As pregnancy progresses, mom-to-be begins planning out her maternity leave. For most, the amount of leave offered is pretty ridiculous! If mom is lucky, she gets 6 to 8 weeks of designated time (with some pay). If she plans, she can take up to 12 weeks with job protection. Mothers soon realize just how little this time is so they do everything they can to stretch out their leave and manipulate the system to their advantage.
Time home with your new baby is important! Not only are you bonding but you are adjusting to life with a newborn, getting a breastfeeding routine established, and learning the ropes as a new parent. It is a huge adjustment! You need all the time you can get.
With each of my three children, I felt by the time we were hitting the 3-month mark we were just finally finding our groove. Life started to feel more normal again. It's hard when you feel like you just get there only to shake it up again by returning to work. The added pressure of child care and new routines makes it very stressful on everyone.
Ways to extend maternity leave is a very popular question found on pregnancy related forums. Women hope to find the golden ticket. The answer to their prayers. While it seems not many people can offer legal, valid ways to stretch maternity leave, there are ways it is done.
Here are 13 ways (legal and not) women manipulate the system when it comes to planning their maternity leave.
13Fake Postpartum Depression
Yes, you read that right! Now hold the judgement until you read to the end. There are women out there that are so desperate to extend their time off they will actually attempt to fake postpartum depression. Not only is this illegal, it is considered insurance fraud. They are essentially lying and being treated for a condition they don't actually have. Quite frankly, it is a big step over the line of decency. It is a slap in the face to every mom out there that has had to endure the suffering postpartum depression brought their way. This is a very serious condition that should not be taken lightly. It does require proof of treatment so these women need a doctor to provide documentation of the condition. While I don't recommend using this option, it is one of the few things that will immediately extend maternity leave, no questions asked.
12Opt For A C-Section
This is not typically an option women choose. At least not most women. In most instances your doctor will never outright ask you which option you prefer. Unless you have had a previous c-section or have a medical need, it will seem a little odd to request one. Lately the trend is to go the opposite way and opt to try for a vaginal birth, assuming your doctor allows it. However, having a c-section does automatically get you 2 extra weeks with some pay. That can look enticing. Aside from it being major abdominal surgery, it can be seen an easy way to get a little more time. The c-section rate in this country is up so the chances of needing a c-section and getting this time legitimately is already in your favor. Just prepare yourself for a longer recovery time. That may or may not make your extra time at home more enjoyable.
11Experience Lactation Deficiency
Breastfeeding can be a challenge, especially for a first-time mom. It can take a long time to establish a routine. Many women struggle with it whether there are problems latching or the breast milk doesn't come in enough to support the baby. It takes a lot of work to establish the right environment and schedule. Going back to work presents a problem because it conflicts with the need to continuously breast feed in order to keep milk supply up. Anything related to breastfeeding and lactation is protected and employers must provide accommodation. Lactation deficiency is when lactation fails or not enough milk is produced. This is one legitimate medical reason a doctor may be able to extend your maternity leave while you work through your condition. The idea is that it would provide a little extra time for the amount of time given in these situations, but is usually not very long. However, every little bit can help.
10Are On Ordered Bed Rest Before Labor
Bed rest is fairly common in pregnancy especially where medical conditions or potential complications exist. In some instances that can be as simple as the need to reduce stress in the mother's life. Then there are more serious conditions like preeclampsia, premature labor or bleeding. The amount of bed rest prescribed is based on the situation. It could range from modified resting at home, complete bed rest at home without the ability to get up, to full hospitalization. There is no real way to predict whether or not you will be impacted. For most mothers, this can be an annoyance. While the third trimester is difficult, no one wants to be confined to a bed for days, weeks, or even months at a time. However, bed rest is one legitimate way that women get to extend their time off from work. Where it crosses a line is asking your doctor for it when you don't really require it.
9Use Summer Vacation Time
If you are a teacher, you understand this one! It is definitely one of the easiest (maybe even the best) options on the list. Every teacher I know that planned to have kids talked about their ability or desire to work the baby's birth around their summer break. This was the dream plan. The best possible way to ensure the longest maternity leave would be to have the baby at the end of March. That would ensure 12-weeks of leave followed by a normal summer vacation. You couldn't plan it any better then that! No other profession allows for such easy maximization. The only downside is that you really don't have a lot of control over the execution of your plan, so rarely does it work out exactly as you had hoped. As long as it is close though, you earn a legitimate long maternity leave the rest of us are jealous about.
