Mat leave update (sorry, v long)

So sorry it's long. I think I am using this to think everything through as I post to be honest, most of you will probably skip it anyway. And I wonder if this is going to be controversial but some folk have asked how sorting it out went so I'll set the scene...

My work:

I've only been here 7 months, though I applied in December, they took months to appoint. I am the only person in my position and there is no one I can be covered by except through employing a temp. I work with 5 very different businesses. All male dominated, it's family firm grown large, husbands (in the SMT) work and their women raise the kids, business is going through a difficult time and the owner expressed concern about 'who to bring problems to' in my absence and that potentially it could have a detrimental effect on the objectives for next year if I am covered and on mat leave (and he's right). I have made a lot of changes in 7 months here, within the team, to processes, reporting deadlines and all sorts of things, and it would be very hard for someone to take that on at a time when the team still need so much guidance.

In addition, although he's had a telling off from both me and our new HR manager, my boss wanted to reject my favourite candidate for my new finance manager because she has pre-school children and 'what happens if they're ill and she stays home regularly to look after them?' D'oh. But it's that kind of thing I face regularly.


I love my job. It's a big part of my life. I'm proud of what I have achieved at nightschool, I didn't go back to education until my son was 9 months old. Hubby is a movie buff and loves his cycling and sports but I use my spare time to do the best job I can and I take my work very seriously. I found myself out of work this year temporarily and I was a wreck, the thought of not having that purpose really upset me. I have worked full-time for 21 years now. I earn twice my husband's salary and we can't afford for either of us not to be working. The maximum maternity leave I would have been looking at taking was 3 months, due to financial constraints.

I know that discriminating against pregnant women is illegal and I know that many women win tribunals every year, but I would be lying if I said I am not concerned about my career prospects (there is a promotion I should be getting next year), and that there is a good chance that I would be sidelined (for good) if I could not come up with an appropriate compromise with my work. It happens all the time and it would probably be very slow and very polite, but I would suffer. I have fought against this crap all my working life, being treated like a second-class employee due to my age (younger than my counterparts) or gender or not included in the old boys club etc and it's frustrating that it's still like that in about half the places I have worked in. I probably should be more resilient about it but I try to fight the sexism whenever I come across it, more fool me maybe!

I have never dealt with HR for anything really, not since my career started, I have worked in businesses without HR or been at such a level that my negotiations or issues are dealt with by the MD, so it's nice for me to have an HR resource here now who a) overtly supports my plan and stands up for fair treatment and b) has been through having kids and a career simultaneously and has some practical experience. Although she worried me when she said she had had similar 'non-PC' conversations in the business and hoped I was keeping notes of all such incidents! But that's her job, I guess. Plus, she's right.

Also, on the parenting front I believe wholeheartedly in equal parenting, it's how my son&#3


  • I'm glad your work are happy with your approach and glad you are too. My only question would be, what is your plan B? I'm certain that health (of you, baby and H) permitting, this can work, but what if any of you are not physically able to make this work at any of the stages you mention, would the whole plan be in jeopardy for example if you had to have a section and couldn't go back in 3 weeks, would your work be happy to just delay?

    I can't offer any advice really as you know your work and your situation other than keep talking to them. I read your last post and commented that if you don't ask you don't get and still stand by that, so just make sure that you are happy with any plan x

  • Hi Counter,

     There's loads of points in there so I'll try and tackle some if not all of them. I'm not going to go on about how unfair your boss seems because thats not going to help you, but instead focus on your plan

    Firstly the shared parenting thing. I wouldn't worry about what people think. If it works for you go for it. I earn a very high wage, and I can earn in 3 days a week what my OH can earn for a full working week. It therefore makes sense for him to be the stay at home dad. Although he struggles with peoples attitude that he's scrounging off me, and to be fair although they don't say anything I don't think my parents get it either. He left the army a few years ago to be home more, but his job means he's out of the house 12 hours a day, and as a middle manager he had to be there when emergencies arose, compared to me that can be far more flexible and as I said earn more. So it's a no brainer to me. Having said that though I do want a long maternity break first, but this is personal choice - it's took me a long time to get here and I want to be there for every second of those first few months.

