Negotiate for a Better Maternity Leave

IMaternity-Leave-Proposalt’s no secret that maternity leave benefits in the US are lacking.  You know it’s bad when our own President fronts us out.  To quote him directly, “the United States is the only developed country in the world without paid maternity leave.”  But, we can’t let that get us down because bringing a child into this world is one of, it not THE most rewarding and important thing we can do to in our lifetimes.

The good news is that even when you think the deck is stacked against you and you’re concerned that you won’t get a fair shake when you ask for maternity leave, there are experts out there who have successfully helped women to not only get a fair maternity leave but also a great maternity leave.  Today I would like to introduce you to an expert in this area, Pat Katepoo.

Pat has been a work options advisor since 1993 and her website Work Options has been online since 1997. Thousands of busy professionals have found answers and relief through her services.  Pat says, “Women aren’t socialized to negotiate and so they are less inclined than men to ask for what they need or want. And research shows that often women fail to see their options or even think to ask for them.   So maybe you don’t know what you don’t know.”  Pat can help you see your options and ask for them.

Whether you choose her do-it-yourself guides or her personal services by phone you get practical help negotiating various work options to make your life calmer and easier. Options such as job flexibility, a fabulous pay raise, and more maternity leave and other time off.

Please take a few moments right now to visit Pat at WorkOptions.  I really think she’s the best in this subject area and definitely the most experienced.  I always keep a link to her site on the side of my blog posts because I think her services are so valuable to working women.  I’m an affiliate for Pat’s tools and resources so each purchase you make drops a few coins in the bucket to fund The Maternity Leave Coach, so “thank you” in advance.

 

Who’s Your Daddy and Why is He on Paternity Leave?

I just read a great article at Forbes.com about paternity leave and it’s benefits for babies, dads, AND moms.   I’m just curious… do you work with anyone who’s taken a full paternity leave?  In my experience new dads usually take about a week of vacation and they make sure to tell everyone they’re using vacation days just to be sure everyone knows they’re not milking the system for paternity leave.

Wouldn’t it be cool for a dad to say with pride, “I am taking the full benefit of my paternity leave (or FMLA) because becoming a new dad is awesome and I don’t want to miss a moment of it.”  I would venture to say that most new dads definitely feel that way but there are pressures (real or unspoken) to be at work or available for work 24/7.  Especially if the new dad is anxious about being the provider, anything that might rock the boat at work doesn’t seem like a good idea right around the time you’re adding to your family and have another mouth to feed.

So, the pressure keeps some dads from taking time off for the new baby. Are there stereotypes about what dad will do while he’s at home?  Like this promo photo from the classic 80’s movie “Mr. Mom”  Who wants to be this guy?

Mr. Mom

I’m just guessing that dads out there would rather think they’ll look like this (I guess moms wouldn’t mind either!)

David Beckham with Baby

Personally, nothing is more handsome, manly, responsible, mature and EMPLOYABLE than a man who takes care of his family.

What do you think?

Like Learning to Ride a Bike

This Labor Day weekend has been stressful.  Not because I had to work while everyone was off sunbathing by the lake but because I was off and decided to tackle a project that I really didn’t want to do.

That project?  Re-teaching my 8 year old son how to ride his bike.   Sounds easy because re-teaching should just take a gentle nudge, an encouraging word or a trip down memory lane to recollect about how he rode his bike last summer.  As a matter of fact, he rode his bike just two weeks ago.  But, two weeks ago he also fell off his bike (in the grass so don’t shed too many tears) and that led to the drama that we have experienced over the holiday.

Read moreLike Learning to Ride a Bike

Summer Schedule’s Got Me Scattered

Hey working moms out there!  It’s been a lllloooooonnnnngggg time since I’ve posted on the blog.  Why?  No real valid excuse except that I’m all off kilter because we’ve done end of school, vacation and now we’re in the midst of summer camp.

