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 by clicking any of the links in this post.  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?

What Happens If You Work for “Neanderthal Inc.”?

I am so excited to share a special guest post from my husband and biggest supporter.  Take a few minutes to hear his perspective on maternity leave.

For starters, I’m really proud of my wife for doing the Maternity Leave Coach blog and helping get useful topics/hints/suggestions out there that working women can use when they are on the verge of experiencing the most amazing event they will ever experience in their life. My wife asked me to chime in on a guest post, so we chatted about what I’ve experienced in my working life.

For starters, I’ve had a knack in my working life for working around and with companies that could also be labeled as “Neanderthal Inc.”  By that I mean that they are typically male dominated and may have a culture that is gruff and quite frankly doesn’t understand women and how to work with them or develop them so they are vital parts of the organization. Fortunately, my wife has mostly worked for large companies that have had fairly progressive policies when it comes to women and typically would go above any federal minimums when it came to maternity leave and benefits like that. So, it’s safe to say we’ve had different experiences over our almost 20+ years working. We were talking about her blog recently (did I mention I’m proud of her?) and why some women might not want to tell their managers they are pregnant or that they might be nervous about their future when there are laws to protect them. Here are some observations I’ve made over the years.

Read moreWhat Happens If You Work for “Neanderthal Inc.”?

The Evils of Extended Maternity Leave

I just read an article by Kay Hymowitz on Time.com about how extended maternity leave may put women at a disadvantage in the workplace.  I’m not mad at Ms. Hymowitz because she’s just reporting the facts but I am left with a little bit of a “meh, I could have told you that” reaction.

Do I wish that an employee – male or female – could take a year off of work without having the negative side effects mentioned in the article?  We’ll yes, it’d be great if I was gone for the next twelve months and my skills didn’t get rusty, my social networks stayed fresh, I’d be able to come back with the same or higher pay and that my longer term career potential wasn’t affected.  But I believe it’s a little unrealistic to think that one or more of those wouldn’t be affected by my choice to exit the workplace for a while.

Let’s flip the script a bit.  Let’s say Joe in the cubicle next to you made a decision to serve in the military.  His time away from work to serve his country is protected by law.  Would you expect him to be sent on required training for a year and then think he’d come right back to work without missing a beat?  Might he have forgotten a bit about the company’s complex accounting system, could the advocates he had previously in the organization moved on without him, could that affect his rate of pay increases for the next few years while he caught up?  It’s highly likely one or more of these things would happen.  Even though that stinks, we’d support him through this transition back to the workplace and respect his service to our country.

I believe that sustaining the human race through pro-creation is also a noble cause.  And here’s the upside that I think we forget.  Why did I take the time off in the first place?  TO HAVE A BABY!  That trumps a few bucks more an hour, don’t you think?

I’m afraid that people (ok, specifically business leaders and policymakers) in the U.S. read about extended leaves in other parts of the world and say “See, our twelve week maternity leave policies are better than other countries because we get a woman back to work sooner, therefore improving her chances of getting back on the career track more quickly.”  Uh, ok.  Lame.

So, all that to say, I will still advocate for improvements in maternity leave offerings around the world and I hope you join with me in that work.  Check out my other blog posts that show just how far behind we are in the U.S. in regard to our offer for working mothers-to-be.  Then write a letter or change a diaper.

When to Tell the Boss…Again

I just visited Corporette.com and they’ve recently written a post about when you should announce your pregnancy at work.

The comments are great and I’d recommend you take a read to get a good understanding of all the ins and outs that other women have faced when deciding when to share their news.

Personally, I still side with the “earlier the better” camp because I just like to have the air clear.  But I completely understand if anyone else lands in a different spot.

P.S.  While you’re at Corporette.com check out this great post on wearing button down shirts.  If you are a mom who is bursting at the seams, you’ll definitely appreciate their advice!

Elephant in the Maternity Ward

Ok, I’m just going to have to blog about it.  Everyone else is making a big hub-bub and since I think I am the only blogger in the US blogging about maternity leave,  it would be really weird for me not to take this opportunity to say something.  It’s like the elephant in the maternity ward.

What is the IT I’m talking about?  We’ll, the IT, I mean, SHE is Marissa Mayer, the new Yahoo CEO.   Her quote heard ’round the world goes a little something like this.

“My maternity leave will be a few weeks long, and I’ll work throughout it.”

