T – 3 weeks . . .

February 12, 2018

Well, that went fast!


Maternity leave, that is.  And Genevieve’s first TWO MONTHS of life!  I’m feeling more bitter than sweet about her advancing age, because she is such a good, sweet baby and I am sad (but very certain) we are never going to have one of those again.

I have settled into such a nice routine at home — it’s going to be very hard to let go of all of it.  I have not been bored at all, as some have suggested.  I’m loving the 9:30 am workouts (during G’s first nap and after the two big kids are at school), long snuggle sessions with G on the couch, lots of reading while nursing, picking up the kids at school, afternoon playground time, etc etc.  It’s been a really fun, rewarding interlude.  That said:

1) I DO miss work.  And many of the patients.  And using the medical part of my brain, and learning every day.  I miss feeling like I am putting something positive into the world and also just doing a kickass job from a professional standpoint (not saying I always feel this way, but it’s so great when it happens!).

2) This is not a financially sustainable situation with our current location/lifestyle (and no, it wouldn’t be even without our nanny)

So, I’m going back, and I really am excited to go back.  However, if you asked me would you take more time — even some unpaid — if you knew you 100% could go back to your job with zero professional penalty?

Yes.  Yes I would.  Maybe 6 months, or perhaps even a year.  Pretty much because a) I know pumping is going to be extremely stressful (and yes I know I don’t have to do it, but I WANT to at least try my best) and b) honestly, it has been a refreshing and wonderful mental break for me, and I say this on day 12 of our nanny’s 2 week vacay.

Sadly, that is not an option.  Ah well, maybe that’s for the best!

G is up!  Off to the grocery store . . .


  • Reply Cynthia March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    Canadian here. I just finished a year with my daughter and I loved it. Every month got better, honestly. I was not bored – I missed solving tough problems at work, but I was not bored. I’m looking forward to my next maternity leave (not pregnant, just wistful).

  • Reply Irene March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    I have been wanting to comment on this post re maternity leave for a while now but have been too busy since I just started my own maternity leave last week! Anyway Sarah, it sounds like you have some good reasons for needing to be back at work after 12 weeks but for other people who don”t, just a PSA that additional leave is just another perk that you can request like any thing else. I think it”s all about preparing and setting the right tone when you make the request because even if you take the leave unpaid, generally some one else takes on that extra work. But I think workplaces are increasingly willing to do accommodate requests though they are much less likely to offer more than 12 weeks upfront. I am taking an additional two months of unpaid leave which is very unusual in my office and I am shocked by the number of people who came up to me and told me they wish they could”ve done the same thing and how did I work that out with management And the only answer is that I asked. I”m lucky to be able to do it unpaid and I know that that is not a lot of people”s reality so I am extremely grateful too.

  • Reply Hillary March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    I’m so glad to hear you advocate for a longer maternity leave! I went back to work in September after a 12-week leave, and I really wished I had had longer with my baby, particularly for his sake. Though we have a wonderful daycare center, he majorly struggled with being overstimulated those first 2 months at daycare (it may have been different in a situation with one-on-one care with a nanny), and I desperately wished I could have been at home with him at that time when he was spending hours of the day inconsolable. Now that he is a little older (7 months), he is thriving and enjoying being around other children. Going back to work at 12-weeks also made it challenging to continue breastfeeding since, like you, I don’t have good luck with pumping. I was disappointed when during the podcast several episodes back you and Laura responded to another mother with the option to take a 6-month leave by downplaying the unique time that early infancy, for both the mother AND the baby. Perhaps you didn’t mean it this way, but I felt like you almost discouraged her from taking the leave.

  • Reply Rinna March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    Oh, Sarah, if there’s any way to extend it by even a couple of months, do it! So it’s unpaid – big deal…You will EASILY make that money back over time with your earning power. I know it’s not easy as a doctor, but you don’t really know for sure until you try. Anyway – sorry – not meaning to be preachy. It’s just so worth it if you can, and since it’s your last opportunity…

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 9:00 pm

      Not an option – see above – but even if it were i”d feel too guilty leaving my patients and having coworkers cover me for longer!

