Why I'm saying no to maternity leave

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Ashley
By: Brooke - CC BY 2.0
By: BrookeCC BY 2.0

Last month, I read a particular article with interest. It was an article about Yahoo's new CEO Marissa Mayer and her open decision to take what she called "an abbreviated maternity leave." Of course, this threw the Internet into chaos, with many weighing in that if she did not want a full 12 weeks with her new baby, she shouldn't have a child at all. And it gave me pause, because, frankly, I feel for her. I'm not going to be taking any meaningful maternity leave either. Not because I don't feel like I can, but because, well, I really don't want to.

Let me give you some background about me and my job. I love my job. I am a public interest attorney at a legal aid organization. We do varied work, but my practice focuses on advocating for and representing the elderly, immigrants and people with disabilities. All my clients are low-income, are facing serious issues (domestic abuse, immigration woes, discrimination, etc.). I am the only attorney in my office fluent in American Sign Language (ASL), and one of two Russian speakers and the only Gaelic speaker. I actively decided after law school to pursue public interest law. I've voluntarily accepted a lower salary than others and the hard work because I believe in it and really enjoy it.

Now that my husband and I are expecting, of course the issue of maternity leave has come up. I think I initially just thought that a standard 12-weeks would be assumed. I have so many friends who wish they had more, who would tell me "after the baby comes, you won't want to go back to work!" And I tried to believe that. Really, I did. The problem was that I never, ever felt that way.

I know that at my job, I'm the only person who handles certain matters. I'm the only one who can speak to certain clients (such as our deaf clients). I kept thinking about the clients I have now and the ones who will be coming (trust me, there's never a lack of clients in legal aid). And here's the thing — I think I care about those clients and my baby equally. I love this baby so much, but I have love and care for these people I meet too. I feel their anger and want to make stuff right for them if I can. I cannot see myself ever NOT doing this job.

So, I decided that I did not want a full maternity leave. I settled on, not foreseeing any medical issues, a leave of between 1-3 weeks (with the ability to work from home for those few weeks I'm out of the office).

My husband and I are blessed that this is possible for us. His place of employment is actually a family-run business (his brother, mother and father all work there too). They're happy to have the baby come to see them every weekday. My parents are semi-retired, so some days, the baby will be with them. And I did compromise and agree with my husband that I'll make every effort to delegate more and try to work more 8 hour days.

I know that many people will read this and say "why have a baby if you want to immediately go back to work?" Well, here's the thing: I really dislike the idea that compassion and caring are finite resources. They're renewable resources! The fact that I still choose to devote time and energy to people who I consider to be deserving of it doesn't mean that my child has lost anything. I can still love and care for him or her fully. And I dislike the gender essentialist view of that argument. My child will have an entire family around him or her all day. I wouldn't want to have a view that pushes my influence while excluding our very large (and very multi-cultural) family. I won't worry about my child when I'm not there, because I know that he or she is surrounded by the best possible people for them.

Then there's this: I never want to build my whole identity around my child. That sounds harsh, maybe. But it's true. I love my job. I worked hard to get it. I work hard in it. It has provided me with some of the proudest moments of my life. I don't want to lose that, ever. I can be both things at once, and nobody will be the worse off for it.

I just don't buy the arguments that women must totally rearrange or give up every other joy, source of satisfaction or goal they had before. Besides, I justify it this way: I want my child to be proud of me. I want them to know that even when Mommy isn't home, Mommy is out doing a job that is trying to make the world a little better for everyone — including them.

I know this isn't a much discussed topic — most of the mothers I know wished for MORE time off with their babies. Those who would privately admit to wanting to return to work generally took the full 12 weeks but were happy to return. There's not a ton out there for moms who want to get back in the office as quickly as possible.

Am I in the vast minority for wanting this? I have no clue, honestly. But I think if supporting mothers is a noble goal, then there should be support for all moms — those who want to stay home all the time, those who want to work at their own pace, as well as those of us who just wanna get back to work.

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Based on reader feedback, the title on this post has been changed.

  1. I thought I was going to take the full 18 weeks allowed by my state 'maternity disability' (6 weeks) and FMLA (12 weeks), but i went back after 14, gradually. I too loved my job and was eager to get back to it.

    Though, I'm not sure I was ready at 1-3 weeks to go back, despite how foreign being a mom was. I had a TON of energy in the first 1-2 weeks and then I CRASHED hard. I'm glad I had the flexibility to go back when I wanted (they said I could come back anytime), but scheduled myself out for 18 weeks as a just-in-case. My HR person said it's easier to deal with you coming back early than you extending if you need it. That's the crazy thing I found out about parenting, was that my pre-formed plans didn't always go, well, as planned!

    My only advice is to make sure you're in contact with your doctor, and are medically cleared. Most wait the 6 weeks to clear you for normal activity (like sex and working out), so not sure how that might affect a shortened maternity leave? If it's right for you and your family, then I think that's a good thing, but I also think being flexible and leaving room open for your mind to change (or your body, cause exhaustion in those early weeks…whoo boy!).

    • I was going to make a similar point. It's awesome that you want to go back right away, no judgement there, but your body might have a different plan altogether. I know you mentioned 'not foreseeing any medical issues' – but as natural as giving birth is, even in a complication-free birth, recovery can take a while. I don't have kids yet, but I have three close friends who all had kids in the last year – and all of them said it took them between 4-6 weeks to even start to feel properly 'recovered'. These were all "easy" (relative term) births with no complications and no real medical interventions. They didn't have any medical issues, per se, they just had a fairly normal, slow, and steady recovery from the birth process, and that took a while. And that's all before you even start to factor in the adjustments that come with lack of sleep.

      If you're lucky and bounce back right away, all the power to you! I would just recommend having flexibility in your plan, because your body might have other ideas, and I'm a huge advocate of listening to what your body wants 🙂

      • Totally agree- be careful not to overdo it, your body will need a certain amount of time to recover from birth!

    • I couldn't agree with this comment more. I think going back at 1-3 weeks is less about spending time with baby and more about–holy cow my body just created and expelled another human and now relies on me for ALL its food.

      That first month I was so tired I barley remember anything–and I had a short vaginal birth. Breastfeeding was a big challenge and the lack of more than two hours in a row of sleep was really, really tough. And I LOVE working. However, any work I would have done during that time would have been sub-par. I started working from home part time when I got my head on straight–for me that was about 6 weeks postpartum.

      I would suggest leaving yourself open to the fact that this may be a lot harder than you think (or it may not!!). Don't beat yourself up if it is. I suggest carefully considering your exhaustion level and physical health before you go back–are you really serving your clients running on empty? Exhaustion ain't no joke.

    • Same here. We refer to the first 8 weeks of my daughters life as 'The Dark Time' because of the complete and very intense exhaustion. We barely knew each other after the first few weeks and she still needed such physical closeness. There are so many physical, hormonal and mental changes that happen after delivering a baby. The bleeding, the mood changes, the lack of sleep – not to mention, you never know what kind of baby you're going to have.

      There is a great deal of unknown. I think it's great that the OP knows what she wants NOW. But it's the THEN that is so important. That's what I wish people realized and talked about so moms could stop feeling so guilty.

    • THIS! My wife and I were fortunate to be able to both take a leave when my daughter was born. My wife had an "uneventful" pregnancy & labour was short. We were home from the hospital in 24 hrs. Even still, she didn't feel "herself" until about the 8wk mark. As for the baby – we both had tons of energy in the first 2 weeks, but by the 3rd week the lack of sleep had caught up to us and we crashed hard.
      It might be better to plan a longer leave and go back earlier if you can. Or, go back gradually – start with part time hours (maybe just for the clients who require your language skills?).

  2. Contrary to the mainstream's common perception, I don't think the majority/minority argument applies to any parenting topic ever, so that point at the end is moot.
    It sounds like you have a wonderful support system (village) that will help to make this work for you and your partner. Give yourself enough time if you have any complications (I'm sure it'll be FINE!) and need additional recovery time, and just do what you feel is best! <3

  3. I technically had 20 weeks of leave, but gradually went back to work after the first week. Thing is, I can both work from home and take my baby to the office, and I can basically work any time of the day since I don't have fixed office hours. Same thing for my husband, we split the parenting duties evenly. So, yes, I worked through most of my leave, but I had my daughter with me all of the time. To me, this was an ideal combination of being there for my baby and still doing meaningful work, even though not as many hours as usual and with interruptions.

  4. Due to circumstances out of my control I will have to return to work earlier (maybe way earlier) than 12 weeks. My job (with the Federal Government), does not pay for maternity leave. So I have to save up time for nearly 3 years (no vacation, no sick time) just to cover a paycheck while out on maternity leave. For my current pregnancy I have just about 2 weeks saved of Annual leave, and two days of sick leave. This lack of time was due to a family emergency that prevented me from saving time.

    So now here I am the bread winner of my family, who needs to get a full paycheck every two weeks to make ends meet, facing Sequester, and Maternity Leave all at once. My husband and I will have to resort to cashing out some retirement money to make ends meet for me to stay home even for one month.

    My return will be part time at first, and I would love to take 4 weeks off straight away (as I know the rigors of life with a new born), but that might not be feasible.

    I loved staying home for a full three months with my first. I was not ready to go back to work when I did (family emergency reasons really made it the most difficult to return). But I also love my job, and have the support of a husband who will be staying home with our newest little one. So that helps to ease the pain of returning to work early.

    However…I say "ease the pain" loosely as I also Love my career, and my work. I feel I am making a difference for people every day with what I do. I am the "bread winner" because I want to be, and because I am lucky enough to have a husband who supports my choice to be a hard working mom.

    I am sure that some people will be surprised if I start back to work earlier than the 12 weeks…but not everyone has the ability, or choice to take a full 12 weeks off. I have listened to stories of woman who return to work one and two weeks after birth because they will lose their jobs, or home if they don't. I don't like the idea of dipping into my retirement to cover some of my bills, but at least I have that option, and twenty plus more years to repay the damage that will be done by taking out the cash now.

    • Federal Employee fist-bump of solidarity! My kid turned 6mo yesterday, and I took 13 weeks off. Everyone assumed the feds gave great maternity leave, and were shocked when I explained that my 13 weeks resulted from never taking sick or vacation time for the past 3.5 years. It sucks.

      Good luck with the sequestration – I hope your agency is okay. We still have no idea what's happening over here.

      • We are not to sure of how the sequestration will hit us either…but I did find out that I can take Leave-Without-Pay during my maternity leave, and count it to the mandated furlough!

      • Here's another federal employee fist bump. I'm also the breadwinner and my husband stays home with our 10 month old. I saved and was able to take 10 weeks when he was born, with only a few unpaid days. I was down to almost no sick or annual leave when he was born, but I've managed to build it up modestly thanks to a credit hour work schedule.

        Sequestration is going to be really hard on us. I was hoping to try for #2 soon, but I'll have to stave off the biological clock for another year or so, at least if I want to keep paying our mortgage.

  5. I am also a public interest attorney working with a low-income population of people with disabilities. Most days, I love my job, even as it is also immensely frustrating. However, I have a one year old and I would LOVE to work fewer hours so I could spend more time with her. She was born when I was in law school, and even though I wasn't the birth parent I had a very tough time taking exams a month after her birth. I was so tired, and I didn't want to work even though my law school clinical work was fascinating and important. I didn't take an easier load that last semester, but my partner wishes I had, in that our childcare sharing was vastly unequal. I just couldn't find a way to get it all done. I didn't want to shirk my clinic clients either, but it meant I shirked on my marriage.
    Look, maybe you'll get an easy kid, and you'll have enough support. Leaving yourself room to work part-time for a while might be a good back-up in case you realize that things are tougher than you could have realized. Your clients will always be there, and there will always be more of them. You are important, but it's important to live the rest of your life, too.

