Maternity Leave — and Staying Connected to the Office


2017 Update: We still stand by this advice on how to stay connected to the office on maternity leave— links have also been updated below.

There 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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Pumping When You’re Traveling for Work

pumping traveling for workI am far from an expert on traveling for work — particularly while pumping. In fact, I’ve done it exactly twice: once with Jack (for a whirlwind trip to Seattle for a speaking engagement) and once with Harry (for a whirlwind trip to Chicago for an alumni conference). And: what a PITA. Both times, the pump took up almost my entire carry-on bag, and both times I was absolutely wracked with fear, as I boarded the plane, that I had forgotten some essential pump part at home. The first time I flew I was determined to save the breast milk I pumped — liquid gold! — and I traveled with a freezer bag, ice packs, and had all of the relevant TSA and airline printouts with me in my carry-ons. The second time I decided to dump it because, eh, the kid is fine with formula. (Both times I had started the weaning process, so we had already replaced a nursing session with a bottle of formula. I’ll admit that for the second time, I dropped from three feeds a day down to two in anticipation of the travel.)

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Hiding a Baby Bump — The Second Time Around


2017 Update: We still stand by this advice on how to hide a baby bump the second time round— links have also been updated below.

What clothes best hide a baby bump — particularly if it’s your second child and you feel like you’re showing earlier?  We’ve talked here about how to work through your first trimester — and over at Corporette we’ve talked about ways to hide a baby bump — but it’s been far too long in either place since we’ve talked about work outfits for the first trimester. Kat’s picked a few pieces particularly for the early days of pregnancy (for example here, here, here, here) — but what are YOUR favorite pieces?  We’ve rounded up a few tips that readers have shared in the past — what are your best tips for how to hide a baby bump?

(Pictured: Tahari A-Line seamed dress — non-binding at the waist, with pockets to boot! It’s available for $128 from Nordstrom.)




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Networking for Busy Working Moms

nametags - networking as a momI’m curious if I’m the only one: I really, really struggle with networking post-kids. So I’m curious, ladies: how do you fit networking into an already packed schedule as a working mom? How far in advance do you schedule networking events and conferences? Do you try to attend “bang for your buck” type things (where you can go to one event and see many people), or do you limit the time you spend at events (I have 15 minutes to see X, Y, and Z and then leave)? Do you spend more time researching networking events (which to go to, who to talk to) than you used to? And how about one-on-one networking, such as follow-up lunches, catch-up lunches, and more — are those more difficult to fit into your schedule now?

A related question: do you find that networking downward, such as attending alumni events to help mentor and sponsor younger women, is harder to fit into your schedule? Are you stingier with your time than you used to be?

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Sick Kids, Work Schedules, Childcare Arrangements, and Excuses

sick-kids-excusesHow many layers of backup childcare do you have? When your child is sick, who is the first responder (and, if it’s different, who is the person who stays home)? If you have to miss work, what excuse do you give your boss?

I actually just found this post in draft, from May 2014. I had written a long story about how when I launched this site (in April 2014) I was so frustrated because the DAY I launched, my toddler came down with a sluggish fever — and it dragged on for ten days. I was heavily pregnant at the time and trying to get a million things done to prepare for maternity leave, amidst feeling generally lousy and trying to run to all those late-pregnancy doctor appointments… and yet Jack often Only Wanted Mommy. It felt like balls were dropping everywhere because I was missing hour after hour of work. My husband stayed home for some of the days we couldn’t send Jack to daycare, but it was extra stressful for him because he already felt like he had a million things to do before he took paternity leave.

At the time I didn’t want to mention my frustrations or health woes at my job (the blogs), even though readers were equally frustrated… so the story sat in draft. But I think that in and of itself is an interesting topic, because it comes back to Professionalism With Kids. One lawyer I knew years ago told me that I should always say that I was sick, not my (then future) kids, because I wouldn’t want my boss to question my childcare arrangements and parenting relationship (i.e., which partner stays home?). And in my situation, where I’m dealing with many (many) people, I’ve found it’s better to just keep my personal issues out of it, since everyone will react a bit differently — if it were just one boss or one coworker I might think about it differently.  But how do you guys feel about it — are your kids an acceptable excuse to use at the office, or do you feel safer giving another explanation (except when you really can’t)?

So I’m curious, ladies — what are YOUR thoughts about how to deal with sick kids, particularly if your usual childcare arrangements don’t allow you to send your kiddo when he’s not well? What excuse/explanation do you give at work if you have to miss it, come in late, take off early, et cetera? Between you and your partner, how do you decide who is the first responder on any given day? Is it solely schedule/location based, or is it presumed that the non-breadwinner is the first responder, or that the mom is?)

Pictured: ShutterstockPreartiq.

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Working Parents and Kids with Special Needs

special needs - hollandAre you the parent of a child with special needs? How has that affected your career — and your family? Editor Kate Antoniades weighs in…

Being a parent of a child with special needs — whether that means congenital heart problems, or life-threatening food allergies, or autism spectrum disorder — often means “more.” More doctor’s appointments. More health insurance hassles. More money spent. More meetings with teachers and school psychologists, and more situations where you must advocate for your child. More research into treatments, local resources, summer programs, schools, group homes, etc. — and always more paperwork to fill out. Lots of paperwork.

Depending on the severity of a child’s disability or disease, some parents are forced to quit their jobs or reduce their hours. When this isn’t necessary (or simply not practical – e.g., for health insurance reasons), a employer who’s flexible can make a huge difference. You might find yourself frequently needing time off due to medical appointments; meetings about your child’s therapies or surgeries or medications; and just caring for your child at home, perhaps after surgery or after a setback, for example. [Read more…]