Thinking About Parental Leave

working mother holding baby researching doulas

Good news, DC (non city or federal) workers! On December 20th, DC Council voted to increase paid parental leave, giving DC one of those most generous policies in the US. This means that, if you work in the private sector, for a non-profit or are self-employed the bill:

“guarantees eight weeks of paid time off to new parents, six weeks to workers caring for ailing family members and two weeks of personal sick time.”- Washington Post  

This new law improves on the federal requirements for maternity leave, and provides a way for you to take time off with your new baby, without completely sacrificing your income. (Which is great, because babies are expensive!) My hope is that it will allow for more parents to spend time at home recovering from birth, and caring for their new baby.

Most of my clients are work up until their baby is due, and plan to return to their jobs. So while we’re on the topic, let’s talk about some things that you can do to make this part of your pregnancy and postpartum as smooth as possible:

  • Plan for both parents- not just the one carrying the child. One of my favorite things about this legislation is that it didn’t focus on “maternity leave”. Mothers need to recover after birth, and bond with baby, yes. So does the rest of the family! How can that best happen?
  • Learn your company’s policies. In addition to parental leave, consider things like health insurance coverage for a new baby, any physical accommodations you’ll need as your pregnancy goes on, how you can use your sick and vacation time for prenatal appointments or morning sickness, and what you need to communicate to HR or your supervisor.
  • Set some timelines. How often are your doctor’s appointments? When will your last day of work be? When should you go back to work after the baby? Your provider can give you advice about your health. And YOU will know what’s best for your family’s financial needs, as well as own well-being.
  • Cover your work while you take time off. Will you be training a temporary replacement? Sharing projects among your teammates? Making this plan early (and following through) will save you stress as the baby comes.

And remember to take care of not just your job, but yourself.

Expect staying home from work to be an adjustment. Parental leave isn’t much of a vacation. You’re learning lots of new skills under pressure.You’re likely to have less energy than you’re used to. Even if this isn’t your first child, every baby is different. 

You also may be spending time at home without other adults around a lot more. It’s okay to not love that. Many people don’t. Even people who love their babies very much. If there are offers of help that can allow you to have company or get chores done, take them! And remember, you can hire a postpartum doula for some extra support (with chores, baby care and self care) without any advice. I can Another possibility is that you’ll LOVE this time with just you and your baby and loved ones. More than one new parent has decided that they want to stay at home.  If you think that might be you, that’s a beautiful thing to do for your family. Because you’ll have looked into your company’s policies, you’ll know exactly what your options are.

I recommend talking through some of your thoughts with friends and family, especially if you have other co-workers who’ve recently had a baby. Find out about their experience.

Have any tips for folks about their parental leave? Want to share your own experience? Talk to us in the comments!


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