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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Planning blindly

Women are expected to have a "return to work" plan outlined before their maternity leave starts. That is like booking a hotel for your winter get-away before you have picked a destination.

When it comes to work and pregnancy, women are forced to make decisions and set timelines around something completely foreign and forever life-altering. Too often talks with employers focus on "when" a woman is coming back to work, not "in what capacity." And women tend to say yes to full-time duties if the only other option is quitting altogether. This leads employers to feel misled when a woman changes her mind to be at home.

No woman knows what it is like to be a mom until she becomes a mom. It is insane to think a woman will know whether she wants to work full-time or part-time or not at all until her stomach is deflated, her stitches are healed, and she is awake (albeit sleep-deprived) at 2:47 a.m. Maybe then, and only then, she will know what she wants. And maybe she won't.

New mom Lizelle commented that she laid out a plan to go back to work after three or four months post-partum, but "after spending a little over a month with our baby girl, I am having second thoughts about commitment / involvement, FT / PT, cash rich / time poor, and the list goes on."

Some women have to head back to work after the baby is born for financial reasons. Some want to head back, or think they do. Others may not want to return but are afraid they will forfeit their benefits if they say so.

Perhaps when women feel protected and that they have options, they will be able to be more honest about their plan with their employer and with themselves.

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