    • Not to step on your toes or anything, but part of why I chose what I did is because my clients WON'T always be there. Most of the people I see have issues that are considering "pressing" – DV situations, deportations, etc. They are the types who need immediate (within 1-2) assistance oftentimes. That's part of why I got hired, based on language abilities. It's so much easier to have an ASL-speaking attorney in the office then have to arrange for the translator sometimes, especially when you have a woman who needs a PFA within the next few days. I went into the job I did knowing that it's vastly different than normal legal work in that time is most often of the essence – which appealed to me in some way. But it's not always the case that clients will be there, and I tried to consider my obligations to them as well.

      • I think what the poster above was meaning was that there will always be clients..even if you're on maternity leave…like, if you were killed tragically clients would always be there…and somebody would have to step up and take care of them if you were gone. Maybe I read it wrong, though?

        • Nope, that's exactly what I meant. There are things about my background that make me unique and are part of why I was hired, but it's 5:30 and I am leaving. If you don't make arrangements at work now when you have time to prepare so that your coworkers CAN do your job, through a relay line or a phone interpretation system for the Gaelic, what will they do if g-d forbid you get hit by a car?
          There's that rabbinic saying, that it's not your job to save the world, but it's your job to help. Specifically, Pirke Avot: "It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], but you are not free to desist from it either." That's how I see myself–part of the struggle, but I can't be responsible for it all.
          You will find a balance for yourself, but you did ask if other people felt the way you do now. My answer for my family is no.
          I can't help All The People. If I stayed later I could help more, but still not nearly all, and it would come at a serious cost to myself and to my family, and eventual burnout.

  6. I really loved reading this. To be honest, I'm pretty sure I'll be ready to go back to work. While I get that there are medical reasons for moms to have longer maternity leave than dads to have paternity, it bothers me that it's assumed all moms want that time and yet not equally viewed that dads may really need/want that time (or at least that is not valued sufficiently in many places). I'm really lucky where I work. Most of the women I know who've gone on maternity leave have been able to take a year. There is no way I would want to be gone a year though.

    I know people who have had no choice but to go back to work because they need that income and didn't have a job to come back to.

  7. I don't think taking a long maternity leave (for those able) means you are abandoning your own identity. I am VERY big about the fact that I am still my own person, even though I practice attachment parenting, I breastfed for a longer than normal time period, etc. That dedication to my child is just part of who I am. I am still my own person with my own interests, my own business, my sense of style and etc. My #1 concern for someone taking an 'abbreviated' maternity leave is the ability to begin and maintain a solid breastfeeding relationship. Perhaps that's not a concern for you; but for me it would be the #1 thing in having to be away from my baby early.

    • Indeed. Wanting to spend as much time as possible with your newborn or have an extended maternity leave doesn't mean you aren't dedicated to your job or your other hobbies and relationships. It just means that things have changed and we adapt to the situation, feelings and desires that we are presented with.

    • I just wanted to second this comment. Advance planning, if you're planning to breastfeed, is essential. Also, I agree it's important to keep options open and see how it goes once your baby is born.

  8. I had my child in England, where most folks take the full (paid) 6 months at least, and many take a full year (second six months at partial pay). I was back at work in 3, which shocked pretty much everyone. But it was the best thing for me, my partner, and our baby, who got to attend an incredible daycare. I still get funny looks when I talk about the relief I felt upon getting back to work – it's like you're not supposed to say that – and I still don't know what to say when people want to bond over missing our kids. My kid is awesome, but spending 24/7 with her would not be good for either of us.

    • I think this is what gets me here, that in the U.S. we consider a 12 week unpaid maternity leave a luxurious amount of time off for new mothers. Not exactly….

      (Note: this is not any judgment of the OP.)

  9. I fully support every family to figure out what works for them. I don't understand why people would say anything like, "if you don't take your full leave why are you having a kid".

    But I'm not sure I agree with your premise either? Maybe I'm reading too much into what you're saying, but it feels like you might think that women that don't want to go immediately back to work are not passionate about their jobs and are happy to be defined as a mommy only.

    As you alluded to in your agreement to shorten your days when possibe — time IS a finite resource even though caring is not.

    I'm a first time mom so I have no idea what my experience with maternity leave will be, but I am both passionate about my job and willing to take the 6-12 weeks I have available to me. I consider it taking care of myself, my husband, as well as my baby as we adjust to our new life together. That being said that is my choice and I agree we should fully support all moms choices!

    • I'm not suggesting that women who take a long leave care less about their jobs. However, I will say this – there is a ton of variance in the world around how women feel about employment. For some, a job is the "stuff I do to make money" thing, for others it's enjoyable but still work, for some it's dreadful, and for some, their job is a calling/vocation/purpose in life. I'm in the last category – the idea of going a long time without doing the job is something that frightens me. I'm fairly good at the job, I'm an "indispensible" employee, as my boss calls me, and I truly love the work. And also, I have the flexibility to go back quickly, due in large part to my husband's family and my own. So the question to me simply became "you want to go back, you have the means to go back, why not go back?" It wasn't a question of if I wanted to return quickly, it was a matter of how quick. And if (God willing) I am physically able to, I will.

      I've known incredibly passionate career women who give birth and can't think of doing anything but being home. That's fine – but it's not me. I do acknowledge that to some extent, I feel an obligation to return. I work with people who are in the some of the lowest points of their lives and the organization I work for is the only thing providing them any hope or security. I feel such a profound obligation to those people that I don't think having a child could overcome it. I've spent 9 months (almost) now ruminating on whether that whole "rush of love that cancels everything out" will happen and honestly? I don't see it for me. I know I will love this child and do anything for them, but I feel that same protectiveness for the clients I already have. I know plenty of women would consider it weird to feel the same affection for your child and people who I haven't known very long, but I do. The problem is that society has bought into one narrative – that women have babies and then invariably want nothing more then to care for them, at least temporarily. When that's oftentimes not the case.

      • I do understand your perspective, you are right that employment doesn't meant the same thing to everyone.

        And as a first time mom I can definitely identify with what you're rejecting: the assumption by some that once you have the baby, who you are will change and your job won't be as important to you. And the assertion that if your attitudes don't change, it somehow makes you less of a parent.

      • I do understand that feeling of ruminating for 9 months and not expecting things to change. I really felt nothing towards my daughter when I was pregnant with her. I spent 9 months panicking that I wasn't going to love her when she was born. And then she was born and I said to my husband "I can't believe I love her so much." It doesn't mean that I wanted to care for her every minute of every day, but it did change my perspective on well, lots of things. And I understand too being in a caring profession and caring deeply about people at work. I'm a HS teacher, and I love my job too. I wouldn't say I'm indispensable, but I was leaving behind important stuff and people, at work. I'm back at work, and I still care deeply about my students. But I encourage you to give yourself space to experience an emotional connection to your child that is totally unlike any other emotional connection. I am sure that this feels preachy and annoying, and maybe it won't happen. But I have never met a single parent who says that the emotional connection that they have to their children isnt entirely unique from all other relationships. None of this precludes you in any way from returning to work immediately, but prepare yourself for to be blindsided by emotions that you weren't necessarily expecting. Then if it doesn't happen, you're none worse for the wear.

      • I do understand what you said about your your career being your calling, I'm a nurse and I can't imagine doing anything else. However, as a nurse (and a mother of four) I realize that what you're about to undertake giving birth can be the equivalent of a physical trauma that you will need to recover from. On top of that, if you breastfeed, you will have nutritional needs above and beyond what you already have while gestating. Your sleep pattern will be fractured beyond what you can imagine. Your husband, as helpful as he will want to be will look at you and say "the baby's hungry" and roll over and go back to sleep because invariably men fail to see how they can assist without breasts!

        When my second child was born, I did go back to work – part time- nine days after he was born, but I brought him with me in an office setting and he layed in a pak-n-play or swing unless it was time to feed and change him. This went on for about three months until he was starting to become more interactive and want more hands-on attention constantly; he then went into childcare with his sister – what a relief! I loved having him with me but I loved being just ME at work – not someone's mother or wife, but ME. It's very important for you to have your own identity and sense of accomplishment.

        However, I would NOT go back to work again that soon! What the heck was I thinking? I was exhausted, always on edge I'd make a mistake because I was so tired, always felt like I wasn't doing anyone justice (myself, my kids, my boss, my husband, my coworkers…) I bled longer than I had with my first child because I was lugging that damn pak-n-play and swing around everywhere so I felt more tired because I was anemic in addition to sleep deprived.

        I know you want to be there for your clients. I know you feel like you're the only one who can do your job for you, but you also have to think of your own HEALTH. Can your firm hire/contract out with someone who interprets for your clients who speak ASL/Gaelic on a short-term basis? Can you use a program like MARTTI? (My Accessible Real-Time Trusted Interpreter) We use this at the hospital where I work daily for the hundreds of languages our patients speak. I'm just concerned if you go back too soon you may put yourself behind the 8-ball physically and take a much longer time to recover than you would have had you taken even a week or two more off.

        Been there, done that, got the T-shirt and did it differently with the last two.

  10. I think that every mom needs to decide what's right for her and her family, so to each her own. But I will say this as a general note, even though you've probably heard it before…it is very often hard to tell how you will feel about a lot of things until after the baby is born. I do not wish to disregard or invalidate your feelings on this at all, but just wanted to share what I think is a common occurrence with new moms. I was stunned at how differently I felt and how I looked at different issues like maternity leave once my daughter was born, and I have heard the same sentiment from a number of my mom friends. I am in no way saying that your feelings on this will or should change of course, but just wanted to point this out because it was such a surprise to me, how much could change within just a couple of weeks–days even!

  11. My only constructive comment is …… to have no plan at all. Seriously.
    The moment that baby is born, so is a mother – and it truly transforms you. You literally will have no idea how you will feel once that moment happens. Be flexible, be open and live in the moment.
    And for goodness sakes, take care of yourself. The marathon of labor and the new lifestyle of having a wee one around are not always easy-breezy transitions.
    Best wishes to you and your family! And kudos to you for finding and thriving in a fulfilling job you are in love with!

  12. I was still sitting on a pillow at 3 weeks postpartum, and that was with an unmediated, uncomplicated, homebirth. Of course every woman is different but pregnancy and childbirth are HARD on your body. Give yourself time to heal.

  13. One thing that I think gets overlooked in conversations about maternity leave is how you and your body change after childbirth. Maternity leave isn't just about the baby. Post-partum is also about healing and recovering from pregnancy and childbirth and it can be a significant recovery. I was shocked at how long it took me to feel like I was back to normal. Expecting to be right back in the office functioning as usual 7 or 14 or 21 days after delivery may not be a fair expectation to put on your body, especially if you're nursing.

    By all means, do what feels right for you! There is no default setting. But be kind to your body!

    • One item that I keep thinking about as I read comments here is Canada's convention to provide 17 weeks of leave for (employed) women who have given birth – if it results in them possessing a baby or not. Apparently my government believes that up to four months may be needed to recover from childbirth.

      Just some food for thought.

      • Actually, Canadian women are entitled to 1 year of maternal/parental leave. This can be split between parents, regardless of gender, or taken entirely be one person. My wife's employer topped up her benefits to 93% of her salary (normal benefits are up to 60% of your salary). Unfortunately, being entitled to a 1 year leave doesn't mean that your job can bare an absence that long. My wife was able to work from home and take 16 weeks.

        • I think Liz's point is that you can take 17 weeks of paid leave in Canada after giving birth – even if that birth (sadly) doesn't result in a live baby. So in the case of stillbirth or a pre-term delivery where the baby doesn't survive, or any other circumstances that can result in the baby passing away shortly after birth – the mother is still given the option of 17 weeks for both physical and emotional recovery.

          You can absolutely take a year of leave in Canada, (I'm Canadian too, woo hoo!) but everything beyond the first 17 weeks is parental leave, not maternity leave, which means there must be a live child to care for in order for you to be eligible to take it. So I think Liz's point is that from the perspective of the Canadian government, a woman should have the right to 17 weeks for physical recovery, regardless of how the birth turns out, while the rest of the time we're allotted is to allow time for either parent to stay home and care for the child and bond.

