Tips on Returning to Work after Giving Birth

Tips on Returning to Work after Giving Birth

Every mother is a working mother, but some also work outside their homes. If you are already established in your work, you may have the status and the accrued salary advances that come with experience; you may have seniority or the benefits of a unionized job; you may have accrued additional weeks of vacation and other advantages of long employment. Wherever you are in your work life, your employment situation and goals will have to be considered as you approach motherhood, whether for the first time or again.

Which Path to Take?
There are three basic questions you need to ask yourself before you bring your baby homeЎЄlong before. They are:

— Do I want to work full time after I have my baby?
— Do I want to be a stay-at-home mother?
— Do I want to work, but with reduced hours and perhaps reduced responsibilities?

The answers may seem obvious to you, or you may find as you pose the questions that you are answering affirmatively to more than one option. Whatever the answers, arrangements regarding your employment need to be made well in advance of a baby’s arrival.

If you wish to keep working full time, examine whether your current employment will be supportive of your family goals. If you are in a job that is not compatible with being a working mother, you may want to change employers or change jobs within your place of employment. It is hard enough to perform to your own standards in both motherhood and job without having unnecessary obstacles at work. Again, look at this situation before you are in the middle of juggling the two roles.

If you decide that you want to stay at home, either permanently or for a predetermined period of time, be as sure as you can of your decision. Realize that, although your baby will bring you incredible joy, you will have other needs that have until now been at least partially met at work. Adult conversation is one of these, and intellectual stimulation is another. Certainly, your partner will contribute in these areas, but it is a burden on a relationship to expect one person to fulfill all of your needs. Plan ahead to do some adult activities each week and to meet with other people. If you had a habit of lunching occasionally with other women, why should you stop? Even the stay-at-home mom needs a respite.

If you want to continue to work but would prefer to put in fewer hours and have less responsibility, explore the possibility of job sharing or look into part-time work. In the professions, job sharing is often a more viable option than a position that is truly part time. We have known husband and wife doctors who have shared a position, so that there was always a parent available to be at home with the children. Be creative, but above all, PLAN.

You and your spouse or legal partner need to learn your employers’ policies on maternity and paternity leave. If your company employs more than 50 people, it is subject to the provisions of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. You must have been employed by the company for at least one year and work at least 25 hours weekly. You can find out more about this at www.dol.gov/esa/whd/fmla.

See if any short-term disability plans at your job cover maternity leave. Many do not cover normal pregnancy and delivery, but most will cover you if you should have any complications of pregnancy. Some states have mandated plans. Ask what is available to you.

Find out ahead of time whether you will be required to use your medical and vacation leave before taking maternity or short-term leave. Janelle had to take medical leave every time she had a doctor’s appointment, and she was dismayed to find she had no time left by the end of her pregnancy. It made a difference in her situation, because, working for a company with fewer than 50 employees, she then had to take unpaid time for her maternity leave. Had she realized her situation earlier, she would have arranged to do compensatory work for the hours taken to go to the doctor.

One way of juggling work and family that is increasingly popular is telecommuting. Andrea is a financial planner and used to go to her office in New York every day. Since she adopted Maire three years ago, she has been doing most of her work from her home computer and goes to the city only once a week. She now has two young children and says that this arrangement works beautifully for her family. Inez is a travel agent, and she convinced her agency to set her up at home as a remote office. This has worked so well that for three consecutive months, she has been the top-billing agent. Sometimes she needs a sitter to keep the children occupied and happy while she works at home, but she is just in the next room and able to be privy to all her children’s milestones and aware of all their needs.

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