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Advice gratefully received - when would you recommend I start my maternity leave?

(36 Posts)
HappyInL0nd0n Tue 12-Jan-16 23:20:42

Hi all,

First pregnancy here, due on 30 March. Very excited, a little terrified.... I guess the usual cocktail of emotions.... smile

Anyway, I'm currently debating when to start my maternity leave. I'm lucky enough to be able to take six months, but obviously I'd like to spend as much of that with the baby as possible.

That said, I want to balance having time with the baby with not pushing myself too hard at work towards the end. Like many of us, I have a pretty demanding job that requires occasionally long hours and a lot of concentration. I'd rather go out on a good note having completed a proper hand-over with my maternity leave cover than hang on too long, be a bit exhausted, fed up and maybe miss something or just leave on a less positive note.

A bit of time to myself to get organised before the little one arrives too could be great, but I'm also wondering whether actually, I'd be better off in work with all the distraction than sitting around by myself getting lost in my own head towards the end.

The last factor floating around my head is that very often, members of my family go late and end up being induced two weeks after their due dates. If I stop work 2 weeks/10 days beforehand and then end up going well past my due date, will I resent all of that 'wasted' time with my baby at the end of my maternity leave period?

Decisions, decisions.... I'm swithering and dithering here, and I have to send my forms off to HR this week indicating when I want to start my leave.

So, ladies, I'd be very grateful if you could let me know, based on your experiences, what you'd recommend. Did you work right up to the end, or did you stop a week or two beforehand? Were you happy with your choice? What, if anything, would you do differently next time out? Many thanks for your advice.

Marzipants Tue 12-Jan-16 23:24:53

Do you have any holiday left to take? I took two weeks of holiday then two weeks of maternity leave so I had a nice long break before DS1 was born. But I had a year to take. Guessing you're not in the UK as you only have 6 months...?

Also, check to see if you accrue holiday while you're on mat leave, as that'll add a few weeks to the end of your mat leave too.

And congratulations!

lorisparkle Tue 12-Jan-16 23:27:28

With DS1 I decided that 2 weeks before due date would be a good idea. I was working full time but wanted lots of time after he was born. However DS1 had other ideas and the consultant decided that he needed to be born two weeks early. I therefore left work on the Friday and was booked in for a C Section on the Monday! Not a good idea. I really was not prepared and wished I had had longer. With DS2 and 3 I was working part time so not such an issue but still went on maternity leave earlier. I think I would go for 3 weeks if I had my time again and spent as much time cooking and freezing food as possible! I would also not move house when DS1 was 6 weeks old!!!

Marzipants Tue 12-Jan-16 23:27:47

Just noticed your username. As your in the UK you'll def accrue holiday while you're on leave. You should also accrue bank holidays, though this may depend on how on the ball your HR department is.

Gunting Tue 12-Jan-16 23:28:51

I am currently on month leave and left work at 37 weeks.

By 37 weeks I was incredibly tired, useless and basically hating every minute of work.

One I was on leave I still had to wait exactly one month until my ds arrived so I only really have 5 months with him. So I can see your point.

JarethTheGoblinKing Tue 12-Jan-16 23:32:14

At least 3-4 weeks before your due date. If you can take holiday, brilliant. If you have an employer that'll let you take some of the the holiday that you'll accrue on mat leave, take that.

Saying that, I intended to leave at 37 weeks with my first, left at 34 weeks (spd), and even earlier (worse spd and lots of holiday) with the second.

JarethTheGoblinKing Tue 12-Jan-16 23:33:43

In your case, I'd be out by end of Feb

minipie Tue 12-Jan-16 23:35:21

What is your commute like?

I wouldn't worry too much about underperforming when heavily pregnant due to being tired and fed up. Much more risk of being tired and fed up when newly back at work with a 6 month old at home - so from a performance pov, better to do more time at work when pg and go back when the baby is as old as possible.

BUT if you commute on a rush hour tube or train then I think you do not want to be doing that any later than 38 weeks. Are you able to work from home?

I wouldn't rely too much on family history by the way. My mum (very similar to me physically) went well overdue twice; I have had two preemies for no known reason.

