Skip this post if you live in Canada, Denmark, Australia, France, or any one of 163 countries worldwide with paid maternity leave. We’ll try not to think about the fact that in those nations mothers and fathers get months and sometimes even years of paid time to raise their children. Here in the U.S., it’s tricky to be able to maneuver our maternity leave, but there are always ways to creatively find more time to spend with your baby.
Why try to take as much time as possible? It’s not only critical to your sanity, but it often ends up being far more eco-friendly as well. My husband and I found that when we were both working we ended up using more jarred baby food, eating take-out more often, and generally spending more money on convenience items just to survive. Staying home means you’ll have the time to experiment with washing and drying cloth diapers. Plus you’ll end up buying less and just enjoying this phase of baby’s life.
Of course the type of leave you’ll be able to take depends on what type of benefits your job offers, but here are some ideas for making the most of the system:
- Use vacation or sick leave: One of easiest and most convenient ways to extend leave is to use up your stash of accrued time off. If you’re pregnant or planning on being pregnant soon, try to save up as much time as is humanly possible so that you can get an extra month or two in addition to your maternity leave.
- Have your spouse take family leave: Although it’s is usually unpaid, you can get as much as possible if you involve your partner’s leave time as well. If your spouse is eligible for leave or has a bit of extra vacation saved up, you can arrange your months with baby back to back so that you get the first three home and while your spouse stays home the next three. Then you don’t have to consider daycare for at least six months and you both get some individual bonding time with baby.
- Spread out your time over baby’s first year: Depending on your job, you can get creative with part time work. With my first son, I had saved up almost six months of sick leave time after working for over ten years. I took six weeks off right when he was born and then went back half time after that for a few months. When he was six months old, I worked three half time and two full time days for the rest of the year. I blew through all of my sick leave, but never had to take any unpaid days. Although it was tough going back at six weeks, it was worth it to get to have that much time with him over the course of the year.
If you’re looking for more advice, read last week’s post for tips on how to negotiate with your workplace, present a plan to your supervisor, and hold onto your family time. Some of you ended up never going back to work. We’d love to hear what you’ve found to be the best part of staying home or negotiating a work solution that’s ideal for your family.
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