I have six pregnant women on my team at work (something is definitely in the water!) and there is a lot of water cooler talk about maternity leave. I thought I would consult some smart, experienced moms on this topic What do you know now about maternity leave that you wish you had known before you gave birth? What's the one piece of advice you'd give to a mom-to-be who is preparing to go on maternity leave (and return to work)? Thanks for sharing your wisdom!
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Know your rights with state and federal law. Find out creative ways you can maximize your leave time with your baby. CA has so many programs for mothers that allows for extended leaves. (I'm a HR consultant in CA). I wish I would have stayed out longer than 5 months with my baby. I had enough time under a CA state program to protect my job for another month. I'm interested in seeing other comments.
Thread is kind of dated, but here are a couple things that may help a future reader: in the Federal government, you can mix paid leave and leave without pay (LWOP) so that you can continue to accrue leave while out. Also, many employees transition back by teleworking part-time for several weeks before returning to work full-time. Talk to HR before talking to your supervisor. Many supervisors don't know the flexibilities or won't talk about them unless asked.
I work in HR for a Federal agency and I'll be able to answer more specific questions. :)