End of school brings all sorts of meetings, awards ceremonies, parties and general chaos.   Vacation I can’t complain about because it’s wonderful!  Summer camp really throws me off my game.   Luckily I work a reduced work schedule so I’m still at work the same amount of hours for the week, but, the later start to summer camp pushes our day later, our dinner later, and our bedtimes later.  My son seems to adjust well since he can sleep a little later but for mom, it’s more time on the road driving both to and from school.

So that’s my bit of venting and to put it all into perspective, I only have one child!  I know a mom of six who has been doing summers for years so I shouldn’t be complaining.  But, I am admitting to you all now that I’m already stressing about how we’ll handle next summer.  We’ve got a good gig now because my son can go to the summer camp at his school but as he gets older he’ll want to go to the cool astronaut camp that only operates from 8:15 am – 1:13 pm or the underwater explorer experience at the aquarium that is Tuesday, Thursdays and third Saturdays from 2:12 pm – 4:44 pm.  Who can drive their kids back and forth with these crazy camp hours?  I’m so glad my work allows for me to adjust my schedule but it still has me tweaked out.

I’m thinking about hiring a college student next summer to drive him to camps and stay at home with him in between but that’s going to be a chunk of change.  I’m curious as to what other working moms do for summer kid care, so weigh in and let me know how you manage it all.

 

When Work and Family Collide – Missing the Big School Event

I really love Fast Company magazine and I was perusing their site the other day and stumbled upon this oldie but goodie.  Funny to think that 2007 is an oldie but in our world it’s so five years ago! But the concept of the article was timeless.  Here’s the scenario:  Cali Williams Yost, the author and well known expert on worklife issues, had been invited to a national gathering of flexibility experts.  Sounds awesome right?  Just the group to affect change in the world!

Read moreWhen Work and Family Collide – Missing the Big School Event

My Day As a Stay At Home Mom…Fail

Last week my son was sick so I stayed home from work with him.  I had such grand visions of all the things that I would accomplish on my day as a stay at home mom.

I have always fancied that if I stayed at home my house would be so clean and I’d be so fit and cute all the time.  Maybe I’d wear a little black track suit to go pick my son up from school (with Starbucks in hand) after my book club at Barnes and Noble.   I’d also work on volunteering at the school and Fridays would be the day I ran copies for teachers in the workroom.  On those days I’d wear skinny jeans and a hip scarf with some jewelry I got from my neighbor who sells Silpada.  Scary how detailed the fantasy was.

Read moreMy Day As a Stay At Home Mom…Fail

I Gotta Have Faith – Working Your Real Hours

In my workplace I am an oddity.  Here’s a few reasons why:

  1. I’m just odd.  As a creative, outgoing person I am outside the norm of my introverted engineery co-workers.
  2. I’m female.  Probably 85% – 90% of the workforce in my organization of 5,000+ is male.
  3. I work a reduced work schedule at a reduced salary.  (Insert sound of a co-worker spitting out their coffee at the horror of this thought)

    Read moreI Gotta Have Faith – Working Your Real Hours

Grandma Was Workin’ It – 80+ year old working woman reflects

working motherThis weekend my son and I went to visit my grandparents – Richard and Liz (aka Paw Paw Richard and Maw Maw Bebo) – in Lake Charles,  Louisiana.  They had celebrated their 85th (Richard) and 82nd (Liz) birthdays earlier in the week and it was wonderful to spend some quality time with them.

I had some good chats with my grandmother and I shared about the blog and how I’m hoping to support moms who are struggling with the juggle of work and home.   I can’t ever remember my grandmother not working.  As a matter of fact she takes pride in the fact that she still maintains a separate “business  account” for the sewing she does for family and friends.  I asked her about her experiences as a working mother and here’s how the general conversation went.

Me:  So Maw Maw, was it hard for you to work and also have four kids at home?

Liz:  It was a lot to manage but back then we had help at home and we had wonderful women who would come to the house to be with the kids and keep the house in order.

