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Readers Respond: Good and Bad Maternity Leave Experiences

Responses: 9

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It's hard to plan for maternity leave when you're pregnant. How much should you commit to and how much should you leave flexible? Here's a chance to share your maternity leave plan with other working moms. Make sure to say what worked and what didn't in your maternity leave. Please share any specific language, written or spoken, that won over your employer. If you're an expectant mom, let us know what your current maternity leave plan is! What Worked for You?

Dreading my Return

I took off the full 3 months, but then a hurricane came, and they cancelled classes at my school, so we have to make up the lost day later in the year -- after I return from my leave. I also lost a day because my sub didn't want to cover me an extra day, letting me start back on a Monday. I have to start back on a Friday instead! :( People are very insensitive to new moms in this world!
—wmcr01

3 weeks

Since I had my daughter while I was in college, I went back to class a week after she was born - then school ended when she was one month old and I had to go to summer school immediately after. I got one month off when she was 3 months old and then it was back to school again... I don't think it was super "hard" on me but I do regret not being able to spend more time with her one on one. This was 5 years ago and I am still sad about it. With my next baby I am FOR SURE taking off for at least 3 months. No exceptions!
—Guest Gwynne

What I didn't know about leave

I share two quirky things from my experience. One, my leave was short-term disability, and during that leave, I did not accrue paid time off. So in the first year of my baby's life, I had a reduced number of paid/sick days to work with. I understand that rule, but it was unfortunate. Second, my "disability" started at the end of 2009 and ran through January of 2010. But because of our policy against carrying over unused paid time off, I was unable to add my unused 2009 time to the end of the maternity leave, because it was in the next calendar year. And I couldn't use it in the beginning right after delivery because the doctor has to certify that the disability begins at birth. I felt like I was punished for having a baby at the end of the year. I had to use five days of 2010 vacation and one week of FMLA to bridge the gap until my daycare slot opened. In the end, I had significantly fewer vacation/sick days to work with during 2010.
—Guest Mary

3 months 1st time 6 weeks 2nd time

With my first, I took 3 months. It got me through the "4th trimester", which was great. Then I phased back into wook. With my 2nd, I only took 6 weeks off, and I regretted it. Six weeks doesn't give your body and your mind enough time to recover, even if you only go back part time or with a flex work schedule. Kate www.careermama.net
—Guest Kate

Phase back if you can

My employer offers a phase-back plan and it is so great. After the main leave we then get to work half-time for 8 weeks at full pay (I know, very generous). It has been great for me and the babies to adjust to child care, establish a good nursing relationship, etc. Even if your company does not offer this I think it is worth it to give up a week or two of leave and spread it over several weeks to give yourself short weeks. The FMLA allows you to do this, if you are eligible.
—Guest KitKat

Take All The Time You Can

Do whatever you have to do to take as much time as possible. Sit down and figure out how much money you're REALLY making after paying for childcare (infants are more expensive!), convenience foods, dry cleaning, house cleaning, etc. It might not be that much money, and you might be able to live without it for a few months. I was "making" about $400/month on my 60k salary. We found ways to save money instead, so I could take leave. If you can, go back part-time or less than full-time for a week or two in order to ease back into it. I went back full-time right away, while breast-feeding, and that was HARD.
—Guest Violet

First leave too short, second just right

My first leave with my first baby I took just eight weeks off. What worked...a supportive husband helping me sterilize my breast pump parts/bottles, giving me foot massages, and my husband being our house chef, so I could arrive, hop into the rocking chair, hold, and breastfeed our baby. My second leave was 10 and a half weeks - just right for me. What worked...I planned out my time- family and friend visits, walks/picnics in the park. The last week, I did a practice office day, organized office/did meet and greets with colleagues. Treasure breastfeeding moments-- before you know it you'll be at the dinner table having a conversation with your soon-to-be 6-year old. I'm referring to my daughter-what a loving experience breastfeeding was for us. There is no magic bullet for the length of a maternity leave, but it’s what you do with the time you’re afforded-have no regrets!
—westernmassmama

Start Planning When the Stick Reads +

As soon as I found out I was expecting I began thinking about preparing for maternity leave. I knew I'd need to come back to work. I wanted to make it easy as pie for whomever would fill in. Organizing files, creating work flow documents, talking my boss into hiring an assistant before I even told her I was pregnant. ... But you know, when I came back I was still shocked -- nothing seemed to get done while I was gone. And I was out 4 months!
—Guest Emily

I took 6 months and loved it

With each of my maternity leaves I took 6 months. It was just enough time to get the baby sleeping through the night and start to get out, exercise, feel human again. If I had gone back after 12 weeks I wouldn't have had any fun on leave at all! The loss of my salary for those months hurt but it was worth it.
—Guest MdMomof3

What Worked for You?

Good and Bad Maternity Leave Experiences

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