        • @Karen: this isn't quite correct.

          Women who give birth are entitled to 15 weeks of paid maternity leave (assuming they are EI Eligible).

          Any parent (birth, adoptive, same gender, whatever – as long as they are EI eligible) is then entitled to an additional 35 weeks of paid leave, which can be taken by either parent in whatever combo.

          Therefore Liz is correct, that the Canadian gov't recognizes that 17 weeks (2 week wait + 15 paid) is reasonable for recovery from childbirth. Also, what Rachel said. 🙂

          (Also, Canadian employers are REQUIRED to provide that time off, without loss in position, salary, or seniority. I'm assuming you meant that your wife felt obligated to go back?)

          (also also: EI is 60% of your salary…up to a max of $425 weekly. So not 60% for everyone)

  14. I get where you're coming from, and honestly thought I would feel the same way when I had my son. I took 6 weeks of maternity leave, and ended up wishing I could have taken more. I plan to take as much as possible with my next child.

    But remember, maternity leave is not just about being with the baby and identifying as a a mom, it's about healing from childbirth, which can be a big deal. I respect that you want to go back to work as soon as possible, and that's great. But logistically it may be harder than you think. At 1-3 weeks I was still bleeding heavily from my vaginal birth. If you end up with a c-section you may still be in a lot of pain and not be able to do a lot physically. At 2 weeks we were just getting the hang of a breastfeeding/sleep schedule, so it would have been really hard to head back to work then, even though my husband is a stay at home dad.

    You need to work what works for you, and I wish you the best at doing that. But honestly, your expectations seem a bit high, so just be prepared to be flexible.

    • At 3 weeks, I was still bleeding heavily and breastfeeding every hour around the clock. It would not have been possible physically for me to go to work, especially since I am a symphony musician and I have to be on stage, holding it together.

      I was just starting to go for short 10 minute daily "walks" around the block at that point because my stomach muscles were starting to feel like they could hold my legs up again. It hurt to sneeze and it was hard to get up from sitting or lying down. I had an uncomplicated birth and recovered well. It's just that it takes a few weeks.

      It's not that I'm not a dedicated professional. I am. I went back to work part time at 8 weeks to play some big shows, which in Canada is REALLY early to go back to work. I went back full time when the baby was 9 months old, which again everyone considers "early" here. It still jarrs me to see people here talking about their "full maternity leave" of 12 weeks.

      This is sort of an aside, but I think society should be set up so there are childcare rooms in every workplace. I think having your baby in the building would make it much easier for many women to go back to work "early" and keep nursing. I know I loved taking my baby to work and he loves hanging out backstage with us.

  15. You, like everyone else, need to do what is right for you and your family. We all need to take the judgment out of parenthood (from every angle that's not abusive). Our children will be the best they can be as long as we are being the best we can and doing what is right for us, regardless of what that is (again, unless its abusive). I choose to be a SAHM, despite all of the time and energy I put into my education for my career, and I don't think my kids will be any more or less proud of me for making that decision. When it feels right for our family, I will go back to work and be equally content in that choice as I am now with this one. As long as you're happy and your family is happy, who cares what the circumstances are? Do you and forget everyone else. You need not justify your decisions to judgmental people. 🙂

  16. I went back to college a week after giving birth. I was determined to finish my degree that semester. That being said, I am a stay at home mom. I don't think that making the decision to be with your kids (whether for maternity leave or permanently) equates to choosing to give up joys, goals, & your identity for your kids. I am still myself. Among other things, I am a writer, a bibliophile, a wife, & a mother. A woman can wear many hats & have many identities. I fully support your decision to return to work as soon as possible. Just be careful not to equate giving up work or taking additional maternity leave as placing your child's happiness over your own. Like you said, mothers (& fathers) need to be supportive of each other's decisions. &, with any luck, all of our children will be proud of the choices we make as parents.

  17. I just want to applaud you for being brave about your decision. Our culture seems to judge anyone who doesn't fit in the 'box' and I'm sure your kid(s) will be better off for your independent thinking and courage.

  18. To each her own. I wish you the best with your plans. Just remember to cut yourself some slack- it's hard to know how you will be feeling emotionally and physically after the birth.

    With my first, an unplanned c-section after 36 hours of labor, I was in no shape physically to do much of anything 2 weeks after the birth. I couldn't imagine going back to work in the shape I was in. I wasn't back to normal for 7 to 8 weeks.

    With my second, another c-section after 7 hours of active labor, I pretty much felt like myself after 2 weeks (although late onset pregnancy induced hypertension meant bed rest for a little while around that time).

    Emotionally I wasn't ready to go back after 12 weeks. Being home felt like family vacation!

    So I wish you all the best and commend you for doing what feels best for you and your family- even if it's unusual or misunderstood by others.

    My advice to all new parents (moms and dads): Be kind to yourself and keep your expectations of yourself, your spouse, and your new baby, low! Those first weeks can be a tough transition- everyone is learning.

  19. I'll join the chorus of "you never know how you'll feel until you're there"! And you never know how things will go. Hopefully you can keep the window open so that if you really aren't ready to go back, or your child doesn't sleep so you're exhausted, or you have a complicated recovery, you can re-evaluate.

    I have to agree with Liz, above; I juggle two professional careers and mommy is one part of a complex identity, but I was delighted to have the flexibility to take a longer mat leave than I'd planned. It didn't reduce my commitment to my work one little bit. It was just a time to prioritize differently. Surprise, surprise, once I had my boy my priorities adjusted, and keep on adjusting. This article read to me as if this somehow made me "less than" as regards to my career. No.

  20. Not to sound rude, but I don't get why either side needs to justify anything. The overly-defensive attitudes of either – SAHM or a WM – sound like overcompensation, and to be honest it sounds catty. For example, "Well I'm a SAHM – clearly I love my children more if I'm willing to be with them all the time." Or "Well I'm a working mom. I'm better than SAHMs because I actually provide for my kids." Really, both arguments exude arrogance. I have been a 9-5 working/career mom (doing something I loved) and I have been a SAHM. Let me tell you – both are difficult, and neither one allows you to do everything you've ever wanted. Both also have their rewards. No need to brag about it.

    • This is an issue I have been coming to over and over and over with ALL aspects of child-rearing. None of the choices you make whilst on the path to a child come with a badge of fucking honor. You just have to make the choice as it presents itself to you on the path. It is what it is.

    • Yes. I like posts more when they about "This is what I did, and it worked for me." Rather than "This is what I am going to do." when we might not see the follow up. So, please remember to tell us how things are going! Congrats!

  21. At a week post-partum, I could barely get out of bed without help since I had an (unplanned) c-section. I was also fairly reliant on daytime naps for at least six weeks because I was up every one to two hours at night breastfeeding and was just exhausted all the time, which no one else can really help with. This is all to say that while I support moms who want to go back to work really early, and I really hope that you are able to do what works for you and your family, for me, I would take all the time they would give me because having a newborn is exhausting. I can't imagine trying to concentrate on work those first two months and actually doing a good job because I was just so tired.

    Side note: I'm still super tired at 11 months, but since going to work killed my breastfeeding supply (my body doesn't respond to the pump) and we had to switch to formula, at least my husband can help out with the still-relatively-frequent night wakings.

  22. Totally digging this! I return to work in 3 weeks making my entire maternity leave 14 weeks and making my daughter 9 weeks when i go back. My entire pregnancy i knew i was going back 'early'. My husband is taking the australian gov. paid parental leave which is 18 weeks on minimum wage. (way to go aussie gov by the way!). he will be the primary carer and when he goes back we have a good family to help out.
    people drove me nuts saying 'you'll see'. uh…..nope. more then ready to go back~! nursing is just part of me. i dont see it as loving your clients as much as your baby but when you know your baby is happy and safe when you're not there but your clients arent then why wouldnt you be able to make that choice?

  23. For the first two weeks I still had trouble sitting down and getting up (after a totally normal easy birth). Baby woke us up every 2 hours round the click for the first month. It took a good 3-4 weeks to really establish breastfeeding. My doctor doesn't clear patients that early.
    I'm a bit insulted at this idea that because I think it's best for my family to have mom with baby as much as possible (particularly for feeding) that my only identity is as mommy and I'm not passionate about my job.

    • "I'm a bit insulted at this idea that because I think it's best for my family to have mom with baby as much as possible (particularly for feeding) that my only identity is as mommy and I'm not passionate about my job."

      A few people have said something similar… as the person who read & edited this piece, I just wanted to put it out there that I really, really don't think Ashley is trying to imply that. I think it's important to not take someone else's perspective and decision personally — to me, she's speaking her truth about what works for HER. If she were you, then she would have written a different piece. Both perspectives and experiences are equally valid, but neither is meant to judge the other.

      • To be honest, although I wasn't one of the people who commented that I was insulted, I did get that vibe – but more from the title than the actual article. If you reverse the title it essentially says "I'm saying no to maternity leave because I don't identify only as a mom" – and I can DEFINITELY see how that's interpreted as essentially saying 'if you say yes to as much maternity leave as possible, you must only identify as a mom and nothing else'. I know that wasn't the intention, but the title definitely comes across that way and potentially sets people up to be defensive. Maybe I'm the only one reading it that way though.

          • Honestly, it all reminded me of this paragraph from Ariel's post Being a mom isn't my most interesting feature:

            Motherhood is just a portion of my identity — and not even that remarkable of one. It's a quality I share with BILLIONS of women on this planet. That shared experience is amazing and I love recognizing it and feeling that connection with my fellow mammals… but for me, that shared experience is not the thing that feels like my core identifier. I'm much more likely to identify by my work (small business owner, publisher, author, web entrepreneur), or my culture (pacific northwesterner, raised by hippies, retired raver), or my hobbies (dancer, comedy event producer, camper) than I am by my parental status.

        • Yes, the title. It's the connection in the title between how much you identify as a mommy and the length of your maternity leave. I also am more likely to describe myself by my job title, my education, or my ethnicity, but that has nothing to do with how long I think maternity leave should be.

          • The original title was just "Saying no to maternity leave." When I read the piece, I added the "I don't identify only as a mom" because that's how the piece read to me. I don't think that not taking full maternity leave is the ONLY way to express that you're not 100% identifying as a mom, but it's one of them. It's certainly not meant to imply that if you did take full maternity leave you identify completely as a mom, or that your career doesn't matter to you but there's obviously a disconnect here, and I'm wondering why to me this sounds fine but to a portion of the readers it doesn't. I'm pretty sure a lot of us could start a list of things we do that could replace "why I'm saying no to maternity leave" in the title and it would make sense.

            I really do want to understand this — if you guys want, feel free to email me (so we don't totally derail the thread) your perspectives on the title. This kind of thing is a big part of my job, and I want to make sure I'm at least in the same book as most of you, if not on the same page.


          • ALRIGHT ALL: I'm reverting the title based on this feedback, primarily because I do not want to have to put the author in the awkward position of defending the title since she didn't come up with it. Over & out.

          • I think it does make a difference how the article was read.

            "This is me, this is how I feel, this is my choice" is different than
            "Because I feel this way this is my choice".

            Someone made an observation that all sides get defensive and that may be part of how it's received too. But to me the second way implies that if you made a different choice you couldn't feel that way.

        • True, though it's not just the title (the title is changed now). It's stuff like: "I never want to build my whole identity around my child. That sounds harsh, maybe. But it's true. I love my job."

          I love my job, too. And I definitely don't want to build my whole identity around my child, either. But the implication is that moms who take TWELVE WEEKS (?!) of maternity leave are in fact building their whole identities around their babies.

          I live in Canada so I'm still getting my head around the idea that twelve weeks is considered "full" maternity leave. In most of the world, any mother going back at the early date of twelve weeks would be considered extremely career-oriented.

          I went back to work part time at 9 weeks and then full time at 9 months, and everyone always asks me how I managed to go back to work so "early".

          You can still take months of maternity leave and be dedicated to your job. And be a whole real person.