    Second the returning to work thing- you need to do whats right for you. If it's what you want go for it. My only word of warning is my OH has a grown up son, and he missed out a lot on his childhood (he was away at lot in the army). It's something he still regrets now. You can't get your childs younger years back, but you could kickstart your career later, even if it does mean moving company. I had some enforced breaks to my career (disability), but it only made me more determined to work harder when I got back. I've had to move employers a few times to speed up the process but now I'm actually doing better and earn more than most people my age. Weigh it up, and make the best decision for you all.

    Thirdly and probably only the practical bit of advice- get your boss ready for you working at home. I had a work from home job, which I took because I wanted to work from home. However once I got into the role it turned out my boss thought that people who worked from home did 'naff all' and tried to force me to go into the office (a 2 hour commute a day). For this and a few other reasons I left. Make sure your boss is actually happy with you working from home, and you discuss how often this will be. You may be thinking 1 day a week, he may be thinking once in a blue moon.

    Fourthly you already have a child so you probably know all the pitfalls. However things may not be the same this time. God forbid but what if something happens that means you can't go back after 3 weeks like postnatal depression, or what if the baby is born early? Will this leave your work in a worse place than if you'd just decided to take longer off in the first place?!?!

    Good luck with your decision xx

  • Ok, so firstly, I'm tired just reading your plan!

    Some random things that came to mind while reading it (in no particular order!), that I'm sure you've already considered -

    - I know you've mentioned H was a model baby, have you thought about the fact that this baby could be the complete opposite? How will you and H cope if you he/she literally doesn't sleep and cries all day/night and you then both have to go to work in the morning?

    - You're working crazy hours at the moment, will work be happy when you start saying no to things? Will you clearly lay out to your team exactly what an emergency is and how you'd like to be contacted when the need arises? E.g email rather than ring so you can go back to them in your own time. And what happens if it's not something that's easily sorted? Will there be some time off in lieu available (I'm thinking if there's something that needs two days to sort out, rather than 2 hours)

    - What happens if the last few weeks of pregnancy/birth isn't straightforward? Or you end up needing a c-section so you've barely recovered and are expected back at work?

    I know you can't allow for every circumstance, I'm worrying that working till 38 weeks will be too much and without a crystal ball it's impossible to predict how things will be.

    I think, what worries me is if you go through all of this, and then they still decide to push you out because of their outdated ideas. I'd hate for you to give them so much, and then for that to happen and you'd end up in a position where you regret missing out on so much with your little one.

    I know you love your job, and it's important to you and I understand that. I also have every confidence that from what I've read on here over the past few months that you're doing this for your family and you'll make the most of the time you do have together, whether it's two days a week or seven. I love the idea of sharing childcare so much with your husband, I'm very keen for my H to not be seen as a 'babysitter' but as a parent. Has he approached work already about taking the 8 weeks off? I assume that'd be unpaid?

  • I think if you and your H are happy then thats all that matters! Good for you.

    I did also think whilst reading 'what if...' i.e. like MrsPenguin said, have you got a plan B for if things don't go to plan?

    ETA - Also agree with Flossy. I think you need to be careful with what work class as an emergency etc. You could end up spending the whole 3 weeks doing 'emergency' work and not actually spending any of that time with your baby.

  • Did you say your son was going to do childcare? I realise he is young and might be very mature but I think it would be a lot to ask a teenager to do, fine fair enough as the child is older but as a baby it is all quite full on isnt it. I found it hard enough at 27 Laugh, I realise your son will want to help out and that's fantastic but I do think a regular childcare at his age might be a bit much (I appreciate I don't know your son but think he's 17/18 isn't he??)

    Have you considered that you may require a section? If so then would you be allowed to work from home? I think 3 weeks post section I couldn't have sat at a desk all day

    I realise that your first was a dream baby, my second was a dream baby but at 3 weeks old my first wouldn't be put down

    It must be so difficult in a senior position sorry its not helpful but it was just points I was thinking when I seem ur proposal

  • I think the plan sounds really well thought out, plus who gives a stuff what others think. Being a working mum is really really tough, it makes it so much harder when others think they have the right to pass comment on it.