Do you have holiday to use up before mat leave begins? if so, you could use it to gradually reduce your hours in the run up to your due date (take one day off a week from 34 weeks, then 2 days off from 36 weeks, etc). This might help ensure a proper handover and reduce stress when you are very pg. (and if your baby should turn up early, at least you will have had some time off).

applesvpears Tue 12-Jan-16 23:38:10

I am due 29th March and my last day at work is end of Feb, I then have two weeks annual leave and officially start maternity leave on 14th March. I am knackered already though and at times wish I was going a bit earlier!

JarethTheGoblinKing Tue 12-Jan-16 23:39:22

Worth saying that you can give your company a date, and you can bring it forward if you feel you need to

HappyInL0nd0n Tue 12-Jan-16 23:41:34

Marzipants Thanks for your comments. Yes, I'm into a new year of annual leave and holiday will accrue. A lot of people where I work use the annual leave to facilitate 3 or 4 day working weeks when they return after leave, so I'm cautious about using all of that up now.

And yes, good point, I could take more leave unpaid, but whether or not I'll be able to take any (or my DH via parental leave) depends to a large extent on a few variable financial factors over the coming months. So I'm working on the basis that I have 6 months of maternity leave, and then annual leave which I can either use for an extension at the end, or shorter working weeks for a limited time. I hope that makes sense.

Question for you - having taken a month, how did you find the time? Did it drag/go quickly? Were you anxious/happy? I guess I'm wondering how I'll feel with so much time at my disposal.

TheSecondViola Tue 12-Jan-16 23:44:33

I stopped at 32 weeks on DC1 (not my choice) and it dragged, I was bored silly. And went 2 weeks over.
Dc2 I worked until 39+6. DC was born 2 days later. Was great.

HappyInL0nd0n Tue 12-Jan-16 23:50:06

lorisparkle wow, so basically you had two days to yourself after finishing work with your first? Eeek, that's not a lot of time at all. I'm definitely underestimating the risk in my head of going early and overestimating the probability that I'll go late. I keep focusing on not wanting to 'waste' the time but a few weeks to get organised, fill the freezer, all that good stuff would be really good... Thanks for your comment.

Gunting Ok, so at 37 weeks you started to really feel done with work? I'm coming up on 29 weeks at the moment and still feeling pretty strong (though very tired in the evenings), and I'm trying to gauge when that will change. How did you find your month off? Would you do the same again?

Jareth - thanks. sorry for a dumb q, what's spd? And end Feb? That early? Good to hear. Honestly, in my head to date the debate has been whether I should stop on 18 March or try to work right up until the following Friday, 25 March.

badg3r Tue 12-Jan-16 23:55:33

I stopped at 38 weeks and ds was born at 41+2. After three weeks off and no baby I was crawling the walls! I was also able to wind down a bit towards the end at work although still had a total 1h30 commute. I felt fine, just tired. I think it depends a lot on how you feel physically. If you are on the ball with the handover then at 37 weeks decide you've had enough would an impromptu week's annual leave be an option?

HappyInL0nd0n Tue 12-Jan-16 23:55:45

minipie Thanks a lot - some really helpful comments there, particularly re. family history being no indicator/guarantee. My midwife says the same, but it hasn't really sunk in.

Yeah, the commute is the worst part. I absolutely hate it. I try to get into work by 8am (I work in central London) to beat the worst of rush hour, but I can't avoid it in the evening, and I find it really difficult and claustrophobic. I can and do occasionally work from home (usually around hospital/midwife appointments at the moment). I could probably do more of that now - my boss is lovely - but towards the end, I'll (very reasonably) be expected to be physically in the office working alongside my maternity cover.

I like the idea of working a few shorter weeks before I go. I hadn't considered that, and I'll definitely have a think about whether that could work. Thanks again.

HappyInL0nd0n Wed 13-Jan-16 00:02:10

applesvpears we'll be having our babies around the same time. Woot. smile I'm feeling pretty good so far (though very tired in the evenings) - sorry to hear the time is dragging a bit for you.