  • Reply Lisa March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    Well, I’d encourage you to look into it. FMLA is a federal law, so when you say it "doesn’t work that way where you work," I think the only thing that would prevent it would be if there aren’t enough employees at your hospital, which I assume (?) is not the case. Otherwise, it is your right and they could not legally refuse it. The fact that you didn’t have parental leave does not affect this (when I mentioned your paid parental leave that was just my assumption; I didn’t realize you didn’t get that). FMLA isn’t specifically about parental leave; it was a law created to help people who have any issues that might require an extended unpaid absence from work. So it can be used for any number of situations including your own health needs, taking care of a sick relative, having a child, etc. The biggest problem for many people, of course, is they cannot afford to take unpaid leave. But if you can it is worth looking into!
    This is from a website about FMLA:
    FMLA refers to the Family and Medical Leave Act, which is a federal law that guarantees certain employees up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave each year with no threat of job loss. FMLA also requires that employers covered by the law maintain the health benefits for eligible workers just as if they were working.

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:07 pm

      To take FMLA, you need a reason and a physician”s form signed. So, I had to start mine when G was born. Standard for vaginal delivery is 6 weeks, plus 6 weeks for infant bonding. It”s legal for your employer to require you to use up your paid leave during that time. In my case (and many others), that”s what they do. So by the time the 12 weeks are over, the PL is gone, preventing one from using FMLA as an add on.

  • Reply Lisa March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    I thought FMLA meant you could take off an additional three months of unpaid leave — after your paid parental leave is over — without fear of any penalty or not having a job to go back to?
    And yes, Sheryl, we know, lol. It really is a crime how horrendous our parental leave policies are. And it’s not just Canada and Europe, by the way. There are a number of South American countries that have parental leave policies that put us to shame! The US is the worst when it comes to this.

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

      Nope, doesn”t work that way, at least where I work.

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

      Also there is no paid parental leave in my case (as is the case in most hospitals). Just my own accrued paid time off and disability time, Nothinig extra specific to maternity coverage or benefit.

  • Reply Sheryl March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    AH! She is so sweet! It’s so great to read that you have been enjoying your leave so much. We are very fortunate, here in Canada, that taking 12 months is very much the norm (and we have federally supported funding/ legislation to do so). It would be great to see the same for parents who live south of the border. That might actually be an interesting topic for a podcast episode– since many American listeners might not be aware of other countries’ public policy! (Forgive me though, as a PhD student in HR, these things may not be an interesting to others as I might think! haha).

    • Reply Amy March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

      Oh trust me, Sheryl. We know. Every article on US maternity leave has a chorus of Canadians and Europeans in the comments telling us how bad we have it. We know!

    • Reply CBS March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

      That would be interesting. I’m an American living in the UK and got some pushback for taking 5 months when 9-12 was the norm. Certain things around childbirth, mat leave, and parenting are different here, ie. it is rare for people to come back while they’re still nursing so my lactation facilities are a bit makeshift.

      You might find Cup of Jo’s parenting around the world series of interest.

  • Reply Lisa March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    Ok, it sounds like you’ve investigated it. I was just hoping it would be something you could try. I work in higher ed, in a public university, and although I have never taken advantage of FMLA, I know of two colleagues who have. One did it to care for her mother, who had been diagnosed with cancer. The other to extend her parental leave. In the case of the latter, she did have to use up all of her own paid leave first, yes, but then she was able to take up to 12 weeks AFTER that, using FMLA. So I thought that would have been an option for you.
    Anyway, sorry! Just trying to offer a suggestion I thought might help. Your daughter is beautiful — all three of them are — and I am so glad you’re having such a wonderful time staying home right now. Such a special time, these early months.

    • Reply KF413 March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

      Lisa, it’s quite possible they are unionized workers and this benefit is built into their contracts. Teachers often can take a year long leave where I live (not paid beyond their banked sick time) and come back to the same position. This was negotiated into their union contract.

  • Reply Erica March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    She’s so lovely – and she really looks like you! I’m glad you are enjoying your maternity leave so much!

  • Reply Amy March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    Yep, FLMLA runs concurrently with short-term disability. So if an employer doesn’t choose to offer any additional leave of absence beyond that then 3 months is the max that can be taken. A lot of companies are starting to offer additional paid parental leave that goes over the 3 month mark, but that is of their own accord, not because of government mandate.

    I started my career as a disability claims specialist so it is interesting to see which industries tend to offer more leave options for maternity than others. Based on my experience, public schools, medical practices, and hospitals offer the least, which I still find ironic.

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