Working Moms

Maternity Leave Decision

I?m a recent lurker, but expect to be more engaged as I become a FTM in August and then return to work full time after maternity leave.  It is my decision regarding maternity leave that I am seeking advice from full-time working moms who have BTDT.   I?m aware this falls very much into the ?first world problem? category of decisions, but I greatly appreciate your advice because I have few friends who are full-time working mothers to go to with this.

My office permits 12 weeks off, but the only paid time is what sick and/or vacation time I have available to use.  By my due date, I?ll only have about 4.5 weeks of paid time saved up, so that means a number of weeks unpaid if I take the full 12 weeks (I do have STD, but I've been told to expect that to cover only about 6-8 weeks).  Many people around me ? including my very supportive boss ? are encouraging me to take the full 12 weeks because ?that?s time I?ll never get back with my baby.?   But, there?s a hitch to this that they cannot fully appreciate: I make more than my husband does so our household income is more dependent on my job than his, so it is not easy, but thanks to savings probably workable for a short period of time, to go without my income.  My husband has offered to use his paid leave to parent the baby for a few weeks if I decide to go back to work early.   And, true confessions, because of how happy I am, and ridiculously lucky I know I am, to be having a baby after wanting one for so many years, I'm surprised by how weird it feels to sign up for 12 weeks off of work ? weird because I love my job and get a lot of fulfillment from the productivity I feel, money I earn, and joy I get from my work (again, I feel ridiculously lucky there).  From what I hear, I assume all that will fall aside when I meet my baby and feel the love for her which I cannot fully imagine right now in pregnancy.  But what if I turn out to be the bad, narcissistic mother for whom it does not?

Getting back to my decision, I?ve balanced the desire to maximize time with baby with the loss of income and decided a compromise is to do 8 weeks fully off, 4 weeks part-time at 20 hours, and then back to work full-time.   This way there?s less unpaid leave than the full 12 weeks, and from the baby POV, it seems easier to ease back in with part time work than to go back early full-time.  When I asked my boss about this idea she said she?d fully support what I wanted to do but she wanted me to think about it more because her two concerns for me are (1) whether in our work environment I could really pull off part-time, or would I get sucked in to essentially full-time (a fair point knowing our environment!) and (2) she reiterated what she?d advised me before, that the full 12 weeks is time I?ll never get back with my baby (FWIW, my boss  has been very successful in her career, while raising two daughters, so I value her informed perspective.  However, I think her family financial situation is stronger than ours, so she cannot fully empathize with the financial hardship of the unpaid leave)

What is your advice?  Take the full 12, or the scenario with a couple weeks of part time?  Or a third scenario?  Thanks!!

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Re: Maternity Leave Decision

  • From what you describe, you will not need to take time off unpaid. You will get 6 weeks off std if you have a vaginal birth and 8 weeks for a c-section. Then, you will have 4 weeks from your pto. Worst case, you will only need to take 2 weeks unpaid. 

     

     

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  • image daisy662:

    From what you describe, you will not need to take time off unpaid. You will get 6 weeks off std if you have a vaginal birth and 8 weeks for a c-section. Then, you will have 4 weeks from your pto. Worst case, you will only need to take 2 weeks unpaid. 

     

    This is what I was thinking too, 6 weeks of STD and 4.5 weeks of PTO is 10.5 weeks (and if your STD pays 8 weeks, then you are fully funded for 12 weeks).

    I'd say take the 12 weeks and if you want to go back early, go back early.  I think it's easier to take more time and come back early, then take less time and then ask to extend your leave.

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  • Yea, thanks to STD it's not a large amount of unpaid leave, but because STD is just at 60% of my income, it works out to sometime around the equivalent of 4 to 5 weeks unpaid if I do the full 12 weeks.  I left my notes at work with the exact math and available leave numbers, just going off my memory at the moment!
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  • It's such a personal thing, and we don't know your exact financial situation, so I think it's really hard to advise you.

