July 3, 2013 12:54 pm
Taking time off after having a having a baby can be stressful as well as expensive. Although the Family and Medical Leave Act requires companies with 50 or more employees to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave, many parents take less than that, either to avoid giving up their salaries for an extended period or because they are afraid the job may not wait for them.
Financial strategist Kimberly Palmer suggests seven tips for planning ahead to ensure that your maternity leave is financially and emotionally on track:
- Research your options – Early on, ask other parents at work about available maternity leave options, and take note of whether people are able to work from home or work flexible hours. Once you are ready to tell people you are pregnant, usually around three-months, speak with the human resources department about leave benefits. The same advice goes for fathers. Some companies offer at least a couple of weeks of paid paternity leave.
- Delegate your responsibilities – Some people fear that turning their responsibilities over to others will make them appear replaceable. But most employers will value your efforts to be certain the company will not be left in the lurch while you are away. Before you leave, inform your employer about any arrangements you have made.
- Plan a short but complete work blackout – While it might be tempting to check emails or phone messages in the first couple of weeks after giving birth, give yourself that time to free your mind of work-related issues, bond with your baby, and get as much sleep as possible.
- Then stay in touch – By your third or fourth week at home, begin checking in with the office once every week or two. Getting updates lets people know you are interested and will be coming back.
- Find good child care – If you have not made child care arrangements beforehand, use your time off to secure affordable and reassuring arrangements.
- Once back at work, be the same person – Feel free to show baby photos to those who ask, but do your best to show the office staff you are the same responsible person you were before you left.
- Help others – Supporting pregnant co-workers through the process with tips that worked for you makes for a more family-friendly work environment.