The 7 Secrets of Mastering
WITHOUT getting tangled up in paperwork
You CAN Do This. And I’m Here to
What is the Average Length of Maternity Leave?
“According to recently released census numbers, a majority of mothers who worked during pregnancy go back before 12 weeks, some way before. More than a quarter are at work within two months of giving birth and one in 10—more than half a million women each year—go back to their jobs in four weeks or less1.”
This Doesn’t Have to Be you!
I want you to know your rights, be prepared, and make the choice that is right for you. Not what you feel pressured to do.
Who Am I?
I’m Jess, I’m a nurse and mom of two. I had both of my children during the COVID-19 pandemic. I found that with all my nursing experience I still felt so lost and confused during that time. I found that the medical system really let me down as a mother and I wanted to fill a gap. I want to help women through the difficult and challenging experiences of becoming a mother.
How I got here
I have spent the last 6 years advocating for my patients to make sure they get the care and love that they need. I build strong bonds with them quickly as I help them navigate their medical concerns. I hope that through your journey we can build similar bonds. I want to be there to help you as you navigate motherhood.
I have been in your shoes more than once. I’m a working mom and feel very fulfilled in my work. I know that may be the same feeling you have about your work. You may be excited to get back to work after your baby. It may also be a stress point. Either way I want to help take away the stress of figuring out the complexities of maternity leave in the US.
There are many benefits to parents and children when parents are able to take a sufficient leave with their new child. The incidence of breastfeeding and duration of breastfeeding increases, parental care and engagement increases, decreased avoidable hospital visits, and many educational benefits for children. There is also evidence that maternal mental health improves when women are able to take sufficient leave with their new baby. I share this with you because you and your child deserve this time, don’t be afraid to take it.
My Best 7 Tips
“Okay, now with that out of the way, I’m super excited to share the top 7 secrets I discovered on
my OWN path to maneuvering maternity leave and getting the most out of it. Let’s start with #1
Secret #1: Know Your Legal Rights
For almost all of you, FMLA will cover you for part of your leave. This is a Federal law that allows you to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave (within 12 months) and your employer must hold your position and continue the same benefits during that time (You must work a total of 1,250 hours over the past year to get this benefit). Many states offer some additional benefits and pay. Please look into your states specific laws that may allow you to get some additional benefits.
Additionally reach out to your HR department for your companies’ FMLA and maternity leave policies and procedures. They may also give you or direct you to the proper paperwork to fill out prior to your leave. Some companies may offer some pay during a portion of your leave. Companies are becoming more aware of the benefits of giving paid leave to their employees.
Understand that legally your employer may not treat you any differently or fire you because you are currently pregnant, recently pregnant, have a medical condition related to your pregnancy, or are breastfeeding/lactating under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Americans With Disabilities Act.
Call to Action: Reach out to your HR department to understand your rights
Secret #2: Using your Paid Time Off or Sick Leave
Depending on who you work for the policy may be slightly different, but most companies offer PTO or paid time off. This is something you accumulate over time and can use as needed to get paid time away from work. Make sure you familiarize yourself with your company’s policy so you understand how much time you can accrue before you can no longer accrue anymore and when you have to take the time before it is lost. There is nothing worse than loosing paid time off.
This is a great way to get paid during your maternity leave. By accruing more paid time off in your bank and saving it to be used on your leave can ensure you will get your full pay for as much of your leave as possible. This can be challenging if your pregnancy is unplanned. If you are in the position to plan for it, start saving as early as possible for your leave. Not every pregnancy goes as planned and there may be some bumps in the road that you will need that extra time.
Many companies will also require you to take your PTO prior to utilizing any other benefits such as Short Term Disability or FMLA.
Call to Action: Know your PTO policy and start making a plan to bank away hours!
Secret #3: Understanding Short Term Disability
In addition to PTO you may be able to get some financial assistance once your PTO runs out. Short Term Disability benefits may allow you to get a percentage of your income during your time off. Now you may be thinking having a baby isn’t an illness or a disability. Short Term Disability covers any condition that leaves you unable to work for a short period of time after you have used up your sick leave. Again, this will be slightly different for each person. Not everyone will be eligible or have the same options. Here are four different options of how you may receive benefits.
- Your employer may offer STD to all eligible employees as a benefit
- Your employer may offer STD plan through a third party insurance company (typically you have to plan ahead and have this in place prior to your disability)
- You can take out your own private STD plan
- Your state may have STD law that covers your during your leave
Again this does require some more work on your part. I would start with determining if your state has any STD laws that you are currently covered by. Then I would speak with your benefits provider at work to determine if you are eligible for any of these benefits. If you are not and you would still like coverage consider speaking with an insurance agent to get your own STD coverage.
Once you know what coverage you are entitled to, determine how much pay you will receive during your time off. This will help you understand how much you need to personally save up to cover the time off that you desire.
Call to Action: Determine what Coverage you have and how much pay you will receive
Secret #4: How Much Time Do I Want to Take With My Child?
There is evidence to show that taking time off with your child after having a baby is very important for both the child and the mother. Everyone will be different so I can’t give you an exact amount of time that is right for everyone. Each of you will struggle with different parts of motherhood. There are so many changes and everything is so new. I do recommend that you take at least 6-12 weeks if possible. From that point on is up to you and your particular needs.
There are many things to consider when taking your leave.
- How difficult will it be to return to work? (speak with other coworkers about their leave and what they would do differently)
- Is your partner able to take any leave as well to lengthen the time someone is home with your child?
- How much time off can you financially afford?
- How much time do you need to physically recover to do your job?
Again like I said this is going to be a very personal question and often hard to make before you have your child. You may experience some unforeseen complications during your birth or your child may have some challenges that make it difficult to return to work in the timeline your anticipated. I would suggest overestimating the time that you will need. You can always go back to work early if you desire.
Call to Action: Make a plan with your spouse of how much time you would like to take off of work
Secret #5: Speak With Your Employer
This step just like the others is going to be a very personal step for you. Some of you may not be ready for your employer or coworkers to know you are pregnant. You might fear that you will be treated differently. This is why I wanted you to know your rights and make a plan before coming to your employer. If you know your rights and have a plan you can help make this conversation go a little more smoothly.
When you choose to speak with your employer is going to be on your time table. I would bet they will appreciate you coming to them as soon as possible so they can begin to plan for your leave as well. I would recommend some time after your first trimester so that you can have the time to do your own homework.
Some of you may want to take more time than what is covered by FMLA. This is okay but needs to be discussed with your employer. They may have some additional options available to cover your job while you are on leave. When you approach your employer I would make sure you have done your own research and come prepared with suggestions. If you can show them how this leave will benefit them you are more likely to get what you are requesting.
I would suggest you role play this conversation with a fellow coworker you trust or your spouse. This will help you sort through your thoughts and be more confident going into the conversation. They may also bring up some points and perspectives of your employer that you have not yet considered.
Call to Action: Speak with your employer about your leave, while providing a plan and have meaningful suggestions that also benefit them.
Secret #6: Keep Everything Organized
As you can see Maternity Leave in the US is complicated. We all have different rights and different options. This leads to loads of phone calls, paperwork, and deadlines. I would suggest creating a simple system to organize all these steps. This may include a three ring binder or a filing cabinet. Whatever system works best for you.
Make sure you write down the names of the people you spoke with and the dates. Also keep a copy of all paperwork you have submitted along with the date. This will give you more leverage if any thing gets lost or complications arise. Try to keep a positive and upbeat attitude. I have found that you are more likely to get what you want and need if you can be positive and kind. I also like to ask for direct lines or phone numbers to those that can help so I don’t have to spend hours waiting on hold. The worst thing they can do is say no.
You will find when that sleep deprived brain is struggling to get everything together to go back to work you will be so grateful you set up a system that is easy to navigate.
Call to Action: Create your organizational system and put it to work.
Secret 7#: Prepare Financially
At this point you have determined what benefits you will receive and how much time you would like to take off. Hopefully you have spoken with your employer about the amount of time you would like to take and come up with a timeline that you both agree on. At this point you should know the difference of what you have and what you need to financially cover you for the rest of your maternity leave.
Now is the time to start saving! Look at your income now and how you can set aside some money into a separate account that is just for your leave. Make it automatic by setting up regular deposits on a schedule as soon as you get paid so you are not tempted to spend it on other things.
Call to Action: Set up automatic payments to an account to save for your leave
You Can Do This
This may seem like a lot, but take it step by step. You and your family NEED this time. Don’t be afraid to advocate for your needs!
If you have any specific questions or concerns reach out to me by email. I will
be happy to guide you.