  24. You do you. I think one thing of note with regards to Melissa Mayer, the Yahoo CEO is that she has a private nursery attached to her office at work. I think that is awesome, personally, and would love that – but most importantly I think it speaks to how unique her situation is in terms of wealth and choices.

    • She does say this in the piece: "My husband and I are blessed that this is possible for us. His place of employment is actually a family-run business (his brother, mother and father all work there too). They're happy to have the baby come to see them every weekday. My parents are semi-retired, so some days, the baby will be with them. And I did compromise and agree with my husband that I'll make every effort to delegate more and try to work more 8 hour days."

      Not the same situation, but it sounds like she was a pretty solid system in place.

  25. I'm very curious how you will feel after the birth of your child. It's impossible to imagine how your life will look like after the birth. You have all these ideas, dreams, fantasies, but the truth mostly is less pink and fluffy. For most of us, at least. To speak with Lou R: it's the beginning of a great adventure 🙂
    My advice would be: take it one day at a time. You have the luxury of choice. See how you feel, how your body feels, how your little one is doing.

    In the Netherlands, we have 16 weeks paid leave. 4 to 6 weeks before the due date, 10-12 after the birth. It's the shortest leave in Europe, except for Bulgaria. It breaks my heart that new mums are forced by circumstances to work just 2 weeks after giving birth. Our grans stayed in bed for 2 weeks!

    I went back to work almost singing and dancing after my eldest was born, I loved being part again of a non-diapered, non-breastfeeding world. My world was so small, the highlight of my day was the talk with the girls in the butcher shop.
    But I seriously underestimated the effects giving birth (the old fashioned way, as is still common over here) and the short nights would have on my, on our system. The after birth fog (they call it a 'the pink cloud' over here, pffft) only cleared after about a year. No, I didn't suffer from postpartum depression, I was just adapting to our new lives. I never had imagined it would take that long.
    And now, about six years later, I'm a mother of two and I work, I work out four times a week, I run, I go out and I have never been as balanced a person as I am now.

  26. I completely relate to this post. Going back to work after 6ish weeks with my first kid saved my sanity. I had longer with my second kid (about 3 months) and it was way too long. If I have another kid I plan on starting to work part time after 2ish weeks. But I am also not a fan of breast feeding and don't plan to do it beyond the first few weeks for any future kids. I think the option for a longer paid maternity leave is important but personally I need to work.

  27. I'm British and my first thought is 'wow. only 12 weeks?', we get up to a year off, 12 weeks seems like nothing! I've just gone back today, my son is 11 months old, I thought I would want to be a stay-at-home mum but I realised I wanted to work. I'm only working 2 days a week, not sure how I'd feel doing full-time but I am glad to be having the 'work me' back, as well as the 'mum me', definitely room for both.

    I would also agree with a wait and see approach because having a baby is a huge shock to the system, on many levels and I'm not sure I'd have been ready at 12 weeks (I appreciate that I am writing this from the position of working for a company who give 6 months full pay maternity leave, not everyone is so lucky) let alone earlier. Good luck and hope all goes well for you! And I really hope you guys in the USA get better maternity leave one day!

  28. A lot of people have pointed out potential problems with your plan. Let me try to say something constructive, based on my own experience. It is possible to get work done in the early weeks (provided both you and the baby are healthy), but you'll need flexibility. You will have to work when you can, which is mostly when your newborn sleeps, which in the beginning will be a lot. A newborn does require you to be there all of the time, but it doesn't require constant attention. Of course you'll be tired, but if you're motivated, you can still be able to get decent work done. If you can arrange to do a lot of work from home, and only come into the office on some days and for a few hours at a time, this would be great for the first few weeks (maybe six). Like this you can get a nap when you need it (you likely will) and take care of your baby when needed.

  29. I'm surprised that no one has mentioned breastfeeding here, and the author doesn't really discuss it. If you plan to do breastfeed, the demands of a newborn are rough. I clearly remember having my daughter latched to me for over an hour several times, in addition to her needing to eat every 2-3 hours; sometimes they need you more often than that. The marathon feedings are one of those things no one seems to talk about until after the little one is born! And, if you plan to exclusively breastfeed, even if you plan to pump, it's a good idea to offer the breast only for a three or so weeks because some newborns can develop nipple confusion. (For the record: I went back at 10 weeks and pumped at work until my daughter was a year old; my husband is a stay-at-home dad, she's two now).

    I guess the upshot is, as others have said, do what is best for you but cut yourself some slack if the reality ends up being different than what you're planning for at this point. Good luck!

  30. Call me crazy, but I don't feel like I'm disavowing my identity as an employee whenever I take vacation time, a day off, etc etc etc

    You can love your job and also feel comfortable taking time off from it, no matter what the reason is. We're just weird about presuming parenting has to be either/or, and that being a worker is also either/or.

    I mean, this sort of thinking is why Americans take the least amount of vacation in the Western world.

  31. While I enjoyed reading this piece, I do think it would have a lot more weight behind it if it were written after the fact. "Why I took" a short maternity leave, instead of "why I plan to take." The best laid plans, and all that. I truly hope everything works out as the author desires, but I would hate for this to have a negative outcome because she was too strict with her plans. Please make sure you are physically and emotionally healthy before you try to do too much–recovery from birth can be more difficult than anticipated. Those newborn days speed by and are both precious and stressful. You can put work on hold (obviously if you have the luxury to do so),it will still be there whenever you return, whether at two weeks or twelve. But your baby will only be a baby for a bit. Not that I think you shouldn't return to work if that is what you want to do, you should! Just be aware of how things may change post-birth.

    • It's interesting to hear the reasons for making the plans that the author made…but the article just doesn't have much weight or interest for me since it's all still hypothetical. I think this would have been better held off until after the shortened leave actually happened. As it is now, it just made me shrug, and think "well, good luck with that."

      • I totally agree. This could been an awesome article if it were written after she went back to work.

        Reading this hypothetical back-to-work plan reminds me of reading a birth plan.
        There's a reason that birth stories are SO much more interesting to read than birth plans.

  32. Let me clarify a few things:

    1.) About planning for medical issues: I clarified with my job that if I need time to medicallt recover, I have short-term disability through my job. Maternity leave is unpaid, whereas disability leave is paid for me, because I paid into it. That makes more sense for us financially.

    2.) I think I plan for the best. Obviously, I get that stuff can go wrong and that I might need more time. Overall, my doctor says that I am extremely low-risk, mostly due to the fact that I went into pregnancy in very good shape (low weight, runner, martial arts, mountaineering experience). Pregnancy has been smooth. Overall, my doctor is anticipating a very easy delivery, as am I, but the plan is in place if that goes south.

    3.) I decided not to nurse. I have my own personal reasons for that, so it won't be an issue.

    4.) I get the arguments for flexibility, I do. And my family does have that – the difference being is that the flexible job is my husband's – not so much for mine. That is the thing I've never gotten. So much attention is paid to flexibility for mothers, when the best flexibility is for families so that all the members can do what works best. That's always been my problem with maternity leave debate – because it tends to erase the options that lie outside of "how much time should mom take off?"

    5.) How will I know how I feel after the birth – this one, honestly, I don't much get. I get that some women feel very different after their child is born. And honestly, I've considered that. But for me, I can say fairly surely that I've been ruminating on this for the last 9 months. I've thought long and hard, and come to the same conclusion every time. I want the job back as quick as I can, because it has been a source of profound satisfaction and joy for me, coupled with the ethical obligations I feel towards my clients. I can't see that changing, even after birth. Besides, a part of me doesn't want to deny my child the great formative experiences of spending their days with their aunts, uncles, and grandparents (and father). So hey, it works for me.

    • " That's always been my problem with maternity leave debate – because it tends to erase the options that lie outside of "how much time should mom take off?""

      I think that's probably because most parenting sites are female-focused. Have you looked into any male-focused parenting sites or have you been mostly on women-centred ones? A lot of men I know talk about spending time with kids and how much time they can/will take off to spend with a newborn.

      • Yes I also disagreed that the "maternity leave" debate only centers on moms. It doesn't. Actually in the US we talk about disability leave (to recover from pregnancy) and family leave which either parent can take. Some private companies may offer women's only maternity leave, I suppose, but the public debate is about parental leave.

    • Personally, in regards to your last point, I just think people are wary of you making a final decision about how you KNOW you will feel, leaving no room for any other option. It's great that it's how you believe you will feel, but if, like many of the other women here, you have your child and there is a huge, shocking change to what you feel that you were not at all expecting, you may harm yourself mentally by feeling like you are not strong enough to "stick to your guns", or physically by forcing yourself to remain with your decision even when you are not emotionally ready (and therefore potentially harming your clients as well since you may not be able to properly care for them, but of course I don't know much about that).

      Anyway, please just realize that these women aren't trying to you "You'll seeeeeeee!" but instead they are warning you that, despite months of ruminating and being convinced things will be a certain way, they have had their feelings change. And this isn't bad or good, it just is. You can plan on being back as soon as possible, and you can plan on feeling like that will be your priority after childbirth, but just remember to roll with the punches if that changes.

      • THANK YOU! You just said what I was thinking and feeling much better than I was able to phrase it in my head. There's a huge difference between obnoxious 'You'll seeeee" comments, and genuine concern that the author is putting an awful lot of pressure on herself to feel and behave a certain way after birth, when she doesn't really have any way of knowing how the whole process will impact her. Maybe things will work out exactly as the author has anticipated, and she'll be back on her feet and thrilled to be returning to work 1 week post-partum, and if so, awesome! I 100% support her in her decision. But maybe she will find that birth was a lot more physically demanding than she thought, or that her feelings about returning to work right away will change after the baby is born, but because she is currently so adamant about going back, she'll feel a huge amount of internal pressure to follow through with her original plan. I don't think it's judgmental to say you really can't know how you'll feel after the birth until it's happened. It's a huge, life-changing moment. Some people will feel exactly how they expected, some people will do a complete 180 and be shocked at how much things changed in such a short time. I think what people are generally getting at in the comments (with some limited exceptions) is be kind to yourself, don't push yourself too hard, and allow yourself the flexibility to change your mind.

      • Yes. This. This. This. This. If you find you need it, give yourself space to change your mind without feeling like you've caved to "you'lllll seeees."

      • I completely agree. I absolutely loved my job and planned on taking 8 weeks off after my daughter was born. I didn't go back, for many reasons, but it took me a solid year to come to grips with the fact that I was NOT a failure for not being able to leave my baby. I was absolutely shocked by the feelings I had that I never even knew existed inside me and truly didn't know how to process them.

        I don't believe that the experienced moms are trying to say, "You'll see!" in a negative way. What they're really trying to say is, "Holy shit, here comes a train!!!"

    • –That's always been my problem with maternity leave debate – because it tends to erase the options that lie outside of "how much time should mom take off?"

      What debate are we talking about, specifically? Because most campaigns I've been involved with fight for parental leave, not maternity leave.

  33. I love my job and was very, very happy to go back to it after 12 weeks leave. But personally I think it would have been physically difficult to go back to work after 3 weeks, mostly because of sleep deprivation. I had zero medical issues and the only issue my newborn had was being slightly low weight so we were supposed to wake her up to feed her around the clock. My husband and I were able to split parenting very evenly in my opinion, but I still wasn't getting more than 4 hours of sleep at a stretch. The first six weeks are very hazy in my memory due to sleep deprivation. If I had gone back to work before then, I think my productivity would have been very poor.

    Which is not to say your experience will be like my experience. 🙂 I would strongly consider hiring a night nurse, though. It's pretty unusual for babies to sleep more than four hours at a stretch during the first month.

