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How Not to Handle Your Maternity Leave

The issue of maternity leave can be tough to navigate, especially in advance. It’s difficult to predict what it will feel like when your baby is born, and impossible to know what your baby’s needs will be. People’s relationships to their jobs can change over the course of a pregnancy, or even over the course of the time they take off afterward. In fact, as you anticipate your baby’s birth, you might feel like your priorities swing from one side to the other over the course of a day.  Career goals and commitment to work can feel stronger than ever when you’re expecting a child (after all, you’ve got a family to support now). But then there’s the question of who’s taking care of your child while you work, and all the separation and trust issues that go along with those things.

Two NY Times pieces this week took on the issues that come up around maternity leave, and talked about dealing with them in a respectful, responsible way— and on the contrary, how to be sure to leave your boss with a bad taste in her mouth.

Hint: Don’t take three months of paid leave, then come back and quit two days later.

Both pieces were written from the business owner’s P.O.V., offering advice to other business owners about how to smooth the transition of female employees’ leave.  And both provide some great insight into the way women’s choices affect the companies they work for.They’re also a great source of creative solutions to problems that might come up in an employer/employee relationship when the employee becomes a parent.

Including a guide for small business owners on how to foster good communication and a productive transition, and an interesting, if questionable, proposal about how to encourage new moms to make definitive choices sooner (bribe them to quit??) the two pieces provide a range of perspectives. Be sure to check out the comments, where dozens of working  (and formerly working) moms have chimed in with their own experiences and opinions.

The postpartum period can be all-consuming. It’s easy to see how women might be less mindful of the businesses that have depended on them, and to some degree, supported them, before they entered this phase of life. Although every parent ultimately needs to make the choice that works best for her family, it’s so helpful to get some perspective about what that might mean to others, and some advice about how to do it well.

photo: audi_insperation/flickr

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