Maternity Leave policy AND your rights
Companies are not required to give employees paid time off during maternity leave. There are, however, laws in place to protect working parents from losing their jobs while away on leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is one such law. Enacted in 1993, the FMLA protects parents’ jobs – without pay – for up to 12 weeks after the birth or adoption of a child. There are stipulations – company size, proximity to your work, etc. – so make sure you do your homework.
In addition to knowing state and federal laws surrounding maternity leave, speak with your immediate supervisors, managers or your HR department about your company’s maternity leave policy. Every company is different so make sure to ask questions!
Your feelings may change
Having a child is a life changing event. Understand that your feelings toward work or parenting may change after the birth of your child/children. Maybe you will feel ready to get back to work 8 weeks after birth, or maybe you will decide not to return at all. Things change, circumstances change, so be aware (and open to the idea) that your original plan may take some twists and turns!
Self-employed? Here are some articles to help you navigate planning for Maternity Leave if you work for yourself: