Yay, congratulations on your pregnancy! Now here’s a complete checklist of how to plan for maternity leave if you’re a working mom.
Being a working mom is what works best for my family. If you’re here, you must fall into this category as well. Before we get to the fun stuff, such as deciding on a theme for the nursery or organizing baby clothes, there are some not-so-fun things we must do to prepare and plan for maternity leave. We know we’ll be taking days off, but for how long and will we get paid?
How to Plan for Maternity Leave as a Working Mom
As a pregnant and working mom, whether this is your third or first, preparing for maternity leave can be overwhelming. Some things would be easier to push to the end of your to-do list. But you don’t have to move the most important steps of welcoming a new blessing to your family off to the very end because I’m here to help you with the process.
This guide will help you successfully plan for your maternity leave and ensure it fits your family’s needs and interests. I want you to be prepared for reality and what’s to come. Keep reading to find out everything you need to get done before taking maternity leave.
Learn your employer’s maternity leave policy
First things first, you must learn your employer’s maternity leave policy as early as possible. The sooner you can mentally, and financially prepare, for your time away from the office the better. I recommend researching the leave policy as soon as you find out that you’re pregnant. Like you share the great news with your spouse today and tomorrow you’re reading your employer’s maternity leave policy.
If you didn’t know, there are three different types of maternity leave options available for new moms and dads.
- Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 aka FMLA: According to the Department of Labor, this is a United States labor law that requires some employers to provide 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons. This ONLY ensures your job is available after your leave; it does not replace your income.
- Short-Term Disability: Short-term disability provides financial support when you’re temporarily unable to work due to certain eligible conditions, such as having a baby. Typically, short-term disability covers about 60% of your income for a specific time determined by your employer. That could be six weeks or 12 weeks. Researching in advance will help you prepare financially.
- Company Paid Leave: More and more companies are beginning to offer 100% company-paid leave ranging from four weeks up to 4-6 months. Knowing that your job is protected and that you’ll get your normal paycheck while out on leave will help relieve so much stress for your family.
According to Indeed.com, some states also provide additional maternity leave protection in addition to FMLA so be sure to find out what programs your state offers if any.
Review your paid time off policy
After you’ve learned about your employer’s maternity leave policy, the next most important thing to review is the paid time off policy. While pregnant, you may be ill and need to take off a few days or you may need to slip out of the office for a few hours for a doctor’s appointment. It’s important to calculate how much paid time off is available to you in advance. You may also decide to take a few days or weeks off before the baby’s arrival and that leave may need to be covered with your paid time off.
Review your insurance coverage
If you have a health insurance plan, review your policy, or call to speak with a representative, to see what’s covered. Having a baby can be pricey so you’ll need to understand the costs covered by your insurance for your prenatal visits and hospital stay. Be sure to ask about any deductibles and copays so that you aren’t caught off guard.
You may even learn of some free benefits offered by your insurance such as:
- breast pumps
- pregnancy and postpartum support bands
- lactation classes
- and more.
Prepare your finances
Babies are not cheap and I’m not talking about all the essentials you’ll need once the baby arrives. I’m talking about having a baby. I was an uneducated first-time mom, and I was surprised when I was hit with a few thousand dollars worth of medical bills after the birth of my baby. Luckily, both my OBGYN and the hospital offered a payment plan and I didn’t have to come up with such a large sum of money in a short amount of time.
I recommend creating a budget and saving $2,000-$3,000 to help cover any medical expenses that may arise such as additional hospital care before the baby arrives or an unexpected Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) stay once the baby is born.
Note: the final amount needed for your baby’s birth may vary depending on if you have a home or a hospital birth that’s medicated or unmediated.
Decide when you’ll stop working
You have two options:
- Start your leave before the baby arrives
- Work up until you go into labor
With each pregnancy, I’ve chosen to work up until my scheduled induction date, but they both have their pros and cons.
Starting your leave before the baby comes will require you to use your paid time off, but you’ll have a few days or weeks to prepare for the baby’s arrival mentally, physically, and emotionally. It’ll help you prioritize taking care of yourself and give you a little free time especially if you have other kids.
Working up to you go into labor can be exhausting especially if your job is demanding. I highly advise you to weigh your options with your doctor, spouse, and employer and decide what’s best for you and your family.
Tell your boss you’re expecting
This is an obvious step but communicating to your boss that you are expecting a little one is very important. Of course, do so once you’re comfortable, but be sure to give them enough time to find someone to cover your workload while you’re out if needed.
Submit a Claim with the Disability Vendor
To receive payment and job protection during your maternity leave, your employer may require you to open a claim with their disability vendor. This is usually required at least 30 days before your expected due date. After your claim has been opened, be sure to notate their phone number and your claim number because you’ll need this information to notify them of the baby’s birth so that they’ll know when to begin, and end, your maternity leave benefits.
Determine when you’ll return to the office
I know you’re thinking, “I haven’t even started my maternity leave yet. Why should I be thinking about when I’ll return to the office already?”
But your return to the office is just as big of a deal as your last day in the office. It’s so important that you and your employer have a rough estimate of how long you’ll be out and what your return to the office will look like. Will you jump back into work full force or do you plan to ease back into things if that’s an option?
Figure out breast pumping logistics
If you’re planning to breastfeed, you’ll more than likely need a space to pump when you return to work. If you don’t have a private office, reach out to Human Resources (HR) to determine the logistics of breast pumping before your maternity leave. That way on your first day back in the office, you won’t be scrambling trying to find a private space to pump.
Don’t be like me and must succumb to pumping in the bathroom on your first day back in the office because you have no clue where the nursing area is or who to even ask.
Start looking at childcare options now
Before becoming a mom, I had no clue how hard it would be to enroll a child in daycare. I assumed that I could walk in one day, tour the facility, and decide if I wanted to enroll the next day. Boy was I wrong.
Most great daycares have months-long wait lists.
Once you find out that you’re expecting, I recommend to begin asking around for daycare recommendations in your area and start touring a few facilities. Even if you plan to hire a nanny instead, start the process sooner rather than later. I’d hate for your return-to-work date to approach and for you to be left with no childcare option.
No matter the length of your maternity leave, it will come and go before you know it. There may be plenty of things that pop up between now and then, but I hope this guide will help you plan for a stress-free maternity leave.