New Baby, Same Job: Priorities After the Baby Arrives
so much build-up to the birth of a baby. The long waiting
that characterizes pregnancy, the drama of birth, the joy
of that new little life.
couples, having a baby takes a lot of careful planning in
terms of figuring out how to reconcile your baby's need for
constant care and your need to earn a living. For the pregnant
woman, accrued paid leave and sick time may just about cover
the time you'll need to take off to give birth and recover.
Then again, you may not have any such time accrued. Employers
handle maternity leave differently, so your best bet is to
talk to your human resources department to find out what kind
of coverage your company provides.
Family and Medical Leave Act
U.S., under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA),
companies with 50 or more employees are required to offer
eligible employees (mothers and fathers) up to 12 weeks of
unpaid leave time during any 12-month period after the birth,
adoption or placement of a foster child. To be eligible, you
must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and
you must have worked 1,250 hours during the 12 months before
the start of the leave.
word here is unpaid. You get the time off if you're eligible,
but for many couples, a year off without pay isn't possible.
Most couples who feel they both need to work usually cobble
together as much time at home with the new baby as they can.
Then reality hits, and it's time to go back to work.
Reality of Work and Baby
people, managing jobs and the baby goes smoothly, and that's
great. For others, it's more difficult. They often feel like
nobody's winning. They liked their job before, but now they
can't give the time to it they used to. There's that precious
baby waiting. They come home from work exhausted, and feel
like they can't give the baby the best of themselves.
own relationship may be suffering a little bit too. They're
so occupied with jobs and the baby there's no time for exercise
or recreation. No time for intimacy.
be Afraid to Think Creatively
scenario describes your situation, it's time to stop and take
a look at your priorities. Do you both have to work full time?
Remember that going to work itself takes money (transportation,
lunches out, clothing, etc.). Childcare is a big expense too.
find they're able to live on one income for a while if they
give up some of their other expenses-health club memberships,
extra clothing, entertaining, etc. See if there's any spending
you'd consider cutting out to give yourself more time for
your baby (and yourself).
possible that both of you want to stay active in your careers.
If you have good relationships with your employers, you might
want to think about scaling back your time-both of you. Couples
are beginning to do this more and more. It's not possible
for everyone, but you've got nothing to lose by talking about
it with your employer.
at home may be another option. You still have to work, but
it cuts down on commuting time and saves transportation, lunch
and some clothing money. See whether your employer would consider
giving that kind of arrangement a try, maybe just one or two
days a week. You may find that you're most productive at home
(if you have someone else caring for the baby, of course)
because the distraction of co-workers is eliminated.
it Work for You
to get caught up in the idea that there's only one way to
earn a living and have a baby. In reality, there are all kinds
of ways. You might need to let go of some pre-conceived notions
about money and your lifestyle. You may need to stay in your
smaller house or apartment for a little longer than you had
planned. But if time with your baby is your priority right
now, a little creative thinking and the courage to put your
thoughts into action could be your big reward.
U.S. Department of Labor; K. Figes. Life after Birth. St. Martin's Press, New York, New York, 10010, 1998.