    What I personally would do is take the 12 weeks. You can always go back early if you are dying to get back, but it's a lot harder to take 8 and then change your mind, IMO.

    I am a super independent person and love my alone time, and I was completely shocked at my feelings about leaving my baby.  I could have used a couple more weeks to be less sleep deprived and more ready to go back, and I had 13 weeks.

    Every one is different. 

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  • I'm just a lurker, but I wanted to add that you may not necessarily get 6 weeks STD with a vaginal delivery and 8 with a c- section.   I had a c-section and complications postpartum (HELLP syndrome, high BP, and PPD) and they only paid 6 weeks. I'm going to appeal but just check and be sure what your policy covers. My doctor's office said some STD companies are trying to get away with 4 weeks for a vagjnal birth! 

     Also, I was pretty much in the same situation as you, as far as making more than my husband. I ended up taking 9.5 weeks, and it worked well. I would have loved a couple of weeks part time, but my company doesn't allow part time.

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  • Thanks for the responses!  These are helping me think through my options.  Myaflowers, your warning about the possible shorter time period is valid, given what my office's HR rep said that with the STD not starting until after the waiting period ends, it's possible I'd only get it for about 5 weeks.  But I'm telling myself 6-8 weeks because that's what I've heard more often and I want to stay optimistic.  Oops, that is optimistic about the length of the checks - when I stop and think about what a longer period of STD actually means, obviously I'd rather have less STD and no complications and as short as a recovery as possible!  Good luck with your appeal!
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  • I'd suggest you take the maximum amount of time you are eligible for and that makes financial sense for your family.

    This is going to give you more time to recover physically, hopefully get to a point where you are sleeping a bit more (and not totally exhausted for resuming your work days in addition to having a new baby at home), and of course...bond with the new baby and adjust to life as a family of 3.

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  • I was a SAHM mom after my first was born, and had to return to work after 3 weeks after my second. Current pregnancy, I plan to return at 2 months. In my opinion, 12 weeks is a lot of time. Meaning, a lot of time to get out of the loop on what is going on at work, and possibly making it harder to get back into things.

    One thing I would not do is use up all of your vacation time. With a child things come up, and you'll want to have some time available when you need it later.
  • Your situation is pretty similar to what mine was.  I got 6 weeks paid STD, had 4 weeks vacation, and then took the remaining time (3 weeks) unpaid.  I slipped in an extra week beyond the 12 weeks because I knew my company wouldn't care. I actually didn't want to use up all of my vacation time and wanted to take more time unpaid, but my company did not allow that.  I had to use up my vacation time. 

    It was a little hit on our finances, but I don't regret it one bit.  It didn't take us long to recover and I figured I have the rest of my life to work like a dog.  You get a very limited time to spend with your baby.

     
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  • Take the 12 weeks. You will be initially so tired and overwhelmed you need time to adjust.

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  • Take the full 12. When you get that baby in your arms you will melt. I was supposed to go back earlier by choice and I quick told them no way! If I could take another year I would. YOu can NEVER get this time back in this babies life so take the 12!
  • Take 12 weeks.  Make it happen.  I had 14 weeks and it was so, so worth it.  Once I went back to work I was so happy and ready.  DD was sleeping through the night at 12 weeks and I felt great.  You will not regret it.  Just tighten your belts re: spending and make it happen. 

    My 2 cents. 

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  • Your situation is fairly similar to mine, except I didn't have disability. I was offered up to 12 weeks of maternity leave: four weeks at 100%, four weeks at 50%, and four weeks at no pay. My husband was just finishing school and did not have a job lined up (in fact, he did not start working until DS was five weeks old). We had a lot in savings but wanted to save as much for the hospital bills. Even though I wanted to take 12 weeks, we could not swing it financially, so I took eight weeks.

    I was totally healed from my vaginal delivery and by then we had breastfeeding established. DS was even occasionally sleeping through the night. I was a little teary driving in the first day, but it was totally fine. We got into a routine very, very quickly. I have no regrets about going back when I did.

