13 Maternity Leave Horror Stories From Working Moms

mom working with baby

Ah, maternity leave: time off from a job to care for your baby -- and maybe even getting paid for it! Sounds dreamy, at least to your co-workers. But ask real moms what their maternity leave was actually like, and you'll probably hear an entirely different story.


Because let's face it: even though the Family and Medical Leave Act states that most moms (and dads) have a right to 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave -- and studies show that this time off is linked to better maternal health -- this doesn't mean companies make taking that time off easy.

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To find out what it's really like, we asked moms to share the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about maternity leave -- with a promise that we'd keep them anonymous to protect their jobs. And it turns out that even those moms who manage to get maternity leave will tell you it's far from the Shangri-La. Check out these horror stories for a reality check.

  1. 75 Percent Paycheck, 100 Percent Awful
    "My maternity leave was AWFUL. Before I was even discharged from the hospital, I was getting text messages and urgent emails to be on conference calls after my son's birth. Once my husband was back at work and it was just me and my son, I literally had to nurse him through conference calls from home just to keep him from crying in the background. To top it off, I was told I would be paid during my eight weeks of maternity leave ... and then I was called on week two and notified that yes, they said they would pay me but they didn't say how much -- so they decided to pay me 75 percent of my salary since obviously I was only working 75 percent while home. I was so disgusted with them that I decided to find a new job." -- Andrea, marketing manager
  2. The Paperwork "Mix-up"
    "I got a phone call five weeks into an eight-week leave that I was fired for 'no call no show' -- for a shift I hadn't been told about or agreed to work! Apparently my boss had not sent over the paperwork for maternity leave, so he scheduled me without bothering to let me know. I fought it, and eventually the termination was taken off my record, but I didn't get my job back." -- anonymous
  3. Boss from Hell
    "I recently left my firm due to my treatment in regards to my maternity leave. Here is the gist of it: My coworkers had told me that if there was a problem in the office, my boss would tell them to just give me a call. They all refused to do so. At one point he reached out to me directly and asked if there was a problem and that it was absurd that there was this 'stigma' that he could not reach out to me. And although my boss had agreed to let me work remotely two days a week after I'd returned to work, he told me later that he was no longer okay with that. I am now at a family friendly company that values life/work balance." -- Jessica, certified valuation analyst
  4. Due Date Ridiculousness
    "I was having a hard time with HR processing paperwork in preparation for my maternity leave. He kept telling me he needed to know what day I planned to start it. I couldn't get him to understand that I didn't know exactly when I'd go into labor. All I could give was an estimate. Then I was informed I wouldn't be paid for holidays during my leave -- Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's -- days they'd pay out to everyone else for being closed!" -- anonymous

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  5. That's Sick!
    "Once I got pregnant and inquired about maternity leave, I was told I could not use sick time because I wasn't 'sick' and childbirth is natural. I would need take unpaid leave. So I went to the assistant superintendent with my 2-week-old and started nursing in his office because it is 'natural' -- to use his words. He was so embarrassed he agreed to change the decision. -- teacher
  6. Have a Good Year...Not!
    "My maternity leave was and is still a nightmare! I work in a private school, and I was due this past August with my first baby. I told my boss in March that I was pregnant and due in August. Well, come July they still haven't found a replacement, and now they tell me that because they can't find anyone that wants to work part time (from September to January) they have to hire someone to work the full year, so I did not have a job there this year. So I contacted her and said that I need a job, what do you have available? She told me I could be a floater from 10-6 every day. I told her I would think about it, because having a newborn and working long hours would be totally different than my teaching position. She responded saying that I obviously didn't want the job and she no longer had anything to offer me, so have a good year. I was floored! I basically have no job for having a baby at the wrong time. Insane!" -- Lyndsay, 32, mom of a 5-month-old boy
  7. Out-of-Town Training Bombshell
    "About halfway through my maternity leave I had to be on a conference call, where I found out the contract for my department wasn't being renewed. I was told I could have a different job that paid less and required a high school diploma, whereas my case manager position required a Bachelor's. Plus the training for that job would be during my maternity leave, and out of town! Needless to say I refused." -- case manager
  8. Job Hunting Two Weeks After Having Twins
    "My worst maternity leave experience was being laid off a week after I had twins. Evidently they had been trying to reach me before the one-week mark via my work email and work phone, even though they had my personal phone number. The experience was horrible, and the prospect of having no income was so frightening I was job hunting by week two. I feel like I totally lost that time with my kids because of the stress. They're five now and it makes me want to cry even to this day." -- mid 30s mother of three
  9. Envelope of Death
    "Back when I gave birth in 2007, I had only six weeks of leave because that's how much vacation and sick leave I had saved up. At the time, I was editor for a home furnishings catalog. About two weeks into my leave, I was mailed an envelope containing a thick packet of notes and markups all over the catalog ... along with a letter from my boss indicating they had decided to significantly change the style and look of the catalog, and it had to be done in the next few weeks! So there I was, exhausted and trying to bond with my newborn, and of all times they could choose to redo the catalog, it had to be now? I'm still upset about this, as I can't get back that time with my son that should have been focused and peaceful." -- marketing director with two kids
  10. Baptism, Shmatism, Where's That File?
    "My boss called almost daily while I was on maternity leave and he referred other business calls to me as well. On the Sunday when I had my 8-week-old daughter baptized, he kept calling wanting me to do work from home. I was exhausted and still had a house full of relatives and I was technically still on maternity leave, but he made me feel like if I did not do the work, I would not have a job to come back to. Luckily I don't work there anymore." -- 35-year-old mom in communications with one girl
  11. Probation Problems
    "I'm a probation officer, and once I got pregnant I had to get a doctors note in order not to qualify for firearms... then I had to go in during my maternity leave to qualify! Oh, and I was also subpoenaed once and had to go in for court, so I had to go in twice during my leave." -- probation officer
  12. Preemie Problems
    "I'd told my boss that I would only have about two days notice of when my preemie daughter was coming home from the NICU. They said that since I returned to work three weeks after having her, there was no problem taking four weeks off. The day before I was taking her home -- which was Wednesday, March 5 -- I put in my request for the four weeks. Instead, they said I was needed that Friday (March 7) and Monday (the 10th), and I could start my leave Tuesday (the 11th). I was flabbergasted. My estimated due date was March 13. If I'd gone closer to full term, would they have said that I couldn't go into labor?" -- anonymous
  13. My Boss Didn't Like 'Working Moms'
    "In 1987, I was heading an investment firm's advertising efforts by day, finishing up my last semester for my MBA at night, pregnant with my first child. However, I ended up giving birth about three weeks early. So before I could enjoy my maternity leave, I first had to take my last two finals. Meanwhile at the office, I was in the last stages of finalizing $1 million of TV commercials, so I continued working, bringing my baby with me. Once the TV commercials were on the air and final exams taken, could I relax and enjoy motherhood for the next month or so? Not exactly. That's when I learned that my boss the CEO -- the father of six children -- highly disapproved of 'working mothers.' He assumed that I would stay home with the baby, as his own wife had done. But that wasn't in the cards for me, so I also spent my maternity leave interviewing for a new job." -- a 32-year-old marketing specialist

Is it any wonder why studies show that one in eight women take only two weeks maternity leave, and more than a quarter cut short their breaks? Not after you hear what these women went through.

Did you experience any problems with your maternity leave?


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