    Anyway, all I have to offer is WCPS. I wondered about your teenage son, and also about your baby not being a dream baby (though obviously I hope that they are!). A plan B might be a good idea.

    But good luck x

  • Your plan looks really well thought out and who gives a stuff how you and H split the child care,

    when it comes to practicalities I can only echo what others said

    Do you have a plan B?

    I know you have said before your first was a dream baby but what are the practicalities if this one isn't?

    How will you handle night shifts with baby?

    Can you cope up work if you have been up all night with baby? Disco had reflux and some nights just wouldn't/ couldnt go to sleep for more than half an hour

    Travel to and from work if you are driving will it be safe if you are tired? I know that when disco was a new born there is no way I would have been safe to drive some days.'

    Yourmidwife is right the hormones may will make it very difficult when you go back to work so soon hav you got a plan or support of that happens?

    3 weeks post birth is very soon for you to be physically recovered if you aren't have you discussed with Boss/  HR how you will cover that?

  • I did manage to get to the end :) and then wrote a reply which was deleted arghh!

    I think your plan sounds like a good one. The main thing is if it works for you and your family then that's all that matters. I totally agree about both parents doing the parenting and flossy makes a good point about father's not just being seen as "babysitters". You've managed to make your boss happy too which is a bonus as it shouldn't have a knock on your career prospects.

    I can completely understand where you are coming from. I'm a lawyer and I've known loads of women in my profession who have had babies and put them into full time care at 6 weeks old. I accepted that in taking 9 months off, it will probably have a short term knock on effect on my career. There is sexism is the workplace still but the way I see to challenge that is by proving them wrong. I am not saying you have to be a martyr but it doesn't need to be career or family. You can have both as a mother just as fathers can too.

  • It sounds like a very well thought out plan. I know someone who went back to work full-time 2 months after having a baby, and didn't have any problems with childcare,etc (and went on to have 2 more kids and do pretty much the same thing)  I realise this is still quite a bit longer than you are planning to have off but at least it shows that some people do go back to work earlier than others.

    Your plan for shared childcare sounds good, I agree with you that both parents should, where possible, be involved as much as possible.

    I would second what others have said about making sure you have a contingency plan in place, do you have something agreed with your work in case anything changes?

    My only other concern from your plan would be your son looking after the baby for extended periods, but then again, you are the one who knows your son, so if you (and him) think it'll work then I'm sure it will.  As long as he is fully aware of how full on a baby is - I don't think my husband gets this even now!

  • I agree with what the others have said re having a few back up plans.

    The main concerns I would have would be -

    Your health may not allow you to return after three weeks.

    Even if you are determined to return this and fight through any pain you may be in, what if it wasn't your health that was the problem but your baby's? You may be prepared to return to work after three weeks and deal with how difficult it will be emotionally to leave the baby , but what if baby is unwell and has to stay in hospital a while.

    As for your son doing some child care, I don't know how well that would work. He obviously is very mature and sensible for you to be happy for him to do it, but would how often would it be and for how long? If it's just a few hours maybe, but if it's whole days and you have a baby with colic, reflux, etc who will not stop crying for hours at a time, how would he cope with that.? It's a real struggle for the mother during those times and they at least have the hormones etc to have that bond that makes them adore their beautiful baby regardless, but for a 17 year old lad it could be too much.

    Our first baby was a dream, absolutely perfect, but this time round B has been very hard to settle on anyone but me. My husband has really struggled emotionally to handle her crying so much and has often had to pass her to me because it's stressing him too much as she won't settle on him and he feels helpless. I think leaving a 17 year old baby on his own in that situation is too much and I think he could struggle .

    Obviously things could go perfectly with the birth, both you and baby be fit and well straight after birth, and baby be a fantastic feeder and sleeper, but there's a lot of unknowns and as well thought out as your plan is it seems to rely on everything going perfectly to plan.

    As for your H having more time off than you and sharing the workload- I think it's a great idea and makes total sense. I don't see any reason why it shouldn't be split 50:50.

