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Average maternity leave - getting in arguments about it!

(54 Posts)
rebeccacad Fri 07-Aug-09 21:15:59

Hi there - sorry for a long post but want to explain whole picture...

I wondered how much maternity leave those of you who are planning on returning to work are taking?

This is my first pregnancy and I have quite a busy, senior role managing a UK team. I'm only 27 so my parents are v proud and have always encouraged me to succeed. However having grandchildren wasn't in their (or in fact our!) plan at the moment.

My husband and I (been married for 2 and a bit years) are really happy at this surprise and I'm keen to take 6 months leave to really bond with my baby and get used to motherhood and then return for 3 days a week for 3 months before going back full time.

My parents are trying to be excited but are also very concerned about the practicalities. They want us to sell our flat and move somewhere bigger and have offered to lend us some money to help do this which we haven't decided whether we'll do or not (though v grateful for offer).

Today, my mum said that she and my dad thought I was taking a 'very luxurious' amount of maternity leave, that I'd be sidelined in my job (I won't), that if they are going to make sacrifices to help us financially I shouldn't be taking all that time off etc.

I'm trying hard not to be upset, and know that they are concerned for me (their daughter who they love and support) and not yet focused on the baby (still pretty imaginary to them). But am now worried that they are right and am being very selfish and that others will think I'm taking a really luxurious amount of time off.

What do you guys think honestly? We can afford (just!) for me to take the time off, but can't afford big moving costs at the moment with saving for the baby which is where they would help (though we haven't asked them to and they are really pushing us to do this).

How long are you guys taking?

Sorry to ramble...


smackapacka Fri 07-Aug-09 21:23:02

Well... I took 6 months with my first and will do the same for the 2nd. For me it was the right decision. Bearing in mind that government guidelines support breastfeeding for 6 months, this also supports the idea of being away from work for at least this length of time.

It's different for everyone. I had a colleague (same job) who took extended mat leave for her 1st baby (15 months) and had a helluva time re-adjusting to working again. Lots of stress and sick leave, whereas my DD has never known any different as she was in childcare from an early age (part time).

I don't think I'm answering your question but my ILs also offered us money for a bigger house (to persuade us against our plans to emmigrate) which we didn't accept. We're glad that we didn't accept their money as we'd always feel beholden to them and their advice.

It sounds like your parents have their own ideas, and if you accept their money you may also have to accept their 'ways'.

hf128219 Fri 07-Aug-09 21:23:34

I took a year (6 months full pay, 3 months SMP, 3 months nothing). It really should be up to you - within practicalities!

IwishIwasmoreorganised Fri 07-Aug-09 21:26:48

I took a year both times with some holidays either end so I was away from work for 14 months both times - We have slimmed down our spending to cope with the reduced income but I can highly recommend it if you can afford it smile

AngelaCarleen Fri 07-Aug-09 21:26:53

I'm taking the full year off. No one at home has said anything although some of my less kind colleagues have.

Surely how much maternity leave you feel the need to take is up to you. It's about what is right for you and your family, hopefully your mum and dad will come to realise that.

diedandgonetodevon Fri 07-Aug-09 21:28:54

6 months is far from 'luxurious'. By law you are entitled to 12 months so to only take half is very restrained IMO.

beautifulgirls Fri 07-Aug-09 21:32:08

I don't think that 6 months off is unreasonable at all. Employers are not allowed to discriminate against new mums/pregnant women so your career should not be affected - though sometimes the practicalities are not always as easy as that sadly - but you do sound like you have faith in your employer to do the right thing too.
I suspect your parents are basing their thoughts on the sort of situation that would have occurred back when you were a baby. Don't allow the money they are kindly offering to become a factor in all of this - all in good time if they are worried about you repaying a loan, you can move after you go back and have proven to them you still have an income etc. There is no rush to get more space when the baby arrives - they are not mobile and only small wink
If you point out to them that legally you are entitled to a year off perhaps they will consider that actually you are not being unreasonable at all.
Remember this is your baby - don't let your parents start to interfere with the choices you make about how you choose to parent. Include them where it suits you and enjoy your baby and have faith in yourself to make the right choices for you and your DH.
Just one more consideration too - if you plan to use a nursery you may need to get your name down now - the best nurseries usually have a waiting list. Our current pregnancy was put on the list at 4 weeks gestation and can only (probably) get a place when 6mth old due to the waiting list they have.