    I would also love to hear from you again in the months after your child is born. I think we definitely need more information out there from moms who go back to work soon after childbirth and make it work well! Best wishes. 🙂

  34. I think what was problematic about Mayer's response was not her choice to take a shorter leave but the general attitude that other women in the company should follow suit. Her recent decision to not allow Yahoo workers (including single mothers and other mothers with specific needs) to work days from home as was previously negotiated [that and the news that she has this private nursery] is part of a much larger conversation about choice/access/and equality that smatsy is pointing towards. As a doctoral student in a university without a universal parental leave policy- becoming pregnant at all in many departments defines who you are as a student/employee. I applaude this alternative perspective but we certainly have a long way to go before parental leave becomes a non-issue. I might not need to take the full-time but I certainly need to speak up about the importance of leave for those who do.

  35. Not arguing your choice of returning to work quickly, just further supporting the idea of not making a solid plan at all, as birth is SO unpredictable! I was a super healthy, athletic, active person with a perfect pregnancy. Birth SLAYED ME. It really did. I was destroyed, mentally and physically. Had a C-sec, and I was on my ass, unable to sit or pee or walk for WEEKS. The haze of pain medication, the struggles with bonding and feeding the baby. I was totally incapacitated and relied on partner help for weeks, and it took months before I could function normally and cook, drive a car, read, etc. Just from your basic run of the mill C-sec and a healthy baby and mom. I NEVER saw that coming! I really wasn't ready to work for at least 3-4 months. Advice to all moms…have a backup plan to your plan!

    • Let me rephrase that….Adjust your expectations, so that you aren't disappointed in case it doesn't work out that you can return to work quickly. I had big post-partum plans, and when they failed (beyond my control), I was devastated. Wish I had mentally prepared myself for that.

  36. I think your confidence in your decision puts you in a great place to plan around that decision. If you want to breastfeed, you can plan to focus your time at home on making that work for you. There are many places that offer classes on preparing to go back to work for breastfeeding mothers; taking one of those might help you adjust in the postpartum period. (If you are planning to breastfeed, with such a short planned maternity leave, I strongly recommend working with a professional to make sure you get off to a great start, since you'll be trying to get a new one adjusted to both breast and bottle simultaneously.)

    If you're not planning on breastfeeding, you can take that same time to get in a good rhythm with your husband around bottle feeding. And, totally: you do you. Don't take any crap from anyone about not breastfeeding, if you aren't going to or it doesn't work out.

    Many women spend their maternity leave adjusting to being the primary caregiver before moving back into their work life. It sounds like you won't be the primary caregiver anyway, so this could be a chance for you to recover from labor while your husband practices being the primary caregiver with your support. How awesome is it that your husband's job and your family are able to support the way your family is choosing to raise children?

    I have two notes of caution, from watching other women do what you are planning:
    1) Plan time for bonding. Yeah, go back to work quickly if that's what you want and need to do — just because you're the mom doesn't mean you need to fulfill the stereotypical maternal role — but your new family will need time to figure out what it looks like. It will do you, your marriage, and your family good to make sure you are fully present when you are home (as I'm sure you are already).
    2) Make sure your communication with your husband is stellar and you have the same expectations. Even in the best relationships, communication can go to hell in the postpartum period.

    I wish you the best of luck, and a smooth labor with a quick recovery. It sounds like you and your family are in a great situation, with tons of support.

  37. Congratulations on your imminent parenthood, and on having a wonderful job and an extended family to nurture your child.

    Compassion and caring are not finite resources, but time and energy are. I find that my full time job, which I love, and my daughter's full time school, give us a less-than-ideal amount of family time. Work and school schedules were not calculated for the optimum well-being of families, even aside from the fact that not all families are alike. So my advice is to just keep checking in with yourself about how you want to use your time. You are about to fall in love. It tends to change things.

    And perhaps you can negotiate now to bank those twelve weeks for a later time when your family needs are more intense. The first weeks after birth may or may not be when you need them most, but you may need them. Children make life more unpredictable. If your employer will give you a cushion for the bumps, use it–and if they won't give it to you, why the hell not? You're entitled to your twelve weeks and who are they to say that they have to be consecutive weeks after your baby's arrival?

    BTW, re: whether you need time to heal physically: I had medical leave AND maternity leave. Maternity leave began when I was deemed recovered enough to return to work (a matter of days in my case, but if you've had a Caesarean or other difficult birth, it could be weeks). It's a measure of our backwardness as a nation in the family-support department that we don't even understand this basic distinction.

    P.S. No one should be indispensable in their job. I know, my job is the same way and there are a lot of things that would get dropped if I got hit by a truck, but we should all mitigate those. Sounds like, regardless of your views of maternity leave, you need to leave detailed information that would allow someone else to pick up your caseload in an emergency. Your employer needs an ASL translator for backup. I know legal aid is underfunded and it's not their fault, but let's be realistic: we are all mortal, we retire, we get into car accidents and are suddenly unable to work for six months. Your clients deserve to know that they won't be left in the lurch.

  38. Regarding Melissa Mayer, from what I read online, it wasn't that people thought she was a subpar mother for not taking a maternity leave. Rather, people (and working women in particular) were concerned about the precedent it sets when the CEO of a company doesn't take a maternity leave. Add this to her recent decision to cancel telecommuting, and it adds up to a woman who is changing a company's culture to be particularly non-family-friendly. A woman who has the advantage and privilege to have her baby in the office next door, but who is making it difficult for her employees to attend to THEIR families. If I worked at Yahoo, I would be VERY concerned about how taking a maternity leave or leaving early to take my kid to the doctor will affect my career.

    We all need balance. We all need to take care of ourselves, and our needs, and take care of our families and their needs. Not to be snarky, but I read a little bit of a martyr complex in your description of your job and client relationship. I know your job is important to you, but honestly, your clients don't need you. Yes, they need help but they really don't need YOU, specifically. When it comes to work, we're ALL replaceable. The only people who think you're not replaceable are your family (however you define that). You're about to be the whole freaking world to a brand new person who really truly NEEDS you. So please make sure you have balance in your life. No one ever said on their death bed, "Gee I wish I spent more time at the office."

    • This. You said what I wasn't able to come up with. "I know your job is important to you, but honestly, your clients don't need you. Yes, they need help but they really don't need YOU, specifically. When it comes to work, we're ALL replaceable. The only people who think you're not replaceable are your family (however you define that). You're about to be the whole freaking world to a brand new person who really truly NEEDS you."

      I would NEVER say to someone "why would you even have a baby if you're going to go back to work so soon" because that is a totally bogus question. Adults make the best choices that they can for themselves. But what you might have to reconsider is what choices are best for this little person. Yes, of course, being with dad, grandparents, aunts uncles are all important and wonderful things. But I do think what rubbed me wrong about this article was the inability to see that while returning to work quickly might be what is best for you, you also might need to be open to the possibility that it won't be best for your child. Of course everything difficult can, and should, be negotiated with your partner, but ultimately, when that baby is born, it will stop being your job to do what's best for you and start doing what's best for them. There are lots of different "bests" and perhaps going back to work right away will end up being the one that fits for your family. There are lots of different ways to be a good parent, but I think that all of them involve truly prioritizing our kids needs over our desires.

    • I 100%, absolutely, ridiculously, standing-on-top-of-the-mountain-and-yelling-it agree with you that it's dangerous to be "indispensable" at work. Dangerous for one's health and soul and dangerous for the organization.

      But I just as vehemently disagree with this statement: "You're about to be the whole freaking world to a brand new person who really truly NEEDS you." I think it's just as dangerous to organize your life as though you are indispensable to your baby – because, just like at work, we can't actually control if we're around for our babies. Babies need a family to love and care for them; they don't specifically need the person who gave birth to them to love and care for them.

  39. I am in sort of a similar position. Although, finances are definitely a big player for me. My maternity leave is not paid, and I do not have as much vacation time as I would like to help cover it. I am planning on taking 6 weeks, because I know that is doable for us financially and because we have a great family support system here who are willing to help. Granted, I will probably only be back part-time after the first 6 weeks, but my boss is allowing me to play it by ear.

    I go back and forth in wishing that I could take more time, and being glad for the decision not to do so. I work with international students on a community college campus, my primary function is to help advise/counsel students going through our Intensive English Program. These students come to the U.S. with no support system in place, and the students I work with often have little to no experience with the English language to boot. To say they feel vulnerable is an understatement. I am their support system, and while others in my office are also able to jump in and help while I am out, we are short staffed and there isn't anyone who will be hired temporarily for my leave. I have done as much cross training as I possibly can to help my coworkers prepare for things that might come up while I am gone, and I know they will handle things beautifully. I also know that my being gone will cause several of my students anxiety no matter what. And for that reason, I don't want to be gone for too much of the quarter. I have a responsibility to these students, and if my son were to choose to study abroad in the future, I hope that his adviser in a far off country will treat him the same way.

    My husband and I are lucky, because our shifts are off just enough so that we will only need child care 3 half-days a week, even when I do go back to work full time. He has an early morning shift and is back home by 1:30 in the afternoon, he also has Thursdays and Fridays off. I have a more typical M-F 8-4:30 job, so Monday through Wednesday my mom has volunteered to take our son when I go to work, my husband will pick him up at 1:30. On Thursday and Fridays, my husband will have two days of just him & our son, and Saturday & Sundays I will have two days of mommy + baby (although I am sure my parents will be over to visit often those days too since we live in the same neighborhood). We will be super busy, but I am grateful to have a schedule that works. I am also excited that my son will be interacting frequently with my cousin's two boys, since my mom takes care of my cousin's boys every Monday as well. I feel very strongly that our child should be well socialized and be familiar with all of our family, and this arrangement makes sense to me from all points of view. It's fiscally responsible, it is a secure arrangement for our son, and it has the benefit that I won't feel as though I've abandoned my child or my students.

    Regardless of how silly the abandonment guilt may be (because of course my students are & will be totally fine, and yes, my family is my first priority ultimately), I know myself and I know the guilt will be there. I think it's important to recognize that, because I don't think I'll be as effective of a mother if I have those silent worries in the back of my mind. Being able to find this balance for me will help me in both areas of my life, and from that point of view, I think it is a good thing that the original poster knows this about herself as well.

  40. I only took 10 weeks, and only because she was born in October… the last couple of weeks would've been a "vacation" at work anyway, so I started after the new year. I was ready to talk to adults and have non baby-related conversations. I think next time I might cut it to 6, but we'll see how it works out.

  41. I'm with the earlier posters who requested a follow-up piece detailing how your family implemented this approach, stuff that worked, stuff that didn't work, unexpected bonuses or challenges, etc. It's pretty rare that a plan works out exactly like we envisioned it beforehand, and it would be really interesting to hear about the positives and the pitfalls that you encounter when you navigate this post-birth. It would be really cool to hear that perspective as an "It worked for me" story after the fact so that there is some practical advice included.

    Congrats and good luck with your upcoming birth!

  42. After reading your follow ups, it seems like you are going back to work early for finances, and because you don't mind, and that your husband is going to be the primary caregiver. That doesn't seem unusual or "hot button" at all. I think the emotional response here is from the title, an assumption about the identity of moms who do take maternity leave, and from a few things like saying you love your clients as much as you love your baby (whom you have not met).
    It's hard to talk about without sounding condicending, but you are writing about something you have not experienced to women who have experienced it, and many, many of us had the experience of changing our minds about work afterwards. Maybe you won't, but many of us also thought about it for 9 months, and then changed our minds.
    And, for the record, I don't know ANY mom who identifies as only a mommy.

  43. I agree with some of the other moms about recovering from childbirth. I had a VERY low-risk pregnancy but my labor ended up with me having 2 emergency blood transfusions, a 3rd degree tear, and lacerations in my cervix very close to some major arteries.

    Although I could go home day 3, I still couldn't sit right for a few weeks, and it made the ever so annoying task of cleaning up myself after using the bathroom take a little longer than normal (and painful). I could not imagine sitting in an office while dealing with my body recovering from the ordeal it did.

  44. Yup! I'm at week 6.5 and I've been "sneaking" in plenty of work since, uh. Day two post partum. I'm officially back this week. However, I am the Boss at a small organization doing I job I absolutely love. Being the Boss, and up until my leave started literally the only administrator, means that there are of course things that only I know how to do. There was just no way that I could totally check out…. but because I love my work, this was ok with me!

