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 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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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-leave

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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Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding: As a Type A Woman What Did You Choose?

breastfeeding vs formulaHere’s what may be a weird question: as a Type A, goal-oriented, overachieving chick, what was your thought process regarding your decision on breastfeeding vs. formula feeding your child? 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 and otherwise get through her postpartum identity crisis. 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…]