Just to answer a bit more specifically though...DD#1 I went back to work when she was 4mths (finances dictated I couldn't afford more time off but would have like to), DD#2 was 6mths and I'm currently pg again and planning to go back when baby is 6 months this time - finances are the reason for the timing for us as we simply can't afford to live on SMP plus one wage for too long. I do however work part time - and will continue to do this long term.

Enjoy your new baby - it will all be fine.

dol1y Fri 07-Aug-09 21:32:35

I'm in a quite senior role too for my age (29). I have a 7 month old DD and am still off work. I had initially told my boss I would be back within 6 months and go straight into FT work. However I didn't commit to this in writing and the HR team asked me to just 'let them know'.

You can't imagine how differently you'll feel once your baby is here. I have completely surprised everyone at work by deciding to take a full year off. I am also looking for something a bit more family friendly in the meantime. My current role only really lends itself to FT working and long hours at that. I am so worried that my baby will suffer if I have to throw myself back into being a career girl.

You have to do what is right for you but I would not say that 6 months off is luxurious at all - I am relishing every day with my little girl and can honestly say that I've never been happier.It has really made me stop and think about my priorities. I am still ambitious and will go back to work but I'd like to feel that I can be a good mum and a success at work and will work hard at finding a balance that suits my family. I suspect that things won't fall into place straight away and I may have a couple of years of hard slog and juggling but I am determined to find the solution in the end!

Don't be swayed by anybody else - once your baby is born the doting grandparents may feel differently. My MIL was making noises about me going back to work at 16 weeks until DD was born and then she was inquiring as to whether our finances could stand me becoming a SAHM!! I do certainly understand the dilemma though.

MollieO Fri 07-Aug-09 21:33:29

I don't think you can always answer in advance unless finances are so tight that you have no option. I planned on 6 months. Ds born early and poorly and the first several months were hell on earth. If I'd gone back to work as planned at 6 months I would have had no real time with ds to enjoy being with him. I ended up going back at 10 months (having taken out a loan to fund the additional time off) and it was absolutely the right decision. I went back 4 days a week for the first year and then full time after that.

Rhian82 Fri 07-Aug-09 21:39:06

I took six months and that felt just right to me - any earlier and DS would have felt too small to leave, any later and I'd have been pulling my hair out.

He's 9 months now and I work three days a week, though that's a permanent arrangement for me. It works really well - I spend over half the working week in work, building on my career, but over half the actual week with DS.

Portofino Fri 07-Aug-09 21:46:20

I went back FT after 5 months. I didn't really want to, but finances dictated and this was before ML had been extended. It was fine though. I enjoyed being back at work, once i got over the shock, and dd was young enough to settle in the nursery with no problems.

I did miss her, but the nursery was fantastic, and she's always seemed so happy.

EyeballsintheSky Fri 07-Aug-09 21:51:21

I also took a year and needed it. Started back at work six months ago (blimey!) three days a week and, within a week it was like I had never been away.

TBH it's no one's business how much leave you take except you and your husband. One year is allowed and I think most women take that year so six months is far from luxurious. Do whatever feels right for you, including whether you move or not.

Longtalljosie Fri 07-Aug-09 21:53:16

I don't know anyone who's taken less than 6 months! Your parents can't judge your workplace, only you can do that. But there's nothing luxurious about 6 months IMO

rebeccacad Fri 07-Aug-09 21:56:43

Thanks everyone for all your comments - has made me feel a lot more confident in my decision.

As you say I may change my mind about things once the baby's born so this is just my idea at the moment.

We've very luckily got a neighbour and close friend who's a registered childminder so really hoping she will look after the baby and we won't need to worry about nursery.

Thanks again!