TheSecondViola and badg3r - Thanks to you both. So basically, a caution against going too early? That's my main worry, tbh - that I'll be hanging around bored, restless and anxious working myself into a knot for weeks while the clock ticks down. I wish I knew when this little one was going to make an appearance.... all part of the fun, I guess! grin

Junosmum Wed 13-Jan-16 03:22:25

I took annual leave from 35+4., with mat leave starting at 39 weeks. I also have a family history of late births/ inductions. So imagine my surprise when DS arrived at exactly 38weeks!

Don't forget you also accrue annual leave whilst on mat leave.

TiggeryBear Wed 13-Jan-16 07:16:15

I'm due 21st March & I'm stopping work on 26th February will be 36+5, with maternity leave starting 29th February when I'll be 37weeks. I'm definitely not counting down the days until I can stop work!

Runningupthathill82 Wed 13-Jan-16 07:29:38

In your shoes I'd be taking one or two weeks' annual leave from mid March and beginning my mat leave on my due date.

With DS I had four months maternity leave (couldn't afford any more) and left work at 39 weeks. Very stressful, professional job with long hours. A week at home was enough before he arrived at 40+1.

Yes, I was tired at the end, but no more tired than when I returned to work with a four-month old who was still being breastfed several times a night.

This time I've gone at 38 weeks, as I can take slightly longer (6 months rather than 4). Been off a week and I'm already climbing the walls, with a huge bump, bad weather putting paid to too many walks, and a hyperactive toddler to look after.

StopShoutingAtYourBrother Wed 13-Jan-16 07:32:44

I stopped at 36 weeks with my first and while I don't regret that I did (I spent longer with baby) I was exhausted by then and really could have done with going out earlier. That final time to relax on your own and get prepared for baby coming is precious.

For 2nd I left at 33 weeks but baby was 3 weeks early!

I'd say think how you feel now and if you're finding it hard, consider going out earlier than later, otherwise there's a chance you'll be exhausted by the time baby comes! Ultimately a week or two in the grand scheme of things makes little difference. Good luck!

Stillwishihadabs Wed 13-Jan-16 07:32:58

Congratulations I had the same due date as you with D's (12 years ago).I finished work on Feb 10th and delivered on April 3rd I loved it, swam did yoga, painted the spare room and slept every afternoon. Because I was so well rested I coped well with the birth and early days. I did the the same with dd (finished in Aug baby born in Oct).

Gunting Wed 13-Jan-16 08:12:30

Happy I would probably leave work at 35 weeks next time. Start of the third trimester I felt great and we went away or to weddings, parties etc. But by the time I got to 35 weeks it was just an effort to haul myself out of bed.

Once I was off I felt much better and got everything in order at home and started preparing for labour. By the end I was just too big to do anything but I did create a 10lb hulk baby.

FatimaLovesBread Wed 13-Jan-16 08:25:26

I'm due 5th April and I'm finishing 26th Feb although I'll be using 3 weeks holiday before mat leave kicks in on 21st March.
I definitely won't be back until 2017 though, will be taking the 39weeks of smp or possibly the full year so I have plenty of holiday to use up as I can only carry 3 days over.

I'm shattered already so can't wait until end of feb

blueandgreendots Wed 13-Jan-16 08:34:27

Last time I finished at 37 weeks and DD was nearly two weeks late so I had five weeks of twiddling my thumbs which was purgatory. It also meant I had to extend mat leave to 7 months so I could get her to weaning before I went back to work.

Due to my previous experience I will be working as close to term as possible this time (due 22nd April), but I'm lucky as the physical work stops at 34 weeks then I'm just in the office doing paperwork.

It's a difficult decision

Highlove Wed 13-Jan-16 08:41:14

For various reasons - nightmare job, loads of annual leave to use, knowing I was taking a full year of mat leave - and I had 11 weeks off before DC1 arrived. It was sheer bliss - I pottered about, read, went to the gym or swimming most days, stocked the freezer, etc. I'm all for having a big break before baby arrives, but obviously depends on what circumstances will allow.

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