    I hope getting lots of people's thoughts helps you , but don't let other peoples opinions influence your decision. Everyone's circumstances are different and only you and your family fully understand your situation. I know your original post on this subject got a few judgemental comments and I hope that doesn't happen again.

  • Are you planning to breastfeed at all? Because I'm not sure you'd be able to continue if you were regularly leaving baby for so long so early on. Even if expressing it might harm your supply. If you're planning to FF then fair enough, but I thought I'd mention it just in case.

  • I knew someone who went back to work full time after 3 weeks with her child. I don't see why you can't make your plan work. After all, apart from the possible physical recovery time needed and the hormones, it is no different to the father going back after paternity leave. My H would go to work having been up in the night with our daughter. Of course he was tired but many men do it so women can too.

    An 18 year old girl could be working in a nursery looking after 3 babies all day. I don't see why a teenage boy couldn't look after a young baby for an afternoon (or whatever). If it was his child we'd expect him to do it. Provided he knew what he was doing of course!

  • I worked for US investment banks prior to children and in our US offices they only got 2 weeks maternity leave when I first started 15 years ago (no idea how this has changed but I know they still have pants holidays for example so would assume mat leave is not much better).  They all had jobs of the sort of stress you describe and managed it if all things went well with birth obviously.  Do you have any US contacts you could chat with about practicalities?

  • I always planned to come back to the thread but because the future of the company was looking so shaky it seemed pointless. But things seem mostly better. Thank you so much to people who gave me food for thought here, I needed it. Really helpful, thank you.

    I made a quick list of what stood out and thought I'd address them and then if anyone sees anything I'm missing or have messed up on then it would be great to know, but if not it's really handy for me just to go through the thought process here...

    1. Plan A is all well and good, but do I have a Plan B? ...I find this hard, I love to plan for all eventualities but accept that I have no real clue what might happen. I have made it clear to work that the plan is predicated on a couple of requirements from their end (work related) and on baby and I being well. If a Plan B is necessary we will revisit at the time. For us, we have the option of hubby taking some special leave from work in the short term, or unpaid leave.

    2. I appreciated the encouraging comments regarding sharing care. It means a lot to me, as it's not the attitude I get across the board.

    3. Babylonglegs made a point that resonated with me. I worked a lot of Harry's childhood, and I had a spell where 70-80hrs/wk was the norm. I remember calling him up from work to wish him goodnight and then crying when I put the phone down. I would miss him in my gut to the point of feeling sick, from when he was 3 or 4 right up to when we was a teenager, not always but sometimes. I swore I wouldn't go back to that, I wouldn't work full-time with a child. But things have changed a lot. I don't work those hours, I work much closer to home, I have a wonderful partner, in all things, who complements my strengths and weakness, and I have a bigger mortgage that someone (mostly me) needs to pay. (and my hope is that, after working a period of 4 days per week I could make it a permanent arrangement - dream come true!).

    4. Also, getting boss ready for homeworking is an excellent piece of advice and one I didn't pay too much attention to when i first read it. But I'm quite tired now. There are days when I could whizz through certain types of work at home alone. I do plan (but haven't shared this at work) to work a couple of days a week at home towards the end of the pregnancy. It will be good prep for all of us; me, boss, team, colleagues.

    5. Flossy's point about what constitutes an emergency etc is a good one... 6 months ago I would have worried about this, but we've changed our practices and processes and they get a lot further down the line before they need to refer to me. They know that a genuine emergency means a text message asking me to call, I don't take calls if I'm not in the office (could be driving etc) and everything else is email. I would hope to continue that. The financial situation improving here should mean far less emergencies too.

    6. C-section. Yep, if I have to have a C-section I may have an issue. I'd propose to work as planned, but from home, and we'd organise a weekly pick-up/drop-off of files/documents as necessary (so lucky work is so close by). Can't really do a lot more than that and I think work would be understanding.