BexJ78 Fri 07-Aug-09 22:00:30

I am planning on taking 9 months as that will suit us and our finances! but 6 months doesn't seem that long. do your parents still work and are they up to date with current working practices etc?
at the end of the day, you should do what suits you best. i always find, owever much it is done with the best intentions, when parents or PIL's help you out money wise you lways end up feeling like you should do what they want you to do, rather than go with your gut instinct.

designerbaby Fri 07-Aug-09 22:02:27

Rebecca - I second what Dol1y said - you simply won't know how you feel until you get there. I really thought I'd want to be back after six months, in the event I took a year and would happily have taken longer if I'd been allowed. I'm planning on taking another full year this time too.

6 months is NOT 'luxurious' in any way. You'll probably (and I'd advise you to!) take a wee bit of time off before the birth (to sleep, mostly) so you LO may only be 5 months then - which is really still quite little.

I do think it's a bit naughty of your mum to use any financial support they may be offering you to make you feel guilty for how much time you may or may not want to take off. It may have been meant with the best of intentions but I think it's a bit naughty actually. I would consider telling her how it's made you feel if you feel able to do that.

When it comes down to it, you'll HAVE to do what feels right for you at the time - whether that's going back after 3 months because you're tearing your hair out, or leaving it a year because you're relishing every moment. But if you do something against your instinct and deeper feelings you're just going to feel horrible about it.

It's different if there's a real financila imperative to go back sooner - because you kind of know you're doing to right thing to help your family survive financially. But going back because someone - no matter how well meaning - is making you feel guilty, obliged or self-indulgent for taking the time you feel you want to is a path to a lot of heartache and difficult feelings.

As for being selfish - well, trust me, you ain't going to be sitting on the sofa painting your nails and eating bon-bons. It's a job too just a differnt kind and with crappier pay - but it comes with great benefits!

The reality is that my career (once absolutely everything to me) IS taking a bit of a back seat for these few years. I'm not being descriminated against or anything, but my priorities just aren't ladder-climbing and long hours at the moment, which obvioulsy has an impact. But it's a drop in the ocean over a lifetime, and you don't get this time back. I have no doubt that I'll be able to start career climbing again when the kids are a bit older.

Bottom line, make sure you're making your own decision for your own reasons, not under duress.



Cicatrice Fri 07-Aug-09 22:06:40

And that assumes that you work up to the last minute and your baby arrives promptly. If you have to start your ML early and your baby is late 6 months leave could mean you leaving a 4 month old.

Which would be too soon, if you can avoid it IMO.

LadyBee Fri 07-Aug-09 22:08:09

I went back at 8 months, and left work at 37 weeks pregnant so was on ML for nearly 9 months (don't forget to count the leave you go on before giving birth!)

For my DS it seemed about the right time, he was old enough to be mobile and enjoy playing and interacting, but didn't really experience separation anxiety or any problems settling into the new routine. Plus by that time he was eating well, and I had been able to reduce his breastfeeds from exclusive and several times a day, to fairly regular times and just a BF morning and night which I could carry on with while I was working.

I have two things to say:

1. I don't think anyone of our generation thinks 6 months mat leave is extravagant or excessive. Maybe your mother is comparing the amounts to what was common for her generation?

2. Lots of developmental things happen around 6 months. There's the start of weaning, some parents wait til 6 months to move their babies out of their rooms. Getting your baby used to those changes as well as a new childcare situation could be 'challenging' <<bleugh management-speak>>

Ok, 1 more thing grin

You might want to consider what your yearly work pattern is like, if there's a natural cycle to it there might be a more natural time to transfer from your mat leave replacement than at a 6 month mark, for me 8 months coincided with January, which was a good time for the change in department and a quiet time so a fairly easy transition back to work.

pooka Fri 07-Aug-09 22:09:19

I took a year with dd. Actually 13 months in total, taking annual leave into account. Gave up about 6 weeks before she was born. Went back 3 days a week.

Then started maternity leave 13 weeks before ds was born (actually nearer 17 weeks taking annual leave into account). Knew wouldn't be returning to work afterwards.

