A Real-Life Pregnancy: Week 21
Managing Maternity Leave
No matter where you work or what you do, the beginning of your baby bump probably has people around the office talking. You may not have told everyone the good news, but whether you’re keeping it mum or not, I think it’s pretty obvious your coworkers probably have made some guesses. And you might—just might—be noticing their questioning stares right about now.
I’m not sure if you remember way back when I told my boss about my pregnancy and she seemed pretty relaxed and open about the whole thing. I was feeling pretty good about how things were going. I thought there wouldn’t be any challenges on the work front, but this week proved me wrong. I definitely learned a lot of interesting information during this experience, like that it doesn’t matter what kind of work you do—from stocking shelves in a small local store to being a top executive—it’s essential to make sure you do this whole pregnancy/work thing right.
In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t rushed out and told my employer about my pregnancy right away. Even if your boss is a close friend, you can’t completely trust that she won’t treat you differently after she finds out. I believed that telling my boss early on was the best way to be “honest” with her about the situation. Now I’m realizing that it changed the way she viewed my work ability. In my mind, I’m still just as capable as in my pre-pregnancy days, but I suspect my boss doesn’t feel the same way! Of course she needs to be thinking about a replacement, but I’ve still got weeks—even months—to go.
Working in a small school, there are times of the year that are better to take a leave of absence than others. Of course my pregnancy happened to be at a tough time of year for me to take off work. To maintain the smooth flow of teachers from one semester to the next, my boss felt like the school needed to hire another teacher—which was all news to me. So some of my plans for a smooth pregnancy/work/life schedule were thrown out the window this week.
First off, I wasn’t included in the decisions that were made about the future of my position at the school. Not even when or how I would transition to maternity leave then back to work. The timeline decided for me was also a little off from what I had talked about with my boss in the past. I can’t blame my employer for making the decisions that she did—she’s a business owner and has to make choices to maintain a quality school. Still, it was surprising to me how quickly I was going to be replaced. I went home after a rushed meeting with her feeling confused, distressed, and more than a little helpless.
My solution was to use my trusty computer to learn more about maternity leave and pregnancy rights. Working for a small school means that we don’t have a human resources department or even a policy for maternity leave. I was in charge of finding out my rights. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (a federal law) created statutes for employers to uphold. In fact, they cannot discriminate against an employee just because she’s pregnant. Each state also has additional antidiscrimination laws to ensure that employed (and potentially employed) pregnant women are given the exact same treatment as others. I also discovered that my state offers 12 weeks of paid maternity leave and I have the right to work until I choose to take my maternity leave. Because my health insurance is through my employer, it should be continued also without any cost to me. If I choose not to return after my 12 weeks, my employer can request that I pay back insurance costs.
Next, I found out that the “correct” way to approach maternity leave is to give your employer a written notice detailing your future plans—including your last day of work—about six weeks prior to when you go on leave. Well, let me tell you, I wrote an effective email to my boss filled with the information I discovered along with the concerns I was having about what was happening. I made sure to include the date that I would be working until and the hours per week that I would continue working. I sent it off and hoped for the best.
Luckily my boss and I were able to resolve our maternity leave issues. For most, maternity leave is figured into contracts and business decisions through a human resources office. But for those of us who work for small organizations, sometimes the lines aren’t so clearly defined. Make sure to know all your rights before talking with your employer about your pregnancy, and don’t forget to write everything down. That way, if your employer needs a little gentle reminder later about what you both decided, you have the proof you need.
Waist measurement: 38 inches
Weekly weigh-in: 160 pounds
Pregnancy symptoms: Nothing exciting. Getting bigger by the day …
My favorite pregnancy anecdote for the week: People keep asking, “Aren’t you going to want some time to do some ‘nesting’ for the baby?” Huh? Not everyone is ready to stop work and paint the baby’s room. Many women (myself included) enjoy having the distraction of work to keep their mind and body busy before Baby comes!
What I learned this week: The facts about my pregnancy rights!
Doctor’s visit: Not this week.
About the Photo: The above picture of the author was taken during her 21st week of pregnancy by Dean Lipoff.
Read the next installment: week 22
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