Not Returning to Work After Maternity Leave

not returning after maternity leaveHave you ever considered not returning to work after maternity leave, either so you can stay home with your little(s) for a while, or get a new job with better hours or logistics (like an easier commute)? We’ve talked about how to resign gracefully in general, offered SAHM career tips, as well as pondered how to negotiate maternity leave ahead of time — but not specifically about quitting right after maternity leave. How can you quit without burning bridges or cheating your own family out of maternity leave benefits? Reader M asks: wondering about not returning after maternity leave - image of a pregnant mother

I have a question about potentially not returning to work post-maternity leave. I have been thinking about transitioning to another law firm that is much, much closer to home and that has significantly less travel (I have an hour commute each way and will have two children under the age of 15 months once this one is born). The other firm is open to my coming on board when I’m done with maternity leave. My question is when would you tell your current workplace that you are moving on? We had an associate come back from a very extended leave and quit her first week back and it left a bad taste in the partner’s mouths. I don’t want to burn bridges, but I also don’t want to hurt my benefits while on leave (I’m in California and will be receiving a mixture of disability pay and Family Bonding pay — my firm does not offer any paid maternity leave). When would you advise giving notice?

Oooof. Tough question, and I can’t wait to hear what readers say. Because every company’s policy is different, as are the state laws surrounding disability and maternity leave, it’s kind of difficult to say in general — but these would be my considerations:

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How to Manage Up With Regard to Family Commitments

how to manage up with regard to family commitmentsHere’s a suggestion for a topic we got from folks who took the survey a while back: how can working moms “manage up” with regard to family commitments? Along similar lines, “how to explain your new life choices to an employer who is used to you working long hours”? I can’t wait to hear what you guys say — what’s YOUR best advice on managing up once you become a working mom, ladies?

(Pictured: Hall & Oates women’s tshirt (I Can’t Go for That- No Can Do), available at Etsy through Exit343design’s shop.) (Affiliate link.)

Just to throw in my $.02 of tips, I think a lot of it comes back to general advice on how to manage up:

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Advice on Work-Life Balance — To Your Pre-Mom Self

Advice on Work-Life Balance from Working Moms to Their Pre-Mom SelvesOver at Corporette, we recently rounded up some of the top advice readers have shared over the years for women wondering about getting pregnant — the planner’s guide to TTC, if you will. But moms, here’s the question for YOU today: What would you tell your younger, pre-kid self if you could? Is there any other major advice you’d impart to someone who wanted to get pregnant? Would you make any serious changes in your life, either on the family side or the career side, if you could? What’s your best advice on work-life balance, as a working mom, to your pre-mom self? 

I keep seeing stories like this one and this one where working moms talk about how they were total jerks to their parent coworkers before they had kids, and NOW they get it — why a 4:45 meeting is a bad idea, why you’re not lazy or antisocial if you don’t want to come out for drinks after work, why occasionally your family is more important. On the flip side, I’ve seen many comments from younger readers who are annoyed at all the work/life balance advice at conferences — they don’t think it’s helpful, they don’t think it’ll apply to them, they don’t understand why we constantly complain about it. I also see articles like this one and this one about how women are annoyed when they’re asked about work-life balance as moms. I understand their point if we’re talking about a situation in which there are, say, five parents on a panel and the men are all asked about their backgrounds and work while the only person asked about work/life balance is the mom — BUT, as someone who struggles with work/life balance, I wish it were talked about MORE, among all parents.

SO: What would you tell your pre-mom self about work/life balance, if you could? What do you wish you had known before you decided to get pregnant? In general, what’s your best advice for work-life balance from a working mom perspective?

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How to Prepare at Work—For Maternity Leave

How to Prepare at Work for Maternity Leave | maternity leave preparationWhat’s your best advice for how to prepare at work for maternity leave? What did you do — and how soon did you start your maternity leave preparation? (37 weeks? 39 weeks?) When did you hand off projects? For those of you who had your baby at 42 weeks, how did that affect the hand-off? For those of you who had your baby earlier than expected, how did that affect things?

