How to Prepare for Maternity Leave

You’ve peed on the stick and you’ve told your partner, YAY! Congratulations!

Now what? Preparing for baby’s arrival can feel like a never ending hurry-up-and-wait cycle that may never end, but in reality those 9 months go fast and before you know it you have made the fast transition of working woman to working mom. Surprisingly this transition is not cut and dry. Preparing for baby looks different for everyone.

Unfortunately, failing to be proactive while preparing for your maternity leave can leave you with some very unpleasant surprises. In most cases there are unclear guidelines regarding company policies vs benefit policies and for what one does or does not qualify. At Take 12 we take out some of that guess work and provide you with free planning documents to help you through this process. Most moms agree that the following 5 steps make preparation for maternity leave a lot less painful- our maternity leave prep epidural if you will.

Talk to your HR department 

Telling your employer about your pregnancy can be nerve-wracking. A good place to start is your HR department if you are uncomfortable telling your direct boss. Most people wait to talk to their employer until after their first trimester (12 weeks), though the earlier you can collect policy information from your HR department the better. I would even argue it is good to collect this info before you start “trying”. Here are some great questions to ask:

Do I qualify for the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?
What is our Maternity Leave policy?
Do I qualify for Short Term Disability? At what percentage of my pay?
Do I qualify for any other pay while on leave?
Who can I talk to regarding maternity medical benefits for birth/newborn hospitalization?
Will I owe for my missed employee benefit contributions upon return to work?

Take notes and talk to other employees about their experience while on leave. Some details can come as a surprise and mean additional stress for you while on leave. Keep all of the information you collect in a physical folder that you can refer to while at home on leave. In most situations you will be the person calling between your HR department, your Short Term Disability claim company and your medical benefits insurance company. It is extremely helpful to be able to refer to the information you have collected as you may need to fill out forms at different times throughout the leave process. This is also a great folder for the baby’s paperwork you will receive in the hospital for birth certificate, SSN, and medical related details.

Do the math

Once you are clear on how much time you will take, what benefits you have access to and how much it will cost to give birth, now its time to do the math. It is important to get very clear on how much it will cost you to take the leave you want to take without going into financial turmoil. Unfortunately in the US this number can be much bigger than you may expect.

Once you are clear on your number you can divide it by how many weeks you have left in your pregnancy and look to your budget to make weekly cuts. Save every additional dollar you have into a separate account. This will become your maternity leave fund. You can “pay” yourself from this account on schedule with your normal pay periods to feel less of a hit while on leave. During one of my pregnancies we canceled cable, cut out gym memberships, and found some ways to grocery shop smarter with meal planning. With these simple hacks we were able to stow away extra dollars that equated to more time for me to recover and bond after the birth.

It’s important to remember while looking at all of the cute baby clothes and new gear in stores that you can buy second hand and still get high quality items. Every dollar you can save in your 9 months of pregnancy equates to more time with baby. It’s worth it!

Register for your maternity leave

In reality, it is very difficult to save for your maternity leave especially if you work full time. I am going to go out on a limb and say that the reason you work is because you need the money to help provide for your family, not because you have a special passion for budget meetings and employee reviews.

Believe it or not, not everybody understands that in 2018. The landscape for working women has changed drastically over the past 20 years and while the workforce dropout rate for new moms used to be 67%, with women currently making up 50% of our workforce, our economy would fall apart if that rate were still the norm. We need women to work and have babies and some of us love to work and have babies- but we need help to do both. With the US as the only industrialized country to mandate $0 of paid leave to its citizens, we put the full price tag of having kids and working on our mothers.

I believe that friends and family want to help. Think of the amazingly cute baby gifts you have received that you may never use: lace newborn gown, 35 slogan onesies, wipe warmer, pacifier holder for your purse, etc. Now there is a way to articulate that the gift you need most of all is time at home from work to recover and bond after birth or adoption so you can return to your profession feeling like a real human again. Log on to Take 12 and create your Maternity Leave Registry so friends, family, and co-workers can give you a financial gift that means more time at home. In the end, nothing will stop your friend from getting you that “Tuesdays are made for Tacos” onsie if they want to, but they will also have the opportunity to give you the most precious gift of all.

Talk to your boss

When you feel the time is right, tell your boss. More than likely, they will be very happy for you! In some cases they may ask some follow up questions regarding your workload. Don’t be surprised or offended if these questions feel impersonal. In most cases this your boss’s way of strategizing and keeping their priorities in place while you are gone. This conversation is a good opportunity for you to talk about options for your fill in or temp and show off your primo delegating skills if you already have an idea of coverage in mind. It is important to be able to fully check out when you are on leave. Set systems in place that will allow you to do so and in the end your boss should be impressed.

Prepare freezer meals

This last one is less about work, more about logistics at home. Let’s face it, once that baby comes you are going to want to sleep and snuggle while you recover and bond at least for the first couple of weeks. The one thing you may underestimate is the fog you may be in trying to find the new normal without sleep, shower, or routine. More than likely, nobody in your house will want to cook, clean or expel any unnecessary energy after your return from the hospital. To avoid a hefty takeout tax, in the months leading up to your leave get a deep freezer (also handy for pumping and storing breast milk upon your return to work) or clear out some room in your freezer and start a stash of easy to heat meals! I live in Minnesota, so here we would refer to this as a “hot dish” stash but there are great ideas online and on Pinterest for preparing and storing crock pot meals, casseroles, and other easy to assemble/cost effective dishes.

One of the best parenting antidotes I have ever received was from a mom of five whose children had all grown up and left the house. She looked at my tired overwhelmed expression while on maternity leave and said with longing in her eyes “the days are long, but the years are short.” It’s true that the wait for baby and the exhaustion of those first few weeks can seem endless, but when you look back they are a flash in the pan. I believe so strongly that the time we spend to recover and bond after birth or adoption is some of the most important time we can take and should not be overshadowed by the undue emotional, mental, and financial stress of balancing work and self care.  Check out www.mytake12.com for more helpful tips and join our social media community to learn more about how to take your maternity into your own hands.