    I think you just need to crunch the numbers and think about what will stress you out more: being away from your baby at before the 12 weeks, or the finances. For me, it was the finances. YMMV.

    Good luck and congrats.

  • Lena122Lena122
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    If you have the savings to get you through the unpaid time then take the full 12 weeks. I doubt you'll regret losing a little bit of money but you may very well regret missing that time with your baby.
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  • Thanks for the additional responses!  It looks like taking the full 12 weeks is winning out, and I also appreciate the alternative perspectives - good validity for my not being completely insane for weighing my options (like some people in my life were beginning to make me feel).  I want to take the full 12, but financially speaking, and work-related concerns, like Becky said

    image BeckyTheEngineer:
    . In my opinion, 12 weeks is a lot of time. Meaning, a lot of time to get out of the loop on what is going on at work, and possibly making it harder to get back into things.

    do not make it a quick & easy choice.  I think I'll review the finances again, and if we can pull it off, I'll go for the full 12 weeks, with the back up plan of returning to work early if when the time arrives that feels like the right thing to do.  I also heard the comment about not using up all my leave time - that is another dynamic I've given thought to.  I half wonder if it's worth doing one week unpaid that I could have used leave for, so that when I go back to work I have five days of time in the bank for the unexpected.  But I need to see if that's financially reasonable and permissible with work.  Argh.  So much to think about with so many unknowns as a FTM!

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  • I love my job and I love my baby but, I felt every torn about the return to work issue.   On one hand, I was totally really to return to work because twelve weeks without the professional stimulation would have killed me but, on the other hand my son was born three weeks early - really just a tiny little boy and it would have been really hard to leave him before the end of 12 weeks.   I ended up havin some help around the house and working from home the last month.   It was the perfect solution for me.
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  • Personally I would cut out every expense now and save save save, so you could take the full 12 weeks.  With DS I went back at 10 weeks and did part time for 2 weeks.  It was really hard going back so early and doing a full time job on part time hours.  This time I went back in the 12th week and went right to full time.  It was a much easier transition.  I also stayed in the loop by keeping on top of my e-mails while on leave. 
  • I had DS in August and took 10 weeks off. I had about the same amount of time saved up as you and I'm also the breadwinner. My work took the 10 weeks I was taking off and divided the amount I make amoung the 10 weeks so I always got paid, just not as much until I came back. I'm a teacher and ended up having to come into work a couple times because my replacement was a dud and I had to clean up her messes.


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  • image ClaryPax:
    Personally I would cut out every expense now and save save save, so you could take the full 12 weeks.  With DS I went back at 10 weeks and did part time for 2 weeks.  It was really hard going back so early and doing a full time job on part time hours.  This time I went back in the 12th week and went right to full time.  It was a much easier transition.  I also stayed in the loop by keeping on top of my e-mails while on leave. 

     

    This is a very good perspective for my consideration of coming back early PT - it's definitely sounding like if we can financially pull it off, the pros of taking the full 12 weeks outweigh the cons.  But keeping the possibility of going back early open (if work is amenable) in case that makes most sense come the time.  Thank you to everyone for the responses, it is all very helpful!  

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  • I just want to warn you about STD.  I didn't find out until I actually called the company that not only did I have to wait the 30 day waiting period but that 30 days counted against my time.  I was given 8 weeks for my c section but I only got paid for the second 4 weeks.  I would just make sure because once I found that out I had to reevaluate.  I was in almost the same position and I decided to go back after 2 months.  I worked part time my first week and then went to full time.  At first I kind of enjoyed it but I'm now at the point that I am considering going part time.  I was alway fulfilled by my job as an engineer and have been so surprised by how completely and utterly fulfilled I am by my little girl.  If I wasn't the main income I would probably take a couple of years off to stay home with her.  Hopefully your company will let you play it by ear.  You my be surprised either way.  iOS luck!