Something you may or may not realize is that as you get closer to your due date, not only will you be more physically exhausted from carrying around your big belly, but your doctor may also want to see you very frequently, putting even more pressure on your schedule. (This is especially true if you’re older — for my second pregnancy, because I was over 34 when H was born, they wanted to see me once a week from week 32 onward.)

For my $.02, I would suggest starting a few things pretty early, maybe around 30-32 weeks:

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The Best Home Office for Working Moms

Working Mom Home OfficeIt’s been a few years since we last discussed how to create the best office at home on Corporette — but a reader emailed me for an update, particularly for working moms, so I thought we’d discuss. For working moms campaigning for more flexible working arrangements, having a great home office can make everything easier; if you’re productive and get work done at home, it gives you confidence that you can work from home more often, which means saving time on your commute, offering flexibility when your kiddo is sick, and more. So — here is my $.02 for setting up a home office, but I can’t wait to hear your tips:

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How to Be a Great Part-Time Associate

how to be a great part-time associateAs I mentioned a few weeks ago, my friend Y has had a very successful run as a part-time associate, working reduced hours (about an 80% schedule) for years now.  I asked her for some of the top tips she’s learned along the way, and she was kind enough to share her tips for both negotiating a reduced work schedule as well as the tips below, how to have a successful run as a part-time associate.  Ladies who’ve negotiated similar flexible work arrangements — do you agree with Y’s tips? What are your best tips for how to be a great part-time associate? 

As an associate working reduced hours, here is what I learned along the way that I would offer as advice to anyone in the same position, or contemplating making the switch:

1) Remember you are making a professional sacrifice. Remember how I said in my first post that you can’t have it all? The reduced work hours approach, in many cases, forecloses certain professional opportunities. In the BigLaw world, when you’re not available 24/7, you’re simply not as desirable for certain assignments or projects. As a junior associate, I didn’t really realize this, but as I got up there in years, it became clear to me that my professional experience was not — and could not b‎e — as well-rounded as that of my peers, and could not progress at the same rate. Most days, this was just fine, since I continued to remind myself that I was making the sacrifice to be able to raise my children as I wanted (by then, there were more of them). Some days I did feel frustrated at my perceived lack of professional development. All in all, I would say: Be prepared to make the sacrifice, and remember what you’re gaining in return.

2) ‎Stick to your agreed-upon schedule (mostly). We corporate types didn’t get to where we are for lack of hard work, and I would venture to guess that many of us have a hard time not going above and beyond. But when you’re on a reduced hours or part-time schedule, you have to be disciplined about leaving the office at the agreed-upon time and/or not working beyond the hours you’ve committed to. Avoiding “schedule creep” can be a huge challenge, particularly when everyone else is working many more hours than you are. I made a concerted effort to remind myself that a deal is a deal and that I wasn’t doing anything wrong by leaving the office at 6:00 every day; in fact, I wasn’t being paid to stay beyond then.

3) But be flexible. No part-time job in the corporate world is truly limited to 9-5 hours. While it’s important not to be a pushover or feel bad about not working to the extent your colleagues are, it’s key to demonstrate that you’re still committed to your job and are willing, when necessary, to stay late at work, get online after the kids are in bed, or travel overnight. It’s a delicate balance, and you have to have the professional experience to determine when the extra hours are necessary and/or would be appreciated by your colleagues.

4) Anticipate some level of jealousy or animosity. While others are burning the midnight oil and you head out to your second job as a mom, some may resent you for leaving earlier. I always just ignored this, since I had an official arrangement with the firm and was getting paid less than them, in accordance with how much I worked.

5) Reassess the flexible work arrangement as time goes on. Just because a reduced hours schedule suits you at one point doesn’t mean that it will always be right for you. There may come a time that you throw yourself back in the game on a full-time basis because the kids have grown, your spouse or partner becomes more available, or your life otherwise changes. Fortunately, it should be easier to transition back to a full-time workload since you’ve had your head in the game as a part-time employee rather than being out of the workforce entirely.

Ladies — have you ever tried reducing your working hours to 80% or less? What were your thoughts on it, and what are your best tips for other women considering such a flexible work arrangement? 

Pictured: Pixabay.