    7. This is a biggie - my son doing childcare. Completely understand that folk are wary. In 7 weeks or so he would need to cover 4 'all days', where hubby and I are booked to be absent from 8am to 6pm. On those day during school hols: we have some options, one is that as I am working 4 more days in Jan than expected (weekends) so I could take some extra leave in August, or maybe I will have HV or doc appointments to attend and work part of the day, I can go home for lunch, and also, my mum is my paid cleaner; we've talked about her cleaning longer on thos

  • Counter just in regard to the breastfeeding. You may have no problems at all. But if you're not already aware of it, Kellymom is a really good BFing resource and there's also La Leche League.

    My A was and is a bottle refuser but I've been lucky enough to take the whole year off. I was a bottle refuser as a baby too and my mum went back to work at 4 months. I lost so much weight and was so ill I very nearly had to be re-hospitalised - not all babies will "drink if they're hungry" from a bottle. If you like I can ask her for more details about how she got through it, just so you can be prepared (she never went back to BFing). If you'd rather take it as it comes that's fine! Smile

  • Thank you, good to know! I guess I haven't really heard of that happening in my circles, and I was lucky with one that happily switched between. I would actually be interested to hear more at some point if possible, and in the meantime I will bookmark 'bottle refuser' for my next bout of online research for those early hours pregnancy insomnia episodes!! :)

  • Counter I think you have done really well with the amount of preparation you're doing and I know it must be really stressful for so much to be unknown.

    My H has quite a high level job and had to do a lot of planning just around what paternity leave he would take and when, he thought he had everything sorted as I was booked for a elective cs, but I ended up going into labour three days early and ruined all his plans! I remember being in agony with contractions on the way to the hospital and him talking about how he would need to send a few emails about work when we got to hospital! The company director was great though and told him off and said to look after me haha!

    I know it's easier said than done but I think you have already gone above and beyond what anyone else would do to prepare in advance , there are so many unknowns that I really don't think there's much more you can do now until baby actually arrives. I always say to H that if he got run over by a bus tomorrow his work would have to survive, things might not go perfectly but  I think it sounds like you have at least tried to think of every possible outcome and plan for it as best you can.

    As regards to the bf. My first baby was fab at switching between bf and bottle. I didn't understand people who had a problem, until baby number two arrived. She really is not happy with a bottle and gets so stressed out about being given one. We have really persevered (sp?) and she is a bit better but still hit and miss. W was given a bottle for top ups from when she was two days old, whereas I didn't try B with a bottle until about 4weeks. I think the earlier the try them with the bottle the better for you. I know they say if you're bf to wait a few weeks to avoid confusion , get your supply etc established, but in your circumstances I think establishing them on a bottle is more important as from early on you're going to need to be away from baby. It may result in you exclusively bottle feeding if they won't go back to breast, and then depending on how much time you have at work to be able to express you may have to switch to formula, but I think it sounds like you're priority is that they can feed from a bottle ok, and as much as bf is of course better than formula, formula it still perfectly good for your baby .

    As for your son. I will be impressed if he succeeds long term with the child care and you should be very proud to have raised him into a young adult you feel responsible enough to do it. I don't know any other 17 year olds ( either boys or girls) who would do it! And it will be the best form of birth control for him, there's no way he'll be wanting one of his own for a while after he sees how hard it is!

    Good luck with it all and keep us updated x

  • Hey counter. I'm really late to this, but, just wanted to wish you a load of luck.

    Fwiw I did have a section with E any physically could have driven three weeks after, and I'm sure that there'll be an awe ness of taking care of you, I'm mainly male dominated but when I was pregnant, just lifting my cup had men leaping to help!

    The tiredness would be the big thing for me personally, but you never know what your LO will be like, my niece slept through from 5 days old,, only other question I guess I have is, can you arrange other outside support for meals etc when you do return, have you a cleaner to take care of that side and also someone to do the washing etc? All minor things, but when you're stuck under a baby, be it you or your partner at home, it's often difficult to get done, but something really that dragged me down.

    Whilst I know I couldn't have done it, I do see that your plan is carefully stepped to not put too much preassure, I guess the other thing is, re the childcare externally, have you found anywhere that works the hours you need, if you're in long hours, or someone flexible if you are delayed? That was a big issue here for me, I struggled to find anyone who I trusted as much, in regards to your parenting approach and both parents taking responsibility, totally agree with you there too,

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