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  • MKDeeMKDee
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    I was in a similar situation with DS1. I took 10.5 weeks fulltime and did 6 weeks part time. It worked really well, and I didn't really feel as if I was going back "early" by going back at 10.5 weeks instead of the 13 I was eligible for. With DS2, I wasn't eligible for FMLA, so I ended up cobbling together 9.5 weeks between vacation and std. I would have liked to ease back in with a part time schedule again, but it wasn't an option. I still didn't feel as if I missed out on much by going back two weeks earlier than I had to. Honestly, I think the parttime schedule was more helpful to me than the extra weeks off would have been. I loved having that transition time. We also could not afford the extra weeks unpaid at all, so I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about what I was missing.
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  • JCMJCM
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    image diamondduck13:
    Yea, thanks to STD it's not a large amount of unpaid leave, but because STD is just at 60% of my income, it works out to sometime around the equivalent of 4 to 5 weeks unpaid if I do the full 12 weeks.  I left my notes at work with the exact math and available leave numbers, just going off my memory at the moment!

    Your STD may only be 60% of your pay but it is tax free so it will almost equal out to your normal pay check.  Also, it's up to you doctor not the STD company to release to return to work after typically 6 weeks for a vaginal delivery and 8 weeks for a C-Section.  I know this because I've worked in HR before.  Like others have said take the 12 weeks and if you need to return early then you can.  

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  • KL777KL777
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    My sister had a maternity leave and she said her STD was almost the same amount as her take home since you don't get taxed on STD. This is of course based off of her tax bracket, which would fluctuate between person to person.

    Like pps have said, I would do the 12 weeks. Better to say I want to go back early than to say I want to extend my time.

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  • I think you should take the longest amount of time that your plan allows and your family can financially afford.  I had 13 weeks paid, and had a uncomplicated c-section.  I would say I couldn't imagine going back to work before 8 weeks, I was barely getting enough sleep to function and breastfeeding was constant.  Week 8-10 I could have done it if we needed to, and by weeks 11-13, I was ready to move on to the next stage, and figuring our what our new normal would be like.

    On the other hand, I had a friend who split the FMLA with her husband, each took time - she four weeks, he 2 weeks.  She didn't have a paid leave and that was the only paid time off she had. I don't know your childcare situation, but most daycare centers will not take infants younger than 6 weeks.

    No one can say how going back to work will be for you - I was surprised at how much I was ready to get back to my career and used my leave to realize SAHM was not for me.  This board is a great group of ladies, some work because they have to, but others like me, choose to work.  We won't judge, and it is OK to have a desire to go back to work, it doesn't make you any less of a good mom!

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  • Thank you, again, for the additional responses!  It is so helpful to get these different perspectives.  I hope like rockychrysler, the 11-13 weeks feels ready to return back to work.  And rocky, I greatly appreciate your final paragraph too!  From lurking on this board the past couple of weeks, I can see how supportive it is, and I love it!  I think I'm here to stay :)   Because my mom was always a SAHM, and the majority of my few friends who are parents are SAHM (or do limited part time work), I don't have many people in my life that understand the dynamic of my wanting to return to work.  They understand that I need to financially, but when I talk about my concerns around missing work/wanting to return to work, I don't always feel "heard."  They just say, "oh everything will change when you see the baby."  I know (or since I haven't yet experienced it, I can imagine) this is very true, but my work is such an integral part of me I just don't see myself letting that go - instead, I see myself with the daily conflict/guilt of balancing quality time with my daughter, my work, and then how to throw all the nagging chores/household work into the mix. 

    image rockychryslerb2010:

    No one can say how going back to work will be for you - I was surprised at how much I was ready to get back to my career and used my leave to realize SAHM was not for me.  This board is a great group of ladies, some work because they have to, but others like me, choose to work.  We won't judge, and it is OK to have a desire to go back to work, it doesn't make you any less of a good mom! 

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