Read moreGrandma Was Workin’ It – 80+ year old working woman reflects

Flexible Work Arrangement – if you never ask, it will never happen

I just read a great post on NYTimes.com about how one mom achieves more balance (and efficiency) by starting work later and leaving for home earlier.  You may say, “Wow, where do I find that fantasy job?” or “Does she also commute to work on a unicorn?”  As unrealistic as it may seem, there are moms (and dads) out there who actually work a reduced work schedule.  It doesn’t happen for everyone but I do have to say that it will never happen for you if you don’t ask.

My son was four when I finally worked up the courage to let someone know that I’d like to reduce my hours to spend more time at home.  The proposition of him starting kindergarten and not being to pick him up from school and help with homework was really getting me down.  Luckily for me, on my new manager’s first day she asked about my career goals.  I figured it was now or never so I blurted out, “I’d like to reduce my hours.”  It seemed so bold and gutsy and it played in slow motion over and over in my head after I walked out of her office.  Had I just committed career suicide?

Read moreFlexible Work Arrangement – if you never ask, it will never happen

First Business Trip Away from Baby – A Tale from the Road

Before having a baby, I must admit that I liked traveling for work.  I got to stay in nice hotels, eat in fancy restaurants, ride in town cars like a celebrity and could stay up as late as I wanted.  My husband and I both traveled from time to time and we both enjoyed the change of scenery while we were away from home.  I even took a trip when I was big and pregnant and felt no shame in using both the spa facilities and the pillow concierge at The Benjamin when I was in New York.  (They really do have a pillow concierge – here’s their pillow menu http://www.thebenjamin.com/PillowMenu.aspx)

But then, here comes this bundle of perfection who is dependent on me for his every need.  Not only has it been difficult leaving him for the day while I’m at work but I can only imagine it will be torture to be almost 1000 miles away!  Going cold turkey would have been unbearable so I am so glad that my husband and I had already traveled without little one.  We are blessed to have grandparents within driving distance who are retired and can keep him for extended periods.  We had been to Hawaii when our son was 12 months old so surely leaving him again for just a few days wouldn’t be a problem?!? WRONG!

Read moreFirst Business Trip Away from Baby – A Tale from the Road

Supermoms Need a Rescue

Everyone’s talking about this study about “supermoms” and I couldn’t help adding a few thoughts too.  http://www.livescience.com/15663-supermom-depression.html  Good news for me is that I wholeheartedly agree with the researcher Katrina Leupp and her findings line up exactly with my experiences.  Here’s a bit of what she had to say.

Women who expect to have it all probably come up against workplaces that aren’t designed with work-life balance in mind, she said. When they can’t balance everything perfectly, these supermoms are more likely to feel frustration and guilt.

I’d like to expand this to stay at home supermoms too.  I know a few who are extreme Type As and have high expectations for their home life based upon their success in the business world.  I even had one friend who was measuring her baby’s poop to make sure it was within acceptable ranges.  I don’t need to survey 1600 women  to know that once you’ve started sticking a tape measure in dirty diapers, it’s gone too far.

So, I say to all moms out there, “If you are loving your child, feeding them, providing shelter, growing them to be strong in character and hugging them as much as you can – you’re all the supermom they’ll ever need.”  When the balls you’re juggling fall on the floor and the hats on your head topple over, just look at a few family photos and soak up what you’ve really accomplished.

Let the guilt begin. Working and mothering don’t always mix.

Toward the end of my three-month maternity leave I must admit that I was excited that I had gotten a call from my manager asking me to participate on a conference call for a project I’d be on when I got back to work.  “They still need me!” I thought and beamed with pride at the request.

I planned it all out.  I’d put my son down for a nap about 15 minutes before to make sure he was in full on snooze.  His room was next to the home office and I could close the door so he wouldn’t be disturbed.  It’d be perfect and I was about to prove to myself that I could do it ALL!

Read moreLet the guilt begin. Working and mothering don’t always mix.