It's a good idea to put all maternity leave plans in writing for your supervisor and appropriate managers and to make an extra copy for placement in your personnel file.
Lay the groundwork for your maternity leave so there won't be too many questions or crises in your absence. If appropriate for your position, delegate some tasks to coworkers and arrange coverage by others.
Check and double-check that all appropriate benefits paperwork has been filled out, signed off, and sent in well in advance of your planned departure. Maternity leave should be a low-stress time, not one that requires twice weekly contact with human resources to find out the status of your disability claim.
So just how much, or how little, maternity leave should you take? Certainly the benefits your company provides will play a major factor in your decision. Factors to consider include:
Flexibility: Does the company have written policies on options like flex-time, job-sharing, and telecommuting?
Money: How much time off can you afford if your maternity benefits are minimal or nonexistent? Don't forget to factor any money you'll be saving — such as dry cleaning bills, lunches out, and transportation expenses — into your equation.
Management: Even though you may be legally within your rights, in some organizations an extended maternity leave may be frowned upon by those above you. What might management think, and more important, what kind of priority do you place on their disapproval?
Morale: Are your coworkers and/or subordinates happy and motivated or disillusioned and bitter? Employees who work as a team and feel invested in their workplace are more likely to rise to the challenge in your absence.
Malleability: Does it have to be all or nothing? Think about offering some creative proposals for extending your leave, such as a reduced part-time schedule or telecommuting.
Finally, for the woman who wants it all and wants it close to home, consider the possibility of forging your own family-friendly path. Many occupations lend themselves to home-based work, such as:
Income tax preparation
Creating crafts for retail
Additional ideas for a home-based business: