As an expectant mom, you have many things to consider and a lot of advice thrown your way. Some of that advice may include what to expect during your maternity leave and how to plan for it best. But as we all know, not all advice is created equal.
Let’s take a look at six of the most common maternity leave myths and get to the truth of what every mom needs to know.
1. Myth: My maternity leave can be rejected
Many working moms can feel a bit nervous when approaching their supervisor or HR specialist about maternity leave. But don’t worry; it’s your right to take a maternity leave, and you have legal protections that mean it can't be rejected.
Under the Family Medical Leave Act , eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of job-protected medical leave. However, some of this will most likely be unpaid leave (make sure you know your company’s paid maternity leave policy), so unfortunately, many working moms simply can’t afford to take all 12 weeks. However, you can ask your employer if they would be open to shared parental leave that allows you to work from home.
2. Myth: My employer already has a plan
While the number of employers providing maternity leaves increased from 1 in 6 to 1 in 3 in 2018, your employer might not have a written policy. Sometimes, businesses don’t even develop maternity leave or breastfeeding policies until they have their first expectant mother on the team. Plus, it takes time to develop and prepare these policies. Be sure to speak with your supervisor about your desire to take a maternity leave and breast pump at work a few months ahead of time to allow them to prepare.
3. Myth: I’ll have to work during my maternity leave
This myth is completely false. Under the FMLA, you are not required to work during your maternity leave to allow for time to bond with your baby and physically recover from giving birth.
However, unpaid or short maternity leaves put working moms in an unfair position, forcing them to return to work before they’re physically and emotionally ready. It takes on average about six weeks to physically recover from giving birth. If you’re faced with an unpaid maternity leave, plan ahead by accumulating paid time off and saving money to cover that additional time.
4. Myth: I won’t want to return to work
Every mother is different, and whether you stay home or go back to work is a personal decision. If you are a mom who looks forward to returning to her career, do not feel guilty or compare yourself to other moms.
5. Myth: I’ll be less productive when I return to work
It’s perfectly normal to be nervous about returning to work after your baby has completely changed your life. You may feel some pressure to prove yourself, but you may also surprise yourself with newly discovered mom talents.
Even though you may be sleep-deprived and slightly emotional, as you adjust to work life, you’ll find that you have new time-management skills, productivity, focus, and more to effectively meet deadlines and take your career to the next level. Just don’t overdo it, and take your time to avoid any extra stress in the beginning.
6. Myth: Talking to my employer about breastfeeding can wait
It’s your right to breastfeed when you return to work, and you are covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The act states that employers must provide reasonable break time for mothers to express milk for their child up to one year after their birth as well as provide a space, separate from a bathroom, that’s free from the intrusion of coworkers and the public for the purpose of expressing breast milk. All employers are subject to the FLSA unless those with 50 or fewer employees can prove that adhering to these provisions would cause undue hardship.
Make sure to have the conversation about breastfeeding before you go on maternity leave. Waiting until you are back is too late. Do they have a plan for you to take breaks to breast pump? Is there a lactation room on site? Have you been transparent about your needs? Some employers will proactively have this conversation. But if not, talk to your employer before you are out so there are no surprises when you get back.
A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards and career advice.