Personally I think that you should very much play it by ear after your baby is born. What suits one mother/child may not suit another. When dd was born motherhood was such a massive shock that I didn't feel like I was enjoying it until she was nearly 6 months old anyway. Plus I had to have minor surgery resulting from the birth, when she was 7 months. PLus she didn't sleep at all well at night until she was about 10 months! By going back when she was 1, I was able to have a significant chunk of time feeling capable and competent and happy.

Now if ds had been the first child I might have been able to go back earlier, because birth was great, he slept well and I enjoyed the early months (or at least wasn't quite the zombie I was at first with dd).

haventsleptforayear Fri 07-Aug-09 22:10:46

Sounds like you have a good plan going to me.

I went back after the minimum (fully paid) leave here, ie 12 weeks.

It was very hard holding it together with a non-sleeping baby.

Good luck.

theansweris42 Fri 07-Aug-09 22:12:07

I have a senior management job am 4 months ino mat leave - decided nothing yet cos that's our perogative.
All I can say is that you should do what feels right - your plan sounds good. You won't be sidelined as if you have already done so well at 27 you will soon power back into yourrightful place, if that's what you want to do.

carrielou2007 Fri 07-Aug-09 22:13:23

I had 6 months with dd, finished 2 weeks before, she was 2 weeks late so she was only 5 months when I went back to work. Full time, no choice, on my own and on 108 per week (my company have no top ups to mat pay). I found it very hard indeed, expressing in the day, still feeding twice in the night and I just missed her so much.

This time am taking the 37 (is it that) SMP weeks and again have to live off savings but for me it seems a more comfortable amount of time. Maybe if I could have gone back part time (managed to cut back to 4 days when she was 10 months) I may have found it easier. I cut back to 3 days a month ago and for me it is just right.

I have a very demanding proffesion of which I love, I have to work and my dd loves her CM which makes me relax. Leaving dd to go back to work for me was the hardest thing I have ever done. I love my work, love that I am teaching dd the importance of supporting yourself, the way dd loves being with other children etc but if I won the lottery I would give up work tomorrow and become a SAHM!!

designerbaby Fri 07-Aug-09 22:16:24

Ah yes, sleep deprivation. I forgot to mention that. Might be worth considering how turning up to work after only 3 hours broken sleep a night might affect your performance and career path too!

But then, you might be luckier than me and end up with a baby who sleeps occasionally in the first year...

TakeLovingChances Fri 07-Aug-09 22:19:38

This is an interesting thread.

I am a full-time student, pg with 1st child, due in March.

I'm going to take a year out of my degree (plan to start this new semester, study up until Christmas, or if I can, the Feb half-term break and then stop) and return where I left off in a year's time. In my mind at the minute, this is the best thing for me to do.

However, a few other students I know in the same degree as me stayed off for less than 2 weeks after their DC were born!!!!!!

So it really is a matter of opinion, but I'd say take as long as you can. That way there is no mad pressure to rush back.

Congrats on the little baby.

By the way, I'm 25, so we're similar age

MrsT30 Fri 07-Aug-09 22:29:33

I had about 7 and a half months maternity leave so my DD was 61/2 months old. I remember thinking when I left work that 7 months seemed an eternity but it went so quick and I was dreading going back and counting the days by 4 months. I wish I had a few months longer because, as others have said, a lot starts to happen at 6 months and she still seemed very little to me. I went back 3 days a week and found it quite difficult at first but I'm fairly settled now and realise that in some ways I have got the best of both worlds. I wasn't exactly a high flier before i left but I was valued and my opinion considered important and the truth is it isn't as much now but that's more down to being part time than having maternity leave. The truth is sometimes it bothers me that I'm less imprtant now but then I get home on Wednesday looking forward to 4 days off with my beautiful little girl and it all seems to matter less.

Everyone is different and you shouldn't judge yourself if you want to have longer or are desperate to get back to work. But in my experience (from talking to friends), what you thought about your career before you had a child and what you feel after is very different. Wait and see and don't commit yourself too much if you are unsure.

Good luck and enjoy this most wonderful time how ever long you decide to take.

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