    On the other hand, it also meant that I got to set things up exactly how I wanted, like bringing other people in the organization up to speed on how to cover the day to day in my absence, for example. It also means that the kiddo gets to be with me until I judge that my productivity is suffering too much (which should be until he's mobile, if he's anything like kid #1), which means I'm free of being chained to the pump. And yes, I would allow this for any other new parent in my organization! No Marissa Mayer style hypocrisy for me. Later on, he'll hang with Grandma at strategic points during the day.

    I so appreciate that there's a range of opinion on this topic. What it comes down to is CHOICE. I so wish that in the USA, parents could have the choice to stay home for a year without panicking about leave and paying the bills. Or the choice to have a flexible workplace, when possible, that allows a baby to stay with mom as long as they're breastfeeding and need that contact. Or the choice to have a supportive child care situation that allows the parents to work without the baby around if they judge that to be the best for their family. It utterly sucks that most people don't feel like they have any of these choices in a meaningful fashion, and that makes me angry as all get-out.

    • Oh yeah, and this kid was a relatively easy vaginal birth, but I did take a couple weeks or so to recover physically where even short walks didn't leave me a bit winded and dizzy. Not that work emails on my iphone or laptopping on the couch while breastfeeding took much effort, but hey, YMMV!

      And the first time around I had a surprise flipping-during-labor baby leading to emergency c-section – plus bonus post-surgery hemorrhage! That was a rough recovery. I wasn't working at the time but if I had been there was just no waaaaay I personally could or should have been doing any meaningful work at all before at least 4 weeks PP.

    • Yup! I'm at week 6.5 and I've been "sneaking" in plenty of work since, uh. Day two post partum. I'm officially back this week. However, I am the Boss at a small organization doing I job I absolutely love. Being the Boss, and up until my leave started literally the only administrator, means that there are of course things that only I know how to do. There was just no way that I could totally check out…. but because I love my work, this was ok with me!

      You basically just described my "maternity leave" (or not) word-for-word. I'm a small business owner, I love what I do, and pretty much started working immediately. Sure my newborn was up at night, but he was napping all day… and I work from home had a lot of family support and fuggit: what else was I going to do when the baby was sleeping or hanging out with family … doing the work I love at 5 days postpartum felt pretty natural for me.

      • I also work from home, so when the new baby arrived after a terrifying birth and recovery, I was still working. Because I could at home and I truly love my work.

        But seven MONTHS later, I'm still not recovered and there is a lot of pain and problems from the circumstances of that birth. Working away from home would have laid me out in the hospital by now several times over. Working from home has made it possible to enjoy working at all.

  45. This sounds more like you're justifying why you are choosing to be a working mom rather than a stay-at-home mom, than it is about maternity leave. Taking maternity leave really doesn't impact any of the things you talked about, since maternity leave is usually only 12 weeks. I don't think there's anything wrong with being a working mom, I'm one. I am a social worker, so I identify with wanting to be there for your clients. I never once in my life thought about being a stay at home mom, I always wanted to work. Having a baby totally changed that. I'm still working, because I can't afford to stay home, but your priorities can (and should) change once the baby comes. I don't agree that you have to give up everything you enjoy, as you said. You don't have to be "just a mom". But having a baby means putting someone else's needs before your own (and it's by no means an easy adjustment). Again, that doesn't mean you never get to do anything you enjoy ever again, because that's not healthy. It just means that maybe you go home a little earlier for bed times, or you miss a party/work day because your child is sick and needs you.

    In my opinion, maternity leave isn't just about healing from giving birth and just learning to breastfeed. It's about bonding with your baby, which is SO important in those early months (first year, really, but we're not lucky enough to get that much leave in the US). Taking 6-12 weeks from work won't destroy you career, and it won't deprive your child from experiences with your family. My family watches my son, and I love that. He has a great bond with our parents since they help watch him while we work. Our families also helped us immensely in the beginning, which was also wonderful. I would encourage you to research the importance of attachment/bonding during the earlier months, especially if you're not breastfeeding. Maternity leave is also a time to learn how to be a parent, get to know your baby, figure out routines, etc… Not to mention no one/nothing in the world can prepare you for the sleep deprivation . It personally took me 3 months to feel human again, just in time to go back to work.

    Obviously, you're the only one that can say what's best for your family, but as you know, you never get that time in the beginning back. They grow SO fast. Your job will still be there when you get back, and I'm sure your family will immediately be a part of your child's life from day one. I don't think a single one of your clients would expect you to give up that time to work with them, and they wouldn't give up their family time for you. Good luck with everything, and I hope you have a super healthy and happy little baby!

  46. Can you opt for paternity leave where you live? In Canada we have 12 months of Parental Leave. Either parents can choose to take 12 months off (Or you could do 6 months each, or you could both do 6 months at the same time)

    I don't think there is anything wrong with a woman opting to stick with her work if that's what she wants.

    • Not quite – there is 15 weeks of maternity leave, and 35 weeks of parental leave. Parents can choose to share the 35 weeks however they want, as long as each is EI Eligible.

  47. It's pretty interesting to me how quickly the concern (-trolling?) comes when a mother unabashedly prioritizes her career. Of all the articles written for OBM by women who are in the planning stages of parenting, some even in the planning-to-try stage, about their post-baby plans, this is the only one where I've seen so many "you'll seeeeeeeeeee!" type comments.

    I get that lots of women have experienced changes in plans, or recoveries that were rougher and longer than they anticipated. Well, if that ends up being the author's experience, she'll deal with that when it comes, just as we all do. It's pretty striking, and it's interesting to me that this is one sphere where people feel comfortable lecturing, I guess, when so many other choices written about on this site get, if not total support, than nowhere near the same level of scrutiny.

    • I don't think it's so much because of the prioritizing her career, but because the shortened maternity leave is something that hasn't happened yet. I've seen super supportive comments all over this site about working moms, moms who chose to divorce, primary care fathers, two working moms, no full time working parents, etc. I think that the "well, I've thought about this and I'm sure it's going to be what I want" thing rubs people the wrong way because, well, most people spend the 9 months of pregnancy thinking about what's going to be best, and then are often surprised. I don't think that this is trolling, it's a community of people trying to be supportive while also encouraging someone to temper her expectations of something totally new and unknown. I think that if this article was written from the perspective of "I took a two week maternity leave and here's why it's awesome for me" the comments would be much more unequivocally supportive.

    • I'm not concerned about this mom so much as offended at the implication running through the whole article that women who *do* take leave are not dedicated to their careers.

    • I think there are so many "you'll seeeeee" comments because the author seems very… rigid, about her plan.

      For her sake, I hope it DOES go according to plan. If it doesn't, I hope she's considered alternatives. I think many commenters are concerned with the fact that the author doesn't acknowledge any possibility of things going awry (until her added comment). This leads them to jump in with stories of how THEY were surprised, which comes across as a "you'll see"-type of comment, even when those commenters are very careful to state that this may not happen to the OP.

      I really think a lot of the hurty feels here are a case of tone being really difficult to discern online.

  48. I don't mean this to sound obnoxious, but there are certain things that you just don't truly know until you have your baby. I am also a lawyer and also valued my career and very much identified myself as an independent, feminist, career-oriented woman. I intended to take my 12 weeks of leave but then figured I'd be anxious to get back to work. My husband and I planned to put our son in daycare as soon as my leave ended. But all of that changed once our son was actually born. My husband quit his job and got a weekend job so 0ne of us could care for our son at all times. After seven months, I cut back to part time and when a year later I had my second child and was told I'd have to come back full time or leave, I left. I stayed home for 2.5 years, something I never, ever, ever imagined I'd do. Parenthood changes you. I'm not saying you will have a change of heart about this–people are different. But one thing I do think is true of everyone I know who has children is that some of the assumptions you have made about yourself, your significant other, and what parenthood will be like will turn out to be wrong. So just leave your options open to the degree that you can and give yourself some flexibility. Parenthood is a wild ride. Best of luck.

  49. I think Ashley's plan is quite lovely. She will have a few weeks with her baby and then her partner will become the primary caregiver with a lot of family support for backup. It's no different than the choice lots of families make, just with the typical gender roles reversed. Sure, she is the one that has to give birth and of course she will need to physically heal, but her timeline to recovery is a private conversation between Ashley and her medical caregiver, not a decree from the Internet.

    Maybe her plans will change and maybe they won't but like Joanna says in her comment, there are plenty of pieces posted here written from a 'this is my plan' perspective.

    I read this website because of its general tone of women supporting women making choices for their families. So what's with the judgment? Can't we give warm OBF hugs even to folks making choices different from our own?

    • She will have a few weeks with her baby and then her partner will become the primary caregiver with a lot of family support for backup. It's no different than the choice lots of families make, just with the typical gender roles reversed.

      Thank you.

    • I think it's the original title and some of her explanations of her reasons that are rubbing people wrong. You are right though, the plan it self sounds completely normal and not even unusual as far as gender roles go.

  50. I went back to work 3 weeks after the birth of my son, but only because I had to. I found out I was pregnant at 32 weeks and had him at 38 weeks… that's another story, though. Since I had such a short period of time to prepare, I had no extra money saved up for leave so I had no choice but to go back. I'll admit though, after three weeks of staying home with a baby 24/7, I was kind of happy to get back to the working world.

    • I would love to hear about that, but totally understand if the shock of it all was a bit much and you want to keep that private but holy crap to finding out at 32 weeks.

      Please submit a post!

    • Dude, if you're comfortable submitting a post about having to mentally and physically prepare to have a baby in six weeks, please do!

  51. Thank you for this article! This isn't a perspective that I read very often so I really appreciate it. You've obviously put a lot of thought into your choice.

    Also, very few women in the U.S. have twelve or even six weeks of maternity leave and they do alright. My step-sister went back to work after 1.5 weeks and an old co-worker only took 3 weeks off. Lots of working class mothers take little, if any, maternity leave every day and they make it work. It's not ideal for a lot of people, but your financial and personal resources put you in a good position to pull this off . Good luck with everything!

  52. Ashley, I think the really inspiring thing about your post was the way you shifted the focus from the idea of 'maternity' and maternal care to family care. You made it clear that the baby is still going to be loved and nurtured after its birth, but not necessarily full time by its mother. Birth recovery and breastfeeding issues aside, there would absolutely not be this reaction if a father said he was planning on going back to work after 1 -3 weeks. Thank you for raising that issue and reminding us that the baby is as much your partner's as it is yours.

    Sadly though, your post is part of a larger debate that makes me really upset. Many families in the U.S. aren't able to choose their length of maternity/paternity leave due to financial issues, lack of job security, and reliance on employer-provided healthcare. I think there is a lot of pressure for women to return to work early in this country, earlier than would even be allowed by law in many other developed countries. I think that when many employers see stories like yours and Marisa Mayer's they think 'see, any woman can come back to work after 2 weeks as long as she's determined enough'. This makes it difficult for women who need or want to take a longer maternity leave to justify doing so. Women who take longer after (or before!) the birth of their child aren't necessarily less dedicated to their jobs, but they are often seen that way. I'd really like to see a follow-up post, or a post from someone who has taken a very short maternity leave, discussing the challenges they faced and how they overcame them so that others in the same position can see that while taking a short leave is possible, it isn't something you can just achieve through sheer willpower. Luck, family-friendly work policies, supportive communities and good healthcare all play a part. You described some of your plans, but I'd love to see some more information. Families need to be able to make informed choices about the length of leave they take, and both families and employers need to be able to see the reality of whichever choice they make.

    • Stephanie and I have talked about this extensively, because we both got back to work very quickly after having our respective children.

      I'll speak for myself:
      As a self-employed small business owner, I had no paid maternity leave. As the primary breadwinner, I needed to get back to work right away to support my family.

