The 411

What These Moms Wish They'd Known About Maternity Leave Before They Took It

Advice from moms who’ve been there.

Originally Published: 
A collage with two pregnant women working on their laptops with their maternity leave date marked on...
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Maternity leave can be a wonderful time, full of bonding and love. But it can also be an extremely difficult, isolating and lonely time. Who better, then, to seek advice about what to know about your own leave than moms who have been there? So we turned to the moms of our community on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for their thoughts. It goes without saying that all leaves are different, so make sure you do your research on what’s applicable to you in particular.

Here’s what they wish they’d known in advance about maternity leave.

“Non-moms act like maternity leave means you’re on vacation when, in fact, you’re keeping another human alive, your hormones are falling off a cliff, you’re exhausted, your house is a mess, and God help you if you also have other children/spouse to care for. It is NOT a vacation!” — @ajrespess

“That I still had to apply for TDI through my state bc my company only paid in full for 6 weeks.” — michaelalmoriarty

“It’s often a patchwork of benefits and paperwork you can’t submit until you’ve given birth.” — emactag1318

“I wish I’d known FMLA is not maternity leave.” — samdenzin

“I was only allowed to apply my accumulated sick days to the days I was actually ‘sick’ aka healing.” — megannanette

“My advice is to take as much as you can. Many larger employers offer a standard set time, but allow you to take more at less than full pay, which might actually save you money over paying for daycare during that time in the long run. Ask about all the options and benefits offered. Do the math and plan, if possible, and make sure you and your partner (if applicable) are on the same page. While it’s definitely not a vacation, only good comes from as much bonding time as you can get with your new baby. — Lori

“When going through PPD you have to know all legal terms and your workplace contract.” — deirdrefogcoco

“My first maternity leave was so hard. I was sick with a systemic yeast infection, cracked nipples, and it took two months before I wouldn't cry during nursing from the pain. It is an experience like none other, and you have to go through it to get it. My second maternity leave felt like a vacation... we figured out my nursing needs within weeks, I was never sleep-deprived because I took naps when the baby napped during the day and didn't try to do other things. I knew what to expect and handled things with much more ease and confidence.” — Carmen

“Wish I’d known how much I’d have wanted some for the weeks *before* giving birth.” — annettef

“That most men get it as well but don't ask or know it exists. When you return everything has changed and some act like you’re replaceable at that point. The person covering for you becomes everyone's hero and legit wants to keep your position.” — @angela64367815

“You have to be LOUD and persistent if you need mental health help.” — wisebellawitch

“Everything? Every time I had a question I got sent a PDF.” — austinrreid

“You will go from sane and clean to NOT in a matter of minutes.” — kortneydaunn

“KEEP CALLING until you fully understand # of days paid/partial pay/unpaid!” — lauren31186

“That it’s ok to have days where you hate it.” — lulabella1305

“You absolutely need 12 weeks. Don’t start a new role when you come back from leave.” — sallie_d_g

“Back pay for benefits when I returned. I would have saved more.” — everydaydailey

“You have to call and put your child on your health insurance as soon as it’s born.” —andrea_mossman

“Review your state leaves in addition to your company, you may be eligible for more time.” — erin_brodsky

“I wish I had known that if you and your partner/spouse work for the same employer, you share FMLA leave benefits - i.e. 12 weeks of unpaid leave split between the two people. My husband and I both work for the same university in a red state so if I give birth and he takes any FMLA leave, it eats into my eligible leave. This is not the case for partners/spouses who work for different organizations who are covered by FMLA, just those of us who work for the same employer.” — Cassandra

“It’s unpaid unless you have PTO or short term disability. I should have bought the disability.” — hjulietk

“HR doesn’t necessarily know the state or federal requirements.” — kate_lybarger

“That as a teacher I’d have to use all my sick/vacation days as part of my ML.” — seg_123

“If you state or company don’t have leave plans, you need disability BEFORE you’re pregnant.” — leenlev

“How it would affect your overall yearly income at tax time if you use short-term disability.” — beck_a_boo

“FMLA is NOT maternity leave. Don’t let your employers get away with calling it that!” —ericasgrig

“Keep a detailed log of every call you make to file paperwork and get ML payment.” — moecalsmrs

“My payment on leave only came in one lump check. No one ever told me that.” — kfkirk87

“Ask your disability ins. company if you’re entitled to the week before your due date off.” — dreaspang

“How early to request it.” — brandi.yoko

“Basically go over everything with HR with a fine-toothed comb!” — megamillionzzz

“How freaking lonely it is once your husband goes back to work and it's basically you and your kid alone all day.” — @birdjayreads

Quotes have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

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