warning coworkers about my book’s adult content, returning to work 2 weeks after having a baby, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Should I warn my coworkers about my book’s adult content?

I am a writer with a day job at a small business that employs a small but proportionally substantial number of other writers and bookish people. I live in an area where the largest employer is a university, so underemployed artists and academics abound. I genuinely enjoy having these fellow geeks as coworkers. The work we do is very dry and routine and so there isn’t always a whole lot of work to talk about at work, necessarily. We’ve built a lot of rapport talking about our various projects, what we’ve been reading, our likes and dislikes etc. COVID interrupted the blossoming of these relationships, but if the pandemic hadn’t struck I probably would be hanging out with some of these folks outside of work hours.

My problem began when I told these coworkers about the imminent publication of my first book. I don’t regret telling them, and would have felt weird keeping it entirely to myself—this is a huge deal for me and a major accomplishment! It also affects my work life directly because, assuming the pandemic ever ends, I’ll be taking some time off to promote the book. My coworkers are supportive and excited and have been asking me where and when they can pre-order copies and so on, which is very sweet.

But the book is fairly sexually explicit. I would not describe it as pornographic, but definitely it is R-rated. Sex and sexuality are not the central concern of the book, but they’re prominent elements in a genre in which there is often an assumed identity between the words written and the lived experiences of the author. Which is all to say: the book banally but incontrovertibly reveals that I am a human being who has had sex. It does so in ways that would shock none of these liberal-minded artsy adults in any other context but could be a bombshell at the office.

It is too late to untell my coworkers about my book, obviously, and for my own part I really don’t mind if they read it. But I would be horrified if anybody felt violated, I DEFINITELY don’t want anyone to be surprised by what they find if they do read the book, and I really want to make sure that people know that my feelings will not be remotely hurt if they pass on it. How do I approach this mess without making things worse? Should I come down with a case of chronic forgetfulness when they ask me for a link to the bookseller’s website? Was it a mistake to mention the book at all?

Nah, you should be fine. Just let people know now, before it’s published! You could say, “I was so excited about getting this published that I didn’t think to warn you: Parts of the book are fairly R-rated! I’m sorry I didn’t think to give that caveat earlier, and my feelings will not be remotely hurt if you pass on it.”

I wouldn’t rely on just not giving out the link because people may search for it on their own; it makes sense to warn them since you’ve already talked about it with to them. (But I also might stop actively promoting it at work, at least if it’s very explicit. It’s of course fine to mention you’re having a book published, but you don’t want anyone to feel like their coworker was encouraging them to read about their sex life.)

Congratulations on the book!

2. My manager doesn’t believe I’ll be back two weeks off after having a baby

I will be taking maternity leave soon, and my manager and HR have been preparing to hire a temp for my leave. They asked me how long I intended to be out and I said one or two weeks. They laughed and said, “Oh no, we meant will you be gone for six weeks or 12?” I reiterated my time frame and then they said I couldn’t do that because I need to a) bond with my baby and b) the doctor has to approve your return and no doctor would. The conversation was dropped and they’re planning on me being gone six weeks.

However, I can’t afford to not work for six weeks. I spoke with my doctor and he’s agreed to two weeks assuming it’s an uncomplicated birth.

How can I approach my manager and HR again about this and get them to understand I will only be gone a couple of weeks? (We generally have a good rapport, but the laughing like I was naive and the spluttering about bonding give me pause on how to proceed.)

I’m sorry you’re in this situation; the lack of paid maternity leave in the U.S. is an outrage.

How about this: “My doctor has agreed to approve my return after two weeks as long as it’s an uncomplicated birth. Two weeks is my plan because I can’t afford to be out longer — unless there’s paid maternity leave you’re able to offer?”

(By the way, if you haven’t already checked, see whether your workplace provides short-term disability insurance. If it does, that might provide a portion of your salary for a specific number of weeks after you give birth. Some states — including California, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island — offer partially paid leave as well.)

Read updates to this letter here and here and here.

3. Our leadership meetings are obsessed with talking about drinking

I attend mandatory leadership meetings. In these meetings, our boss routinely discusses what kind of cocktails she is making, how good a drink will be at the end of the day, etc. Others in the meeting contribute similar comments. They also post drinking memes on the private teams channel for the group.

I have ignored this for a long time, but I am concerned that it demonstrates a lack of understanding and sensitivity. No one in that meeting knows if another person is battling alcoholism or has a family member who has … or if someone has been hurt by a drunk driver … or has a religious or moral objection to alcohol. This insensitivity troubles me. I don’t think this belongs in a workplace meeting.

If it makes any difference, I am the HR manager.

There’s a difference between occasional comments about having a drink (which are fine) and a culture that’s heavily alcohol-focused (which is problematic for all the reasons you mention) — and it sounds like your situation is the latter. If so, you have a ton of standing as the HR manager to point this out — in fact, I’d argue you have a professional obligation to address it.

Explain that you’re not suggesting there’s a problem with occasional references to alcohol — they’re adults, it’s legal, it’s not verboten — but that drinking has become such a heavy focus of discussion that you’re concerned about the impact on anyone who’s in recovery, struggling with addiction, or has a religious objection to alcohol. Say you want to ensure no one feels alienated because they don’t drink and the environment doesn’t inadvertently hinder someone’s recovery.

Hopefully, this is just a light-hearted thing that has gotten out of hand and your addressing it will make people realize that. If you encounter pushback, it’s a sign you’ve got a deeper culture problem.

