Maternity Leave in Your "Prime"
I often laugh when speaking to others and they mention the dreaded "Millennials" who are lazy and entitled. I don't often get lumped in because I look older and I have a child (and another on the way). Generations aren't lazy, people are lazy. Good workers are of no age, gender, ethnic background, etc. However, what I do know is that leaving your job for a few months, a year, 18 months, or whatever you decide is right for your family, is stressful. You are at the prime of your career. You are in line for the next promotion. You are one step away from the desired hours you have been looking to work.
Remember, you are working to make a living for your family. You have plenty of time to "climb the ladder". I think the importance of my career put stress on me when getting pregnant with my second child, which led to fertility drugs. Don't stress. Your path is being paved and will be there when you get back. I love the career I have chosen, but I love my family more.
So you are about to venture off for your maternity leave.. what questions do you ask?
I am going to get right down to the basics. People assume that you will know what questions to ask, but the information varies depending where you are in the world.
Ask about your benefits. How much will you owe the company while you are off? How often? This will play a large roll in your budgeting for your upcoming leave. For my first pregnancy, we opted out of my plan for the year and stayed on my husband's plan.
Another questions you should inquire about is top up pay. Again, another large part of your budgeting will depend on whether your company provides top up pay (usually this is for 3 months). This maternity top up pay may bring you close to your usual salary. Some companies may not provide this benefit, so again, ask! Don't forget to ask how much notice you need to give before returning to the workplace.
While you are connecting with your employer and benefits consultant, ask a few more questions! What does your plan cover for the hospital room when you deliver? Some cover ward rooms, semis, or privates. Know what you are getting into and talk to your partner about what your desired room is before you deliver. Do the math, and know the difference ahead of time. You may not have an option when you get on the unit, but you won't want to think about it when you are exhausted from giving birth. Also, inquire into if your plan covers a breast pump and the stipulations surrounding that pump (do you need a prescription, does it need to be a certain brand, does it cover the connecting devices, etc.)?
Aside from talking to your employer, you need to talk to your partner. I did not know my now husband for very long before we got pregnant with my first. We were in our mid 20s, and trying to get to know one another, so we did not get to chat a lot about who was going to do what. We were so focused on obtaining a home for our family and ensuring we had been at our new jobs long enough to qualify for EI. How are you going to finance your maternity leave? What are the expectations for the individual staying home vs the person going to work? Who will be feeding and when? The problem for us was that we didn't know what was unknown to us, so how do you talk about what you don't know? This link from The Longest Shortest Time can help start your conversations by asking 36 questions you can ask your loved one before having children https://longestshortesttime.com/episode-165-the-36-questions-to-ask-your-partner-before-having-kids/.
I'm going to take it one step farther.. plan if you have another child. The world is different right now. You are only allowed one support person at the hospital due to COVID-19 and you are not allowed visitors on the units. Children cannot be a dedicated support person, so you need to ensure they are taken care of so you can focus on your incoming babe. Discuss with your partner what will you do if baby comes quickly, what is your "ideal", and how long your partner is planning to stay with your post-birth at home. I'd like to say we planned this the first time around.. again, we more so "winged it", which I do not recommend. Knowing what I do now, make a plan and allow for flexibility in that plan. Baby will make a debut when baby is ready, but you can prepare yourself to make the transition a bit smoother.
There is so much to consider with a new addition to your family. Read a book and/or look online for articles to read (I enjoy www.whattoexpect.com). I did not attend a birthing class (I found my own reading material helpful), but looks for options in your community. Discuss taking an infant CPR class if you are unfamiliar with the practice. Most importantly, be open with your partner. Don't have expectations in your head without communicating them to your partner. It will make for a very stressful first few months of life for your family. Enjoy the time together, and hold onto those baby cuddles! Your future career will be waiting once you return.