      Then again, as a self-employed small business owner, I also had a lot of flexibility in my schedule — I work from home, my partner is also self-employed and had agreed to carry a heaviler load of the child-care, and I have in-town family who were eager to be involved. These factors made it easier for me to get back to work almost immediately in a way that felt good to me — I didn't have to commute or be away from my nursing newborn for more than a few hours.

      As I noted up-thread, part of it too is that I straight up love my work. It wasn't like "Oh shit, I have to go back to it, how can I make it work?" It was almost immediately excited to get back into my work because I genuinely enjoy it. I wasn't slogging back to a 40-hour-a-week day job, which of course makes a huge difference.

      So no, it's not an issue of sheer willpower — most of it is situational. In this post, Ashley talks a lot about her specific situation, and why she anticipates this plan will a good fit for her. I can only say that for my specific situation, a similar plan was also a good fit for me.

  53. The way it seems the author is so very sure that "hey, these are the plans, and this is how it will go" is the only thing that I wanted to comment on. I know you don't believe it now, but how things change, you just never know! For me it was, surprise you are having twins, surprise your totally healthy pregnancy turns into HELLP syndrome, surprise you are going to be forced to deliver 6 weeks early, surprise as if preemie twins wasn't enough work now you get PPD too… its 9 months later and I'm still out of work. Never in a million years would I think I might end up not going back to work! You really just can't plan what children do to you, even if you spend your entire pregnancy thinking about it.

    Just as going to work right away is an option, I wish there was more support out there for when it is not an option also.

  54. I agree some of the comments are more of a concern-troll tone than helpfully trying to point out that there may be a problem in the author's plan. For what its worth, I think it's awesome that you gets have the flexibility to set up your care routine the way your social network sees fit.

    However, I'd like to address the part about Marissa Mayer. I had seen a couple of snarky trolls judging her about her whether or not she should have had a child, but most of the commentary I saw, I feel was critical review about what her decision meant for working parents in the US. As some other posters have mentioned, maternity leave is hard to come by, and paternity leave is nigh invisible here. When someone in a highly visible position makes the type of decision that she did, it sets a precedent. And how many people have the type of privilege to even be able to have those options? Obviously it isn't fair that she should sacrifice her wishes for the interests of others, but she shouldn't represent the ideal, either.

    Most of my friends are poor. And I don't mean grad student poor, but more like 6 kids and both parents work full-time, plus maybe a side job so they can keep a roof poor. They can't afford health insurance (though their kids are covered), and as such, will never be able to buy a house due to the havoc medical bills play with their credit scores. They don't have the option of maternity/paternity leave. They will go back to work within a month, ready or not. If they aren't medically cleared, they can't make ends meet. And watching an educated, privileged white CEO dismiss leave as if it were some vacation hurts people.

  55. Sounds like you have a great set-up family-wise that will make your plans possible.

    I stayed at home with my son for 6 months, then his dad stayed home with him for 6 months, then we both worked part time and pieced childcare together between ourselves and other extended family members. So that worked for us. Except I didn't really enjoy it- if we had another I would totally want my partner to stay home full time, but that is another topic…

    What think what has been of infinitely more benefit to our son than me being around for the first 6 months is that I have worked short days since he started school, hence being able to drop him off, pick him up and spend afternoons with him.

    That time in his primary school years has been more fun for me and better for him too. I like his child-self company a lot more than I liked his baby company. (Something not many women seem to want to admit, but I know I am not the only one!)

    I hear a lot of talk about mums being home (or not) with their babies and the judgments that go along with that, but not so much about all the ways we can carve out time with them when they are older kids.

  56. I'm sorry I can't read all comments before posting this. I wanted to say that when the author says, "I just don't buy the arguments that women must totally rearrange or give up every other joy, source of satisfaction or goal they had before." I don't understand what this has to has to do with taking 12 weeks of maternity leave. It's not an all or nothing. Maternity leave is a few weeks/months, not "giving up every other joy". Providing women with good maternity leave actually does the exact opposite. It allows women to keep a job they love and are passionate about and often need instead of forcing them to decide between a career or being a mom.

    I also wanted to second that I would have appreciated this post more after she had already said no to maternity leave. It doesn't seem like she is asking for advice which would have been different (I'm sorry if I'm wrong about that). None of us know how these plans will work out. It would be good to have her write again a few months after the baby arrives.

    Good luck! I hope everything works out great for your family.

    • Thank you! There are so many sentences in this article that do rub many moms the wrong way. It presents a false dichotomy of:
      1) Love your job and go back to work within a month
      2) Decide to take time off for *12 weeks*, and give up your entire life to being only a mom forever

      Um. Yeah. No.

      It's fine if this mom would like to (and can) return to her work whenever she likes, but there are plenty of career-oriented women here who are still dedicated to their work but take more maternity leave. They don't feel like they've given up everything or built "their whole identities around their children". They just, you know, took leave.

  57. Something I didn't hear you talk about at all is bonding. You and your baby need time to get to know each other. Your baby's world is about to change, and you are a constant.

    That absolutely goes for fathers as well. My husband works in social services and also works with a population who really needs him. He also loves his job, and never wants to leave it. But he took his seven weeks paternity leave, and it was so important. We learned how to be parents together. We grew as a family together. He and our son are so close, and I think all of the time they spent together helped build that. When he had a coworker who chose not to take his paternity leave my husband was shocked and confused. Despite loving his job and deeply caring for his clients, he couldn't imagine prioritizing work over bonding with his newborn.

    It's been a said a lot, I'm going to say it some more. Giving birth is HARD. I had an easy pregnancy, I was eating well and exercising, and I had an unmediated birth at home with no complications. It took so much out of me. Two weeks later I did dishes for ten minutes and then I had to rest. Also you will be bleeding for weeks. And, as has been said, you will probably be up a lot at night.

    You say that you care about your clients and your baby equally. Well, you haven't actually met your baby yet. I know for me, when I was pregnant my love was more of a hypothetical. It was nothing compared to the love I feel for my son now that he is here.

    How you feed your child is of course 100% your choice, but I have to admit I was sad to hear you dismiss breast feeding before even trying.

    • I personally don't believe bonding is such a big deal. It sounds a bit harsh like that, but really babies have hardly any eyesight, or cognitions for that matter. And then they sleep a lot too. They need someone there to give them food and warmth and attention when they need it, 24 hours a day, that's true. But I personally did not really have the feeling that these things needed to come from the mother (i.e. me) for the complete 24 hours of a day. For me, it felt that any loving and warm passerby could have taken my child and could have created the same bond with him, as long as they would have put in the same effort as me and my partner have (I wouldn't have liked them to do that, mind you, I am very happy that all passersby let me keep my baby ;-).

      Sure, you should invest some time in it, to get a proper bond. But, I mean, I don't think anyone would say to a father who goes back to work a few days after a baby is born that he will not bond with their child (assuming a standard-ish family with a mother who takes maternity leave and a father who goes back to work). If a father interacts with the baby and takes care of the baby when they are not at work, the father and child will bond. So, along the same lines, I think a mother who goes back to work quickly will have ample opportunity to bond with her baby. There is nothing that requires the person that has given birth to the baby to invest more time to bond. If anything, I would suggest it takes her less time to create that bond.

      In essence, I think it's very much about the quality of the interaction, not the quantity, that creates the bond between parent and child. Being a reliable, loving factor in your child's live is the key, doing that full-time is not a requirement.

  58. I technically had two weeks of maternity leave– I'm an online teacher and I didn't feel I could get a substitute to do my job, so I went back to my (online) work after two weeks of being blissfully checked out. It was great! I was still with my daughter all day, but going back to my full time job helped me see that I COULD still do it… had I waited three months I think it would have been harder to integrate my daughter into our routine.

    That said, you really may feel differently after your daughter comes– I don't believe that caring is a finite resource either, but babies draw caring out of you in an utterly new way. I would personally say that if there's any way you can combine caring for a newborn AND work, go for it! It's much easier to work with a newborn than with a toddler around… they can sleep and nurse really well in baby carriers, giving you hands free to type etc. Maybe your clients would understand if your daughter comes to work with you some times?

    • "…babies draw caring out of you in an utterly new way." What a beautiful way to put this. As a toddler and preschool teacher, I have always loved that part of my job is to care, to extend care to so many children and families. Being a very new mom (my baby is just over a month old now) on maternity leave, I am joyfully astonished every day with the new love and caring that he evokes from me.

      In response to the article, I have not read all of the comments, so forgive me if this is redundant, but I say that every parent-child situation has its unique aspects. If a mom feels ready to work and wants to, she should. If she changes her mind, that's fine too. What is important is that the baby is loved and cared for, and that families have the flexibility to make decisions based on whatever they need at any given time, which it sounds like this family does.

  59. I agree with people who say not to have a plan. And that it is easier to return earlier than extend. AND that there should be a contingency plan in place in case of your absence anyway.

    Being gone for more than 3 weeks will affect your clients. I am a therapist and when I chose to leave my organization, it had an affect on the clients. But you know what else will affect your clients – you becoming run-down because you aren't taking care of yourself. I'm not saying you WILL get run down. But taking care of a newborn is a lot more work than it sounds like (you think if you organize enough in advance it will be easier but it isn't) and I would hate to think you had organized yourself into a corner of having to go back to work after 3 weeks and being too exhausted to do it. Because honestly, you doing your job at 30% effectiveness is probably worse than having people step in for you. They can hire a sign language interpreter, they can hire are Gaelic interpreter (or use one of those phone interpreters instead of someone in-person). Your clients will benefit more from you taking the time you need and coming to work feeling at least 70-80%.

    A side note: IF you are nursing I don't know how you would be able to go back at 1-3 weeks because the milk supply is established by around 6 weeks. I don't think you would be able to pump enough at work (it sounds very high stress) to establish enough of a milk supply at that stage; the best way to build a milk supply is to feed on demand, which is sometimes every hour or more around the clock depending on growth spurts and whatnot. Then again, you don't HAVE to nurse, and formula does give a lot more flexibility.

    Also, PPD is no joke. And sometimes it shows up later.

    I'm just saying, please allow yourself the flexibility. You are not the only person who can do your job – you maybe are the only person who can do all of the things you do in one job, but there are multiple people who could step in for you to take pieces of your job. You are willing to delegate one aspect of your life (childcare), so please be willing to also delegate other aspects of your life, at least temporarily, if necessary for your mental health.

    That said, I hope your plans do work out for you and your birth is uneventful and you have a happy, healthy baby, family harmony, and a robust, flourishing career. 🙂

    • " You are willing to delegate one aspect of your life (childcare), so please be willing to also delegate other aspects of your life, at least temporarily, if necessary for your mental health."

      So much this.

  60. Every situation is different. Personally, I was back 1/2 time in the office 1/2 time working from home 6 weeks after my baby's birth this past summer. Daddy spent the afternoons with her working from home.

    I needed close to 5 weeks to really be recovered enough to be able to sit in an office-type setting. I was checking on emails and some things at 3 weeks, but those first 2 weeks were rough. We had an uncomplicated delivery, but we needed to go to the pediatrician every week for her first month because they were worried about her weight gain. (It was within range, but they still wanted us in every week for a weight check)

    I also made the decision that I wanted to continue nursing past 6 weeks so working from home in the morning helped so I only needed to pump at work 2 times in the afternoon instead of 5 throughout the day. The grandparents and other family members are not available to sit with her during the week, so for us it was either a work from home solution or daycare.

    I am happy that we were able to work something out so that we could delay enrolling her into daycare until she was 6 months old using the combination of family leave, disability, vacation time, and a flexible work schedule. I am glad to be back to work as I like the mental aspect of my job. Pumping at work is difficult as the office culture is not very woman friendly or accommodating and daycare has been its own set of issues, but we are working through all that as a family.

    My advice would be to feel it out and do what works for your family. Good luck!

  61. A practical note: if you're going back to the office 1-3 weeks post-partum, better have some work-appropriate clothes lined up, preferably in advance. I was in no condition to try on stuff at that point and nothing I owned fit.