Read moreElephant in the Maternity Ward

Why Women Don’t Return After Maternity Leave

Helen Letchfieldco-founder of Parenting for Professionals Ltd in the UK, which enables companies to support new and existing parents at work through coaching,  wrote a great article at TrainingJournal.com  about the reasons why women leave the workforce after maternity leave.   Here’s a bit of what Helen had to say:

Returning to work after maternity leave is one of the biggest changes a female employee will ever have to make.  Yet in many organisations, this life-changing event remains unsupported.  Very typically, women returners struggle in silence, not wanting to appear ‘needy’ by asking for help.

Read moreWhy Women Don’t Return After Maternity Leave

The Four Rules of Maternity Leave

Julie Steinberg wrote a nice article that encapsulated the four rules you need to remember about your maternity leave.  I’ve linked to the article at the end of this post.  I wanted to expand a bit on her rules and ask you all if you’d add any more rules to the list.

1.  Start the conversation early

I was glad to see that the women Julie referred to in the article recommended letting managers know sooner than later.   The 12 week mark seems to be a good time to let people know.  You’d want to share the news sooner if you are having an especially tough time with morning sickness or you are high risk and may need accommodations during your pregnancy.  

Read moreThe Four Rules of Maternity Leave

Doctor Visits and Work – Planning for Pregnancy Care

“Will my boss let me off to go to my doctor’s appointments?” is a common question that I’ve heard from women newly pregnant who are actively involved in the workforce. If you consider that most pregnant women have between ten and 15 prenatal visits over the course of nine months, it’s understandable that this would be a concern.

To answer the question of whether or not your employer will let you off of work, I’ll answer with the “spirit” and then the” letter” of the law. From a “spirit” perspective, most employers will be understanding and as long as you aren’t pulling a fast one with your appointments, they will be accommodating. They will allow for the time off either from sick time allocation through FMLA or if you prefer, from your vacation allotment.

Read moreDoctor Visits and Work – Planning for Pregnancy Care

Plan the Work and Work the Plan – Maternity Leave Planning

So what’s your plan?  If you answer stops at “have a baby” then you’ve got a little bit of thinkin’ to do!  As mind-consuming and stressful as it is for parents-to-be to consider how in the heck they’re going to care for this precious little one, considerations about work can fall to the wayside.  If you’re currently employed and soon to be taking maternity leave, you should know that as happy as your boss and co-workers may be for you, they’re also concerned about how all the work is going to get done.

Read morePlan the Work and Work the Plan – Maternity Leave Planning

The Legend of Big Foot – My Working While Pregnant Shoe-mergency

Notice:  I must warn you that the photo included with this post is intended for mature audiences.  The feet shown are my actual feet and are indicative of a 50+ lb weight gain during my pregnancy.  The story of these big feet is true and thankfully all involved are still living to tell the tale today.

I was looking through some old photos the other day and stumbled upon a file folder named “Pregnancy”.  Since they were shown in date/time order, I could see the progression of my pregnancy unfold right before my eyes.  Kind of like those little drawings you do at the bottom of a flip book to make the stick man dance and jump, I could see my body morphing into what would become the mother of a 10lb 2oz baby boy.  Granted, the saggy abs that I have today are evidence that something major had happened in my past but I forget what my body had really gone through in those ten months of pregnancy (please correct people who say it’s only nine…forty weeks = 10 months!)

Read moreThe Legend of Big Foot – My Working While Pregnant Shoe-mergency

Maternity Leave Book Club – Good Reads Before You Return to Work

If only I were Oprah I could really make a Maternity Leave Book Club happen.  Actually, if I were Oprah I wouldn’t waste time with a book club.  I’d pay people to write books about me and then have William Shatner read them back to me while trained pandas massage my feet.  (Jealousy is a form of flattery right?  I got no beef with Oprah).

Read moreMaternity Leave Book Club – Good Reads Before You Return to Work

What Did Your Boss Really Say? True Stories of Telling Them You’re Pregnant

Tell Boss You're PregnantAs I hear from working women about their trials and tribulations of pregnancy and maternity leave, one of the hot topics is always “when/how to tell your boss you’re pregnant”.  There is so much fear and concern about how the manager will respond.

I have a theory that most of the fear about telling the boss comes from myths and legends, but I could be wrong (I hope I am).  I actually think that in most cases the manager is willing to work with you as best they know how.  That’s the deal, most don’t know how so the whole thing gets awkward and clunky.

So, here’s where you come in… I need your stories.  What REALLY happened when you told your boss you were pregnant?  Comment here with your story and please share this with the other working women you know who would have a story to share.

Thanks!  Let’s get those comments rolling in.