Working During Maternity Leave Is Not Okay

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maternity leaveAhhh, maternity leave. Those months (weeks? days?) where you simply stay home and care for your baby and, hopefully, yourself. If you are lucky enough to get it and are a mom in the U.S., it's not going to last very long, so you really want to take advantage of every second. But sometimes reality sets in, and your maternity leave becomes more about those other obligations that aren't cute and tiny. Not cool, but it happens.

One mom over at Blogging Away Debt describes what is fairly common in today's world of being completely plugged in at all times. She's on maternity leave, but her workplace is still bombarding her with phone calls, emails, text messages. I'm willing to bet this has happened to most working moms. But what this brave new mom did is not what most of us would have. And while I applaud her, I also fear she won't have a job to go back to when her leave is up.

As the calls grew more frequent, this mom grew more exhausted, until ...

I went to my first pediatric appointment and couldn't remember my zip code (of the home I've lived in for 4 years) and didn't feel strong enough to carry my newborn from the overwhelming fatigue.

I emailed my employer and told him not to contact me again unless the building was on fire.

This is where we all applaud. But I'm feeling panicky. Good for her, but I hope she has an employer who realizes her worth and doesn't decide that a mom is not the type of employee he wants around. As we all try to balance being parents, spouses, and employees, something has to give. And rarely is it the job. After all, that's where your cash flow comes from, you know, the one you need in order to feed and clothe your babies. So her hard line did not come easy.

It's very simple to say, "I'd never take crap from my job while I'm with my baby!" But when you're in the middle of a major life change and worried about how you're going to pay for all those diapers and wipes, it's scary to put your job in jeopardy. We shouldn't have to, and she certainly shouldn't have since she wasn't even getting paid for that work. Unfortunately, this scenario is increasingly common in today's competitive world and sad economy.

What would you do if this happened to you?



back-to-work, maternity leave, newborns

11 Comments

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momto... momtolittleg

Her employer would have to have some major cojones to fire her during maternity leave.  She should have SOME sort of protection.  I know that a lot of my colleagues, when on vacation or leave, will send out auto-reply emails that say, "I'm out of the office and will return... please contact whoever if you need immediate assistance" which is as it should be.  I did a little email work while I was on maternity leave, but I had an easy baby and was bored.

Bobbi... BobbieKay29

With my first I was lucky that it was during a slow time at work so they really only need to contact me when they couldn't locate a file or their butts (you have to know the guys I work with).  This time however, my 2nd will be born during an extremely busy time and even worse right before a show that I'm in charge of so I'm really stressing over making sure that everyone is aware and someone is stepping up to help me.  However, I can only imagine what it's going to be like with the phone calls and emails.   Plus I'm a control freak so it's hard for me to step aside and allow someone to take over something I've worked so hard on.  Being a working mother is difficult and I wish that I could say back off but I truly enjoy my job and want to make sure that things are done properly. 

Melis... Melissa042807

My reply to any messages from work would be "I'm on leave." Period. It's called LEAVE. As in, GONE. As in, NOT WORKING. And the co-workers have had months to prepare for it. If they're bugging that poor lady that much, that is a reflection of their office inefficiency. Just my opinion.

Spike... SpikedMango

I don't understand what's so hard about turning off your cell phone and just not checking your email. Like another poster said, you're on LEAVE. You're busy enough with a new baby, and they've had a while to prepare for this. You don't wake up pregnant and have the kid the next day.


Mommies, turn off the phones, computers, chats, whatever. Or if you need them for a spouse or family member, temporarily block your work's number. This is time for you and your newborn, and that's more imporant than the rest of the world at that time.

meatb... meatball77

It depends on if you're being paid.  If she's being paid and is ok with the arrangement I don't see a problem.  If it's unpaid leave then working for free should not be expected.

Mocha... MochaCocoaBean

I am fortunate that my boss and coworkers respect the boundaries of leave...they are loathe to call me on a scheduled vacation day or even an unexpected sick day. However, a woman in a nearby department gave birth on a Tuesday and her office wanted her to come in that Friday to sit in on interviews as she had agreed to do so before going in to labor 3 weeks early. The nerve! She declined, and rightfully so, with a lovely note from her doctor stating she could not attend.

nonmember avatar Sally

It depends on where you work too. I work for a very small nonprofit--3 people. No one was badgering me, but there were things that came up from time to time. I made a deal, after the first month, I did a little bit--maybe 10-30 minutes a day on average, but then worked shorter days when I came back until it just about got even. It sucked, but it was nice to leave the office at 3:00 everyday. So nice, in fact that I changed my schedule to leave at 3:00 for good, I work on Saturdays too, but get more time in the afternoon with pookie.

081109 081109

I expect possibly some phone calls while on leave (I'm expecting to deliver in a couple weeks and we have been preparing but you never know when something could come up) and working in accounting there are many time sensitive things that they may realize I'd be the only one with the answer to while I'm out.  But I wouldn't go as far as to full on WORK without pay.  Problem is a lot of jobs are starting to flow over into fulltime commitments that don't turn off when you go home, there needs to be a sense of separation between work and home and with all the technology available these days to stay connected that divide seems to be less and less whether you're on maternity leave or just home for dinner.

nonmember avatar Jen DC

The best way to deal with these situations is before they arise (unfortunately). Obviously because this is her first child, she had no experience with this.

Go to your immediate supervisor and hammer out the details of "working on leave." Put it all on paper, in an email, drag in HR if you have to, but be PROACTIVE. In this economy and this society, it's become increasingly clear that very few people actually care what the rules are and will take advantage of anyone and everyone - and it's somehow ACCEPTABLE! In my dealings with management, I've just made it clear: this is what I want, this is the minimum I expect and these items are negotiable. And when the final agreement is made, I just refer back to our WRITTEN understanding. Always, always, ALWAYS in writing.

nonmember avatar Ashley

In a real career you don't have "months to prepare" to magically be able to just have everything pause in perfect harmony until you get back. I allow my work to email but it's at my descretion when I get back to them. I leave my phone number for my boss and my temporary supervisory replacement. They have decency to not abuse it, but I have actually had to fix mistakes that were about to be made with serious consequences because my team was so busy and it's something I normally would have handled; I fixed it once but was a little peaved now that the same nature of thing is about to happen tomorrow if my boss doesn't get it together and stop emailing and realize people don't check email because they're BUSY. I had a rep from a company doing an installation of one of our new instruments and wanted to call and talk to me about it. 1) I'm still off for another month and 2) what good will it do when I'm not even there. My second in command was assigned off site training for these analyzers so I don't see why I have to conference call on my maternity leave. That's where I cut it off. I email back and return calls about work related stuff AS Absolutely necessary. But if it's not dire, I take my bosses advice and "don't worry about this place" as she said before I left for leave. And now as my PTO and ESB are becoming depleted and I'm going to unpaid leave status, I feel less of a need to reply because I'm not being paid!

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