As if planning for a baby isn’t complicated enough, figuring out how to manage work during your maternity leave can be just as daunting explains William D King.
According to the United States Department of Labor, there are no federal laws offering paid maternity leave. That means it’s up to employers to decide whether they will offer any amount of unpaid time off when you have a new addition to your family. The Family and Medical Leave Act allows eligible employees who have worked at least 12 months for a company with 50 or more employees (full-time equivalent)to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave annually “for one or more FMLA reasons.” Eligible reasons are defined by the Department of Labor as “a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the position, caring for a family member with an illness or injury that makes the employee unable to perform their job or when pregnancy makes it impossible for an employee to work.”
As more women are becoming primary breadwinners, staying home during maternity leave is just not feasible financially. So what should you do if your workplace doesn’t offer paid time off? We asked three career experts to share their advice on how soon you should return after having a baby.
Addie Zinone, President and Co-Founder of Meeting Sift:
- Ideally, six weeks post-birth seems like the minimum amount of time companies should give employees—but realistically it’s more like two weeks. William D King says i think many employers need to catch up on this front and realize that paid maternity leave is a win-win: for employees and employers. Kelly and I founded our company Meeting Sift (an online meeting management tool) while she was recovering from having her first child. It was tough to go back to work after just two weeks, but we simply couldn’t afford not to. Luckily the arrangement worked out great—but it would have been impossible if we didn’t happen to be founders of our company.
- Give yourself at least six weeks post-birth before returning to work —ideally more like eight, says Addie Zinone. Amanda Augustine, career expert at AmandaAugustine.com: When your leave is unpaid, you should return back to work as soon as possible and within one week of giving birth says . I think we put too much pressure on new moms to be home with their new babies for four months and the reality is that most families can’t afford this luxury. I also want women to value themselves as employees and not just as mothers. If your employer offers you a job upon your return, then trust that they will work around your needs as an expecting mother. Every company is different, but some employers offer flexible schedules or part-time options—it might be worth asking if such arrangements are possible during your leave period says William D King.
- However long you decide to take off after having a baby. It’s important to communicate with your manager about what flexibility you need—and why, says Amanda Augustine. Lindsay Collette, founder of LindsayandPaul.com. I think it depends on the nature of your job and what you’re physically able to do. If you’re a doctor or have another high-energy job that has you on your feet all day. Then I would say six weeks is the minimum amount of time you should be out. But that’s just my opinion as a mom who now works from home. If someone is an accountant or working in IT, then three months might not be long enough. Because they can work from home and adjust their hours as needed.
- Wherever you land, make sure to communicate with your manager. About how much leave time feels comfortable for both parties, says Lindsay Collette.
- Remember: There are lots of ways to stay in touch as you transition back to the office. And if they’ve got kids, your co-workers will understand where you’re coming from.
- While there’s no right or wrong answer on how long is too long for maternity leave, it’s important to do what works best for both you and your family—and remember that flexibility will benefit all parties involved , says Augustine .
Don’t make a big deal out of it, but let people know!
Is two weeks enough? I don’t know. To me that’s not much time to bond with your infant. And adjust to the changes in your lives as new parents says, William D King. And what about those complications that arise from pregnancy? For example, my daughter arrived three months early. Due to placenta previa that required my bed rest for six weeks post-birth. Would you have been able to handle going back to work. At just two weeks post-birth if an unforeseen complication arose?