Open Thread: Work After Maternity Leave

work-after-maternity-leave

2017 update: We still stand by the advice below, but you may also want to check out our discussion on what to wear to work after maternity leave!

What are some of your best tips for adjusting upon returning to work after maternity leave? What do you wish you’d known, or what did you come to realize?

For my own $.02: Among my friends, the end of maternity leave has loomed large in all of our lives — but on a kind of sliding scale. Women who had to go back to work at 10 weeks (or even sooner) dreaded it terribly, while women with longer leaves — 6 months or more — typically felt much better about it and almost welcomed the end of their leave. A few bits of advice along those lines:

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Maternity Leave — and Staying Connected to the Office

available-on-maternity-leaveThere was an interesting story over at Above the Law a few weeks ago, where a securities class-action lawyer in New Jersey was seeking unemployment benefits because she had quit her job after being berated by the managing partner. Why the reprimand? With her supervisor’s approval, she had interrupted a coworker’s maternity leave to seek help with a nationwide class action. (The NJ Supreme Court refused to hear her appeal after the lower court had denied her claim to the benefits.)

So, yay to the boss for protecting that mom’s maternity leave. But it’s an interesting topic with a lot of dimensions. How connected SHOULD you be on your maternity leave, and how should you keep in touch with your office? How available should your employer EXPECT you to be? If there’s a mismatch in expectations, what does it mean for your career prospects? This may be a case where understanding and managing expectations is the key. If your boss expects more than you’re willing to give, what are the best ways to scale back those expectations? If you want to work during your leave and be more involved/available than your employer predicts, should YOU reset your expectations?

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Breastfeeding… and Type A Women

type a moms and breastfeedingHere’s what may be a weird question: as a Type A, goal-oriented, overachieving chick, what was your thought process regarding the decision to breastfeed or formula feed? What was your emotional and intellectual response to the idea of it, and how did you reason through whichever decision you made?

Among friends I’ve seen a wide variety of responses to it, all of which may have been made… stronger, shall we say, based on the Type A-ness of the mom. But I think it’s an interesting question. (I really hope we can talk about this without judgment — for my $.02, there is no “right” answer for whether/how long to breastfeed or formula feed your child.) I’ve seen some moms grit their teeth and approach it with a grim determination. I’ve seen some who really loved the closeness with the baby — and some who were turned off by the feeling of being the Milk Lady. I’ve seen some high-achieving women say, “I’ll give it a go during maternity leave, but my career is too busy to be bothered with pumping and timing all of that.” I saw one interesting Facebook post from a very high achieving mom who noted that she felt she had to stop nursing each of her kids at 15 weeks in order to reclaim some ownership of herself and her body. I noticed commenters were talking about “nursing goals” last Tuesday, which is new to me but makes sense to me as a goal-oriented woman.

So: how did YOU approach breastfeeding or formula-feeding? Why did you make the decision you made? Especially for those among you who have pumped for an extended period — how do you think about it?

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An Ideal Maternity Leave

ideal maternity leaveWhat would an ideal maternity leave look like?  If you could design your own maternity leave, how would you do it?  Reader E wonders:

I am currently 6 months pregnant. Anyways, next week I am having a meeting with my supervisor/team to plan out my leave. I luckily work for a very flexible company and will be getting 12 weeks fully paid right off the bat. Beyond that, it is pretty much entirely my choice on how much time I’d like to take off… I can take off up to 6 months total without anyone having any hesitation. Anyways, I don’t know exactly what I want to do. It is my first child, I plan on breastfeeding, and I just don’t know how much time to take off, do you know of any resources out there to help me with this? Also, I was curious if there is a post about navigating the process of discussing maternity leave with bosses. What should I be prepared with besides how much time off I plan on taking and also a plan for who will cover what work while I am done. Do I need anything else?

Great question, E (and congratulations!).  It’s awesome that you have such flexibility with your job and your boss. We’ve talked a bit about what a family-friendly job truly is, pondered (over at Corporette) whether to negotiate future maternity leave at the job interview stage, and I’ve written before about how I planned my blogger maternity leave, but not this.  I’m curious what the readers will say, but here are some of my ideas right off the bat, sort of in chronological order: [Read more…]

“Family-Friendly” Jobs — What Are They, and What Questions to Ask to Find One

family-friendly jobsHere’s a fun question for the hive:  What do you consider a “family-friendly” job? Have you changed your career or job to seek one? What questions did you ask while interviewing — and which ones do you wish you’d asked? Do different perks and accommodations matter as your child moves through childhood — you need one set of things if you have small children, and another set of perks and allowances if you have older kids? I’m curious to hear what readers say.

For my own $.02, I went from a BigLaw job to a nonprofit with an 8-person staff, thinking it would be a family-friendly job. I wound up leaving after two years to focus on the blog, but part of me thinks I would have ended up leaving anyway because, looking back, I think the job would have been perfect for someone with older kids but not young ones. The staff was so small that not only were we not covered by FMLA, but it would have been difficult to imagine taking anything but a very basic and quick maternity leave of 6-8 weeks — there was no one else to give my work to! Furthermore, the 9-5 hours, which seemed so great compared to BigLaw, would have been difficult to manage with daycare drop-off and pickup, and last minute scrambles in the event of a sick kiddo would probably have grated on my boss’s nerves if they occurred too often. There was travel required for the job, as well… and at the end of the day the salary would not have been enough to sustain our lifestyle in NYC.

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Maternity Leave Projects (or, Productivity While Nursing)

Productive Things to Do While Breastfeeding | CorporetteI’m curious — did anyone use maternity leave to learn stuff, or otherwise better yourself? A lot of readers noted that new mom friends were critical for their maternity leave, but I’m sure there are just as many people who, like me, just watched way too much television or played on social media in those moments when I wasn’t connecting with my baby. With my first maternity leave, it was Property Brothers on HGTV. Ah, Jonathan and Drew, I’ll always have a soft spot for you. But after a while, my brain sort of felt like it was rotting. This maternity leave I’ve been a bit better about it (although Shark Tank and Ladies of London have made their way into my rotation), but I thought it might be fun to compile a list of brainy but enjoyable things to do with short pockets of time at all hours of the day (where you may or may not have the use of both of your hands, and you may or may not be able to be much more than a passive listener).

  • TEDFast Company has called it the “new Harvard,” and it’s free. World-renowned speakers — professors, authors, leaders, etc. — give 18-minute talks on subjects of interest to them. Watch Sheryl Sandberg talk about how we have too few women leaders, watch numerous talks on the power of body language, or delve into something fun like the secret to desire in a long-term relationship or the concept of happiness and parenting. (I’d suggest starting with TED, rather than TEDx videos — there are some great ones in the TEDx ones but they’re a bit less tightly curated than the talks presented at the official TED events.)

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