Taking time off from work when you have your baby is partially dictated by your choice. How much time you choose to take off can be influenced by the rules and regulations at your workplace. Other factors would be your health, the health of your baby, your job requirements, the work season, and other details. A combination of these factors will determine how much time you actually take off.
Arranging maternity leave with your boss can be a daunting task. The important thing is to have a plan before you go speak with your boss. Talk to your company's Human Resources Department or research your rights according to state or local regulations to educate yourself about the process. You might also consider talking to other new parents at work to see what types of job leave they had when their children were born.
Having an idea of the normal maternity leave process before you approach your boss will boost your confidence. This will also show your boss that you thoroughly understand your position. In showing her you care enough to do the research, your boss will see that you value your job and want to coordinate the best possible arrangement.
Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Federal law on family leave is called the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). You must work at a qualifying company, meaning your business has a certain number of employees, to take leave under this act. And your job must qualify, meaning you have worked full-time in your position for a year or more.
If you have questions about the FMLA, address them to your company's Human Resources Department. If the staff can't help you, go straight to the law itself, which is available on the Department of Labor's Web site: www.dol.gov/esa/regs/statutes/whd/fmla.htm.
If you and your place of work meet the requirements, you can take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave. This time is to be used for the birth of a baby, an adoption, or the caretaking of a sick immediate relative. The good news about the FMLA is that both you and your husband can use it, and in some cases both of you may choose to take some or all of this leave, while having your job status protected. Your husband's work may offer a paternity leave schedule, or he may use part of the FMLA time.
It is wise to negotiate your maternity leave by the time you are about seven months pregnant. This prepares you for any surprises in the pregnancy and allows you to relax, knowing that the negotiations are over. As the weeks before your due date start winding down, you should begin mentoring any coworkers who will be taking over your projects while you're out.
One mistake many women make is agreeing to be in touch while on maternity leave. This can create a sticky situation. On the one hand, you don't want to be totally out of touch, but you also don't want them calling you every day. If you agree to keep in contact, be specific about how and when they can contact you. Ask for e-mail updates at the end of each week, but remind them you'll be slow to respond due to your responsibilities at home.
Do not be afraid to show your boss and colleagues that you will be focused on your mothering duties when you're at home. When you decide to call them, be sure to limit the time and energy you spend on the phone. Your leave is designed to help you address the issues of new motherhood. If you feel like everything is under control at home, it will be much easier to regain your focus when you finally return to work.