Planning for maternity or paternity leave can be daunting, especially if both you and your spouse have jobs with long hours. Combine that with preparing for having a new baby in the house – and that leaves a lot to think about and plan for.
Relax, mommies and daddies to-be, we can help you adequately prepare or at least figure out the right questions to ask along the way:
First, Understand Your Work Benefits
The first step in planning for maternity/paternity leave is to clearly understand your work rights and benefits. So dig up that dusty employee handbook or at least pull it from your email archive. Things to check for:
- Type of leave available for time away from work (combining sick leave, vacation, personal days, etc.)
- Company policies regarding pregnancy rights and maternity or paternity leave
- Any medical benefits during leave
Talk to your boss or HR manager to clarify any questions you might have in full detail. FYI – the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees (men and women) of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for up to 12 weeks after the birth of a child. Either way, reach out to your employer and explore all your options and benefits.
This is also the time to discuss if you plan to return to work. New parents may make a hasty decision to quit their jobs, only to discover that stay-at-home parenting is not for them. Ask the right questions to evaluate:
- Does your employer have a flexible work policy?
- Is working from home an option?
- Is a gradual return, working fewer days or hours, possible?
Planning For Time Out of the Office
To ease any stress ahead of your due date, try to plan your doctor’s visits in advance (or if possible, at a regular time – say Thursdays) and be open with your employer about your schedule. Sort out a plan for when you’ll begin your maternity or paternity leave, and if you’ll be working on a part-time schedule for any of it. Since there may be unexpected reasons to extend your leave, be sure you start saving those vacation days immediately.
Part of planning ahead also means informing clients and colleagues that you plan to take leave and for how long. For some people, writing a maternity/paternity leave letter to alert everyone at once works best. For others, in-person discussions are more appropriate. Be clear with your colleagues about if and when you want to be contacted while you’re out and the preferred method of communication.
Adapting to New Roles
Adjusting to life at home is a pivotal part of maternity and paternity leave. To ensure that each parent has equal responsibilities, work with your spouse to find out the best way to care for your new baby. For example, while breastfeeding will naturally be a task for mom, dad can offer a clean bib and to burp the baby afterward. This way, feeding time becomes a joint activity. Getting your baby ready for bath time is another activity that parents can do together, where one parent prepares the bath while the other gets the baby ready.
Beyond catering to your baby’s every need, moms and dads shouldn’t ignore their personal time. Getting out of the house for some “me” time is equally important. New parents may feel guilty about leaving the house for even a few minutes without their baby, but that’s what babysitters and nearby relatives are for. Ease yourself into the outside world if needed. Make friends with your neighbors, especially if they have kids of their own. Or, take a stroll to the local public library and pick up a book for yourself.
Returning to Work
Should you choose to go back to work after maternity leave, selecting the ideal child care or nanny is imperative. From a local relative to an au pair, each option comes with perks and limits. Weigh the pros and cons to decide what option is most suitable for your family. For example, if you decide to hire a full-time nanny, your completely dependent on their availability. If he or she quits suddenly, you’re left in a stressful predicament.
With a newborn, it’s natural to feel extra protective. Make a list of qualities you’re looking for in a caregiver, and use it as a checklist when interviewing potential candidates.
Having a baby is one of the happiest occasions you experience in your lifetime. There are ways to prepare for this monumental moment that can help make it less stressful, as well. Reach out to other couples about how they handled maternity/paternity leave, keeping in mind that every family is different. They may have some unexpected experiences that you can prepare for. From all of us at Haven Life, enjoy the new addition to your family.