Written by, Bernadyn Nettles
If you are expecting, congratulations! Having a baby is a joyous time but also stressful. You have lots of plans and topics to discuss while expecting. If you are currently employed, one of those topics is the issue of maternity leave.
Families who are expecting a bundle of joy can also expect a bundle of adjustments to make. For a working woman, that includes an adjustment in her working hours and the topic of maternity leave arises. It can be a strain to think about how you will go about taking time off, for how long and what kind of impact that will have on your income and on your career overall.
Tips on Maternity Leave
I want to share some tips and suggestions through my personal experience with the issue of maternity leave, how it applied to me and how it influenced the adjustments I made with my job. Maybe my experience can offer those in the same boat some useful perspective.
As soon as you find out the news of your future addition, look into your state’s laws and research thoroughly how your job’s maternity leave works. Ask these questions:
- Do you qualify for maternity leave?
- Is it paid?
- How long can I take off?
- What all is included?
Check Your State Laws - Florida Does Not Have Maternity Leave
Unfortunately, for me, I live in Florida, which is a state that does not require employers to offer maternity leave. We can take time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act but you would still have to be eligible to qualify. In my case, I did not qualify because I had just started my job and so I would not have yet been employed for the required year by the time baby was due.
Consider every question and weigh all your options
- How long have I been at my current job?
- Do I plan on staying here for a long period of time?
- Is this where I see my career growing?
These are the questions I asked myself that helped me make my personal decision. For me, the answer to these questions was no. I did not plan on maintaining a long time career at the job I was working at during my pregnancy.
Also, I already knew I was not eligible to receive any time off so after I discovered I could not qualify for maternity leave, I weighed my options and made a tough decision. I left my job before giving birth to my baby with no plans of returning. I originally planned to stay at least a year when I began the job but then with the news of a baby on the way, that was no longer possible. It was best for my family for me to stay at home with the baby especially since I was not going to be receiving any time off anyway, paid or unpaid.
Cost of Child Care
In addition, consider the cost of child care. It would not have been feasible for me to return to work outside of home because I would have spent more on child care compared to my income at the time.
Make preparations and Adjust Your Lifestyle if Necessary Before Baby’s Arrival
Save money, particularly if you know you will not be getting paid for maternity leave or will not be returning to work. Also, start cutting down on expenses in any way you can and pay off bills while you're still working!
We made more adjustments in our lives to compensate for the new expenses we were expecting from my medical bills, baby’s future needs and because I was not going to receive any maternity leave. We were newlyweds so we were just starting our life together.
If you are able to and do plan on returning to work after giving birth but will still not receive paid maternity leave, save up any paid time off you are eligible to receive before going on maternity leave. That is what my husband did so that he was able to receive two week's worth of pay while he took time off from work after baby arrived.
Find other options while on maternity leave or if not taking maternity leave
Since I knew I would not be returning to work, I looked into other ways to compensate my income by finding a job that I could do from home. I had one lined up that I was able to start while I was pregnant and I continued doing it after the baby arrived. I also had the opportunity to accept paid babysitting jobs to care for other people's children while staying at home with my baby.
I suggest trying to find home-based jobs like these to make up for the loss of income if you are not getting paid while on maternity leave or do not plan on returning to the work force for awhile. There are plenty of independent or freelance type jobs you can do from home where you have the luxury of setting your own hours while caring for your little one.
Not Always What You Expect When Expecting
Maternity leave is not always what we expect when we are expecting. If my job at the time offered maternity leave, specifically paid maternity leave, if I was in the career I wanted to be in and if child care did not exceed my income, then my chances of returning to work would have been higher. I did what was in the best interest of my family at the time.
Do What's Best for You and Your Family
Do what's best for you and your family, weigh the pros and cons of every issue, including the impact of maternity leave. It can influence your decisions and how you handle making changes at work. Avoid waiting until the last minute when baby is about to make an appearance; find out what kind of maternity leave you can receive and if it works for you. If it does not, you will be able to adjust your plans accordingly and start making preparations to balance out any changes in income.
Check out this post in The Insider, "Preparing Financially for Maternity Leave" for more details on the financial side of Maternity Leave.
Good luck and if you are expecting, congrats on your future bundle of joy!
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