Preparing to be a Stay-at-Work Mom
When you are planning to start a family, it is important to think through how you will balance work demands and navigate potential career challenges. As you read the following information remember to stay flexible. Babies are notorious for bringing joy as well as interrupting the best-laid plans.
Before you have a baby, check your healthcare benefits. What does your policy look like in terms of maternity coverage? Have you found a doctor yet and are they covered by your plan? You will also need to determine if your doctor delivers at a specific hospital and if so, is that hospital in-network for your plan?
Next, you need to review your benefits. No employer is required to provide paid family leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) only requires your employer to hold your job for you for 12 weeks, unpaid. It also only applies to individuals who have been employed for over one year in an organization that employs over 50 people. Employers may still choose to provide maternity benefits so make sure you fully understand what is available to you.
Based on your benefits package, you should determine when you plan to begin and end your maternity leave. Factor in if your company offers paid maternity leave and if so, for how long? You may want to use your vacation and sick days (however factor in that some of these might be used for the many medical appointments you will attend before you give birth). You might also qualify for short-term disability benefits, but you need to determine what percentage of your salary will be paid to you and for how long. Although you are going to be excited about becoming a mother, it’s critical to first outline your budget and forecast the amount of time that you can feasibly afford to take off. You should also consider how much money you need to have saved before your baby arrives.
Once you’ve outlined your personal plan of action for maternity leave, you will need to determine when you will tell your employer. You should check to see if there is a company policy regarding disclosure. FMLA requires women to disclose their pregnancy 30 days before anticipated leave. It is wise to alert your employer of your intended absence so that the organization can take action in case they need to temporarily fill your position or take action for colleagues to fill in for you. You may also wish to take a proactive stance and outline a plan as you both transition out of the workplace and back into your position.
Many women do not disclose their choice to have a baby until after the first trimester and before physical changes make it evident. Some women choose to tell their boss first, particularly if they have a close relationship. It may also make sense to first tell your HR department. If you are supervising staff, you may want to tell them immediately after you disclose the news to your boss or HR department and it’s wise to tell them all at the same time, and offer some details, particularly regarding your expected timeline and who they will report to in your absence.
Although it may be challenging for a pregnant women to be fired, it can and does happen. Although the Pregnancy Discrimination Act forbids prejudicial treatment of pregnant women, it does not mean that you cannot be fired for unrelated reasons. The Americans with Disabilities Act also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant women. However, this only applies until the situation “would cause significant difficulty or expense.” The Fair Labor Standards Act and Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide nursing mothers with adequate break time and a private environment to pump for a year following the birth of her child. It’s also important for you to understand state-level laws and how they can impact your employment. If you feel like you are being discriminated against, keep a record of what was said and done.
What Others Can Expect When You’re Expecting
It’s important to think about your boundaries once your baby has arrived. Decide if you are willing to be contacted regarding work and if so, who can contact you and how would you like them to touch base? Be specific but flexible as your schedule might change once the baby arrives. If you are open to contact, tell colleagues to expect a text or email back within 24 hours.
As you prepare your transition back into work, do you plan on arriving earlier than usual and leaving at 5pm sharp? Will you be more open to emails after your baby is put to sleep? Do you need to guard your time during work hours, making long coffee breaks a thing of the past? Be clear about your priorities, and protect and promote what is important to you.
The more you can prepare as you plan your pregnancy, birth, and maternity leave, the better your transition in and out of work can be. Use cautious optimism as you plan and be flexible with yourself, your partner, your baby, and your career.
*Note: If you are planning to adopt, much of this information will apply to you but make sure that you verify the specifics.