8Stack Vacation And Sick Time
Most companies offer a paid time off program that allows them to accrue both vacation and sick time. If you have these benefits available to you then you should plan to take advantage! The moment you find out you are pregnant (or plan to become pregnant) you should begin hoarding that time! Save it up for as long as possible and use it to help maximize your time off during maternity leave. Some plans force you to use all of your time prior to your leave. You will need to work closely with your human resources partner to understand the pros and cons and what your real options are. Regardless, it is time off you earned through the company that you should be allowed to use any way you see fit. Most companies will help support you. There is nothing better than figuring out how to get more paid time off.
Did you know you may have an opportunity to return to work part-time to spread your leave out? This is one legitimate way to extend your leave that most women aren't aware of. Talk to your human resources team about an option to use intermittent or reduced schedule leave. Under the guidelines of FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act), you can use your time as a block - take hours, days, or weeks. Essentially this could allow you to work 2 or 3 days a week and stretch your time out. It could help to reduce your need or cost for child care for a while. You should be aware employers are not required to allow the use of intermittent leave for a healthy baby. It is something you can discuss with them. If they do permit it, you may be asked to temporarily transfer into another position that is more conducive to accommodating periods of recurring leave or reduced schedules.
6Negotiate Temporary "Work From Home"
This one may be a little more difficult. First of all, it will require that you have a job that can also be done from home. Second, it requires a company that is flexible and willing to consider work from home schedules. The beauty of working from home is that you get to eliminate the time typically spent in the car commuting back and forth to work. That is now time you can spend at home with the baby. It also makes child care a little less stressful. You can have someone in your home to help out while you are there in the other room. If your schedule is able to be completely open, you can adjust your hours so you and your spouse can alternate schedules for a while. It allows for a lot of flexibility to continue breastfeeding on demand and readjust to your workload without being far away.
Getting injured can potentially cause a number of medical conditions. A legitimate injury with a doctor note can easily be a fast track to time off work. The level of injury necessary for time off varies based on the type of job you hold and what type of accommodations can be made at work while you recover. This is one of the options I hope women don't plan to have happen, though I could see some trying to fake it. Please don't ask a doctor for a note or try to fake an injury. Not only are these things unethical. They are completely illegal and could fall under insurance fraud (being treated for conditions you don't actually have)! Extra time off with consequences like that isn't ever worth it. However, if you do end up getting injured, it is one of the few ways your doctor can extend your time off.
4Take Unpaid Leave
This is by far the most common way women are able to take advantage of time off! Typically mothers plan to use all 12-weeks of their FMLA leave. In most cases, this means 4-6 weeks of that time will be unpaid leave. While it can be difficult to do, families will start saving money throughout their pregnancy to help compensate for the loss of income they will incur during that time. These savings will help them stretch their time and be able to take all the time that is available to them. While employers are only required to protect your job for those 12-weeks you are covered by FMLA, you could try to negotiate additional time off. Each family is different in terms of what they can afford to do. Not all employers will approve this request, but it is worth at least asking. In most cases, any chance you have at stretching your time will be unpaid.
3Use Paternity Leave
Both moms and dads are entitled to up to 12-weeks of FMLA time. Most men don't take advantage, which is a shame. What most probably don't know is that this time does not have to start as soon as the baby is born. It can be postponed and used at a later date. In this example, mom would exhaust her time and then dad's time would kick in. While using paternity leave doesn't help mom stay home longer with baby, it does help to stretch out maternity leave coverage overall. Now dad can stay home with the baby for 12-weeks, keeping the baby at home and on a routine. This alone can help with child care decisions, or at least postpone them a bit. Not only does it save on child care costs, it also allows you the opportunity to keep your little one out of daycare until they are a few months older.
I have seen many women make the decision to be a stay-at-home mom before the baby is even born. This is no surprise. The decision to stop working is typically made pretty early in the pregnancy. As their delivery date approaches, they keep that information to themselves. They proceed with all of the necessary paperwork regarding their maternity leave. After the baby is born, they take advantage of the paid maternity leave offered by their employer. It doesn't really matter how much time they get. As their leave comes to an end, they announce they have decided they will not be returning to work. Their plan was more to stretch their work time as much as possible. This lets them take advantage of the remaining paid time they could get before joining the ranks of the stay-at-home moms who don't have to worry about how much maternity time they get.
1Get Pregnant Again
This one may not work so well for those of us in the US because our maternity leave is so short compared to other countries. However, if you live in a location where they luxuriously offer 1-year of maternity leave this one will be right up your alley. If you can plan your pregnancies just right, you can be ready to deliver baby number 2 just as your first maternity leave is coming to an end. That would mean getting pregnant when your baby is only 12-weeks old. It definitely happens! This is an easy way to guarantee an extension of your maternity leave. You may have issues with your employer protecting your job or qualifying for more paid time, but you won't have a problem stretching your time at home. As long as you are prepared for life with two kids under the age of two, you are set.
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