August 16, 2008
Not returning to work after maternity leave: A woman's prerogative or a way to game the system?
I was recently talking to a mother of two about how much maternity leave she received when she had her first child in her early twenties. At the time, she was an entry-level worker and barely scraping by financially. Ditto for her husband. So to help make ends meet, the woman took her employer up on the paid six weeks of maternity leave they offered, knowing full well she'd be quitting the job once her leave was up.
Her plan wasn't to be a stay-at-home mom though; it was to return to college, work part time on the side, and complete the degree she had yet to finish -- all of which she did. It's now a decade later, and the woman's worked solidly ever since, today earning a salary she's happy with at a communications job she loves.
I can appreciate this woman's situation, as well as the fact that, until that bundle of joy actually arrives, many expecting moms have no idea how they'll feel about staying home with their newborn vs. returning to work.
Earlier this year on The Juggle on WSJ.com, the question of whether to tell an employer you're not sure what you plan to do after maternity leave -- or that you don't plan to return to your job at all -- was hotly debated. But I'm curious to know what Seattle area readers think:
Is it a risk to tell your boss you're not sure you'll be back after junior's born? Would you take the maternity leave perks and quit immediately upon your return? Or does doing so just give mistrustful managers more ammunition against new moms and contribute to the mommy-tracking of women who breed?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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