  62. You have probably already heard about how birth never goes the way your birth plan went? Please be prepared to have post partum spin you upside down and spit you out. It may not happen and it might be easy for you but better to create some cushion just in case. For me, labor was a breeze compared to recovery. And my beloved baby was colicky with reflux and amazingly fussy. He's 4 months and only recently have we been able to get him to nap- and then for only 30-45 minutes usually. I'm home (thnk god) and its more than a one person job. YOU are the only thing your baby has known for 9 months. There are times when you are the only thing that will soothe. I assume you aren't breast feeding either because that will make it even harder. You do know that newborns eat about every 2 hours right(assume its similar for formula)? It's no joke that it's hard to be a normal sane person on that sleep cycle.

    • Tons of women do it alone while their husbands go to work. Why can't her husband handle it while she's at work? I'm not saying it's easy….just that it's not new. Aside from the gender role switch this is pretty "traditional".

      • Yeah, assuming she is not nursing, which men cannot do. Men also do not go through physical postpartum recovery, which was Joan's other point.

  63. I want to wish you all the best, and say it is totally possible. I was on a runway in Tokyo 12 days after giving birth and managed to balance my career, which involves lots of travelling around the world, and my child, thanks to an amazing support system and artificial milk. Just wanted to add a different experience, since birth did not change the way I see my work (still love it) and I was able to get back to work with very little issues. I am not saying every woman should do it, just that it is a possibility.

  64. I'm a lawyer and I can understand your devotion to your clients and your feeling of having an ethical obligation to them. When I went on maternity leave, I had many clients depending on me, including one in a true life or death situation. I thought I could continue to help during my leave. I was wrong. I remember thinking around week 12 of my maternity leave that I was finally at a point where it wouldn't be malpractice for me to practice law. Prior to that, I was in way too much of a mental fog from the sleep deprivation, physical exhaustion, and general upheaval that is a new baby (and I had an easy birth). I would have been doing my clients a great disservice to be working on their cases when they could have been assisted by a co-worker who could think clearly. If you have to go back for financial reasons, then you don't have any options (sad fact about this country). But if you can take leave, please keep your mind open to taking it – not because a medical emergency happens but because you may find you need or just WANT it. I hope this all works out for you and I hope you won't feel locked into proving you can do this now that you have announced your plan to the world. I had NO idea – of course, no one does – what it would be like and how I would feel. It will be easier for your employer and co-workers if they anticipate you will be out for the full leave and are then pleasantly surprised when you maybe return early. They will make plans. They will cover for you just as you would cover for them. Your clients will be fine. No one is indispensable (except, perhaps, a mother to her baby).

  65. Something I think might be helpful to help broaden this discussion would to keep in mind that for a LOT of families, mom-baby one-on-one bonding for 4-12 weeks after birth isn't desirable, practical, or even possible. Plenty of women are pregnant, give birth, and want to go back to work ASAP: this is ok. Plenty of women work part-time jobs or jobs that don't offer any semblance of maternity leave and they can't stay at home even if they really want to, so their children go to day care during the day or stay with family and friends: also ok. And plenty of parents adopt children, and they don't have a chance for any kind of bonding for the first 6-18 months: also ok. Stay at home dads are on the rise — dads staying home with the kids from the very beginning.

    I'm not saying that mom-baby bonding isn't real or isn't important, because I don't think that… but I do think it's worth pausing to consider the many ways families live their lives, especially when it's different from how you are living yours.

    • I like the point about adoption. My step brother was adopted at a few days old, and due to his parents style he never did really bond. I know adults who weren't adopted until a few years old who are incredibly bonded with their parents. Bonding can happen at any time. Hell, my dad and I didn't start bonding until I was 27. 🙂

    • I personally never said anything about just mom, one-on-one time. I think it's super important for all involved parents to be there for early bonding if possible. I know it is a really sad truth that many parents have to go back to work before they are ready, and I also know that adoptive parents may not get to meet their children until later, but I genuinely do not understand why any parent, mother or father, would want to go to work, full-time, out of the house, when their baby is only a week old. I know some have to, I just don't get why anyone would choose to.

  66. I won't be taking a normal mat leave, but only because I'm self employed. I'll take the time I feel I need, go with the flow and start working part-time on my business when I feel ready. I don't know how long that will be but I figure maybe three or four months.

    It kind of blows my mind taking so little time off truthfully, but you have to do what's right for you. Here in Ontario standard mat leave is one year and can be split with your partner if you choose. Even that one year seems like not a lot of time. I spend a couple days a week with my nine month old cousin and can't imagine leaving the little guy in a daycare all day three months from now. I don't know how you American ladies do it so early! It's hardcore.

    • I'm so jealous of all you Canadian mamas. I am taking a full year off here in the states and it is a super big financial strain, in a living paycheck to paycheck, not sure how we're going to pay our bills kind of way. You are all so lucky to be able to make that choice more easily.

      • Yes, we are very fortunate. It does make the descision easier and it's very unusual, in my experience, for women to take less than that. One of our best friends is having a baby in Kansas a month before us and she gets 12.paid days off and she's a teacher. That sort of thing blows my mind. I hope that one day there are more options for mat care and leave for the ladies if the US.

      • Take that jealousy and turn it into something productive. The ability to take the parental leave that your family needs (including the ability to choose to take less leave, the ability to take leave after a miscarriage, and the ability to take leave to bond with an adopted child) is a human rights issue. Reproduction happens and it is the responsibility of employers and governments to ensure that when two people make a baby, one of those people is not adversely affected by that choice, beyond the adverse affects that nature bestows on some of us! Make sure that your situation and its consequences is known and understood by those in power – employers, government agencies etc. Many developed countries have family-friendly laws, and there is no reason why other countries couldn't develop them if they really wanted to.

  67. Whenever the author wants to go back to work is fine with me.

    But I just want to comment on the idea of love and caring being limitless and/or renewable because I noticed a lot of commenters reaffirming this. For me, becoming a parent taught me these things are not limitless resources. I went back to work two weeks after my first child was born because I was self-employed and the family's breadwinner. I was able to bring my little bun with me sometimes and had a flexible enough schedule that I could nurse on demand, etc. However, I was in a caregiving industry and found it very difficult to be as caring to my clients as I had been before partly because I was so exhausted all the time, but also because my baby seemed to suck me dry of all nurturing capabilities. I even contemplated giving away our dogs–something I never thought I'd do and always judged other new parents for doing–because I just didn't have a lick of energy left to even pet them, let alone walk them, and I felt guilty every time I looked at them. As my son got older and needed me less, I began to be able to spread myself around again, but four years later, it's still hard for me to summon the strength to take care of others (besides my kids, myself, partner and other immediate family members).

    Of course not everyone will share this experience–and the transition into motherhood is always easier with lots of support (something I didn't have with no family nearby)–but I recently read this piece wherein a philosopher explains what was happening for me: http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/pure-genius/q-a-stephen-asma-philosopher-on-why-we-cant-love-all-humankind/9553?tag=mantle_skin;content

  68. This is not particularly on-topic but have you really ever had to use Gaelic? I find it hard to believe that there is anyone who speaks Gaelic but not English.

  69. I had the same thoughts initially. I am a teacher and really love what I do. I was due at the end of the fall term and I planned to come back to work at the beginning of the next term which was about 5 weeks later. I had planned to work up until the week I was due. Lets just say things changed.

    A little over a month before I was due I could no longer walk from the train station to my job in a reasonable amount of time. (I commuted 2.5 hours each way and the last 5 minutes was walking). The 5 minute walk turned into a 25 minute waddle down the street.

    I was pretty relieved after that the next term was 5-6 weeks away because I couldn't walk much after the birth, in fact, it took me 4 weeks to be able to walk, sit and stand comfortably. I went back to work as usual, but it just wasn't the same. I immediately started planning and thinking about what I could do.

    My school term will be over in 3 weeks and I do not plan on returning, as I have decided to open my own store so I can have my daughter with me everyday. I just couldn't rationalize the commute anymore knowing that my baby girl was so far away from me and she doesn't have to be.

  70. My only comment would be to keep an open mind and not be hard on yourself if you find out that you end up wanting to take more time off than you originally planned. Not saying you will, but as with all things Parenting, sometimes it works out differently than you imagine. One reason I take the full maternity leave benefit (12 weeks in my case) is because I wouldn't otherwise get an opportunity to take that long a break from my job. I love it, but I also love lots of other things 🙂

  71. You've got my support. 🙂 I am childless, myself, but I've got an open mind about my future birth and child-rearing decisions. Who's to say that maternity leave is right for all families? Blessings and wishes for a safe, beautiful birth!

  72. I went back to work one week after my first baby. I developed HELLP on a Sunday, had a c-section early Monday morning, spent 4 days in ICU, released from the hospital on Friday, back to work Monday. At first I said I was returning to work so quickly so that I could use my maternity leave for when the baby came home. I quickly realized I NEEDED work to get back to some semblance of normal. When the baby came home 6 weeks later, I took an additional week and a half before realizing the stay at home mom life is not for me. I had post partum depression, and I had it bad, and being at home wouldn't have been good for any of us. With the second baby I planned a two week maternity leave. I made it a week. C-section on Monday, out of hospital Wednesday night, back to work Monday morning. Pretty much the only reason I didn't return on Thursday is because it was Thanksgiving and my office was closed for a 4 day weekend. Once again, I needed work, it didn't need me.

    Pregnancy and post partum depression are butt kickers, and I completely respect your decision to return to work right away, but don't be afraid to consider all the reasons why it may be so important to you.

  73. I too did not have a real maternity leave, I am a full time grad student receiving a fully funded education from the Navy. Although I could have taken a quarter off and had no classes, I chose instead to take a reduced load and rearrange the remainder of my scheduled to taken into account the extra quarter added to my time at school allow for a lighter load over the remaining quarters. This means that I took 2 classes during my "leave" and only 3 or 4 the rest of my time here instead of 5 (which is no fun at all). I was also back in class 4 days after my son was born. Many people did not understand why I would do this or tried to convince me that the short (2 1 hour sessions) time I was away would hurt my baby or make it hard to breastfeed. None of it was true, nor do I know what it was that was supposed to take 6 weeks to recover, but then again my last job came with more sleep deprivation than my infant. Do I wish for more time with my child, yes and no. I wish I had more time to just enjoy him and not worry about school. house, homework, etc, but I staying home for 3 months full time would have meant alot less time with my smiley giggly 5 month old . . .
    Some of this doesn't apply to you and your day sounds alot longer out of the house than mine, but you are not alone, and you should see what flexability can be built into your schedual, (work from home, flex time, 1 or 2 half days, etc)

  74. Consider hiring a post partum doula! The best way to take care of your family and clients is to take care of yourself first.

  75. 1-3 weeks does not should physically realistic. No judgement , I'm happy you love your job, but please make the maternity leave decision with your doctor. Your body may not be ready, so don't be disappointed if you need more time.

  76. This was written in February. I'm dying for a follow-up to talk about what actually went down when you had your child. Were you able to get back as quickly as you'd hoped?

  77. I don't intend to have children, but from one legal aid attorney to another, I totally understand your point. Our work is so valued and so important to our communities that it is a strain on them when our offices are closed even for a day. I am the only Spanish speaker in our office (very small rural office), and I couldn't imagine what taking 12 weeks off would do to our clients, or for the relationships we've built in the community.

    Cheers to legal aid!

  78. I don't want to take a long mat leave either basically for all the reasons you just stated. I have a year long leave because I live in Canada but at this point I just feel so frustrated when everyone keeps telling me I should take it. WHY? because I am a woman? FUCK.

  79. I think the biggest problem I have with articles like this is how unaware the writer seems to be of how decisions like hers and Marissa Mayers affect the women in lower social positions. While to some point I want moms to be able to do what works best for them, when women who have high status jobs *opt* to have very short leave, it has a disproportionate affect on how society on whole views maternity leave. It sends the signal that it isn’t necessary because XYZ (with money and resources) didn’t need it. And that has a dripdown effect to the rest of us.

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