While you can never really be prepared for how parenthood will change your life, I do know that each individual and couple likely has a few preparations that they would like to make before embarking on the journey, be it owning a home, feeling financially secure, or being married, to name a few. For my husband and me, one of our greatest concerns is also a hot topic in our current political climate: paid maternal leave.
At my previous company, there was no existing policy for maternal leave. There was a vague mention of the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in our employee handbook, although since my firm had far less than 50 people, I wasn't sure I would actually be able to take advantage of FMLA. Our handbook also included a rule against wearing Birkenstocks to the office which our Managing Partner routinely disregarded, so I had little faith in its reliability. Further, I didn't relish the thought of going without pay for the entirety of my leave, and I knew that not receiving a paycheck would likely result in my returning to work before I was really comfortable doing so.
Given my concerns around my benefits, I began having casual conversations around maternity leave with my supervisor. When those didn't lead anywhere, I eventually began exploring other opportunities.
I was extremely fortunate to find a position quickly at a fantastic firm that not only provides good benefits to new mothers but also supports working mothers throughout their careers and the various stages of motherhood. I look forward to continuing to work after having children and showing my children that a woman can be a mom and a successful businesswoman.
I know that not every woman has the freedom to explore her options and find a position at a firm that offers paid leave when so many companies and industries are desperately lacking in this area. However, no matter your company's particular policies, an important first step is to ensure that you understand how those policies will play out in reality. Although the conversations can be awkward, you have a right to know your employer's policies and to proceed with your family planning fully informed.