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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?
Another interesting component here: your partner’s expectations for your leave. For example, I read a while ago that a lot of academic dads prioritize work during paternity leave — writing articles or even books, and consequently doing less of the household work. Would you be upset with your partner if he or she saw their parental leave as a time to advance their own career? (On the flip side, if you’re the one feeling ambitious: We’ve talked a bit about maternity leave projects, as well as what an ideal maternity leave may look like.)
I’m a lousy example here because I was self-employed during my own maternity leaves, so they were both a “leave” in name only — I had a lot of content ready to go (mostly because I was worried postpartum hormones would change my sartorial sense or make me unfit to give good bloggy advice), but I was still connected and engaged with the blog(s) multiple times a day.
Over to you, guys — what discussions did you have with your employer(s) about availability during maternity leave? What expectations did your partner have? How did all of the external expectations compare to your own internal expectations?
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Picture below via Stencil.