4. My interviewer’s friend died right before I was supposed to interview with them

I have been job hunting since last March and it’s been frustrating. So, you can imagine my joy when I made it to the final round of interviews for a job in my dream city! (Bonus — they’re allowing us to work from home indefinitely, so I get to save money as well before making the move). This was also the FOURTH round, by the way.

My last round was doing a video call with two higher-ups in the company. The first interviewer was friendly and I thought it went great. As we were wrapping up, he got an email from the second interviewer informing them a friend of theirs died earlier and they needed to cancel. We were both shocked and I said I was sorry to hear about their friend and completely understood the need to cancel. The interviewer said they appreciated that and then ended it on a indecisive note, saying they weren’t sure what would happen next.

I followed up a week later with the HR coordinator who set up the interview, just to see if we needed to reschedule or the job was on hold or anything, but I haven’t heard back. It’s been two weeks and I’m starting to think I’m just getting ghosted but in a really weird way.

Have you ever had that happen before? I like to think it was a real emergency and something is going on behind the scenes, but the silence on my follow-up bothers me.

It was most likely true — most people aren’t making up lies about dead friends to cancel an interview (and if it really was some more mundane conflict, they likely would have just explained that).

As for what’s happening now though, it could be any of the explanations that are always in play when you don’t hear back from an employer: They could be dealing with higher priorities. They could be reconfiguring something about the position. People who are needed to move the process along could be out or busy. They could have made an offer to someone else and are waiting to hear back. Or yes, they could be ghosting you — they could have decided not to move you forward and haven’t bothered to tell you; employers are notorious for not bothering to reject candidates, even candidates who have put a lot of time into their process.

Since you were at the final interview stage and your last conversation ended so abruptly, I think you have room for one more follow-up — ideally to the hiring manager if you have their contact info, but if not then to the HR coordinator. Explain you’re still very interested in the position and ask if they have an updated timeline for next steps. After that, though, put it out of your mind, assume you didn’t get it, move on, and let it be a pleasant surprise if they do get back in touch. It sucks that this happens, but unfortunately it happens a lot.

Read an update to this letter here.

5. Listing a promotion when my work stayed the same

I work in sales and have now been promoted two times (yay!). The first promotion was from an entry level role, where the responsibilities between the entry level role and the promoted role were very different. I was recently promoted again, but really the promotion only changed my compensation and title.

Obviously I’m happy about those changes, but how should I handle listing that new role on a resume? I want to show that I’ve been moving up and have been recognized for my performance, but I’m not sure how to show that progression on a resume when the description for my new role is essentially the same as my old one.

I’d list it this way:

The Barley Basement, September 2018 – present

Oatmeal Director, January 2021 – present
Oatmeal Manager, June 2019 – December 2020
* accomplishment
* accomplishment
* accomplishment

Sales Assistant, September 2018 – June 2019
* accomplishment
* accomplishment
* accomplishment

{ 513 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A preemptive request: Please focus on advice for the letter-writers and not on bemoaning how awful the American healthcare/leave systems are. We know, we get it, we want to fix it too, and it’s exhausting and not helpful to hear it over and over. Thank you.

    Addendum: Please believe the LW when she says she can’t afford to take more time off.

  2. Picky*

    OP1: You will also be surprised at how many of these people, who have expressed such excitement for the publication of your book, will not actually read it. They will mean to read it, they may even buy it. Accept their genuine happiness for you and assume they will never bring it up again.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        Yet, it’s a good idea to use the line about it having some “R-rated” content. Then, it’s up to the reader. Who you work with.
        Giving a coworker — verbally or in writing — an image they can’t erase is not fair. But if they choose, it’s on them.

    1. Gen*

      Yup, of the thirty or so friends/family/coworkers who said they were excited for my first book, about a dozen bought it, three reviewed it, and one blocked me on Facebook a few days after it came out. Like the OP I’d forgotten to mention that it was a slightly explicit comedy romance, while I present as a very formal person in face-to-face interactions. I don’t think the person who blocked me was prepared for that many lewd jokes. They were definitely an outlier though.

      One thing to remember is that reading a book just because you know the author is a time commitment that many people aren’t able to make if it’s not a subject they’re already invested in. This is especially true if the folks in questions aren’t fast/voracious readers.

      But it is still an amazing achievement OP and one you should be rightly proud of!

      1. allathian*

        And you too, congrats on getting your book published. I’m glad the person who blocked you on FB was an outlier.

      2. New Job So Much Better*

        Same. A dozen or so bought my first book, a few requested a free copy, and only a few including my mom and grandmother actually read it. (Grandmom asked if she would see herself reflected in the Civil War-time travel romance, I had to tell her honestly no. LOL) Congrats to you!

        1. Elizabeth West*

          People who ask for a free copy are the worst. I just sweetly explain to them that I’m sorry, but I can only give freebies to people who actually helped me with something in it before publication.

    2. UKDancer*

      Definitely. One of my team in my last company wrote a book. I bought a copy on kindle to be supportive and said something nice about it. I’ve never actually read it because it’s not the type of book I like but I’d never tell the author that because I wouldn’t want to hurt her feelings.

      1. UKDancer*

        I should say even when I really care about the author, I may not want to read their book. My Godmother wrote a deeply involved and well researched history of the growth in non-conformist movements in the 19th century in her part of the UK. I very proudly bought a copy but I have not read it. It sits on my bookshelf and I would never throw it out. I loved and adored my Godmother but I am not that interested in religious history.

        1. Smithy*

          Less emotional, but similar situation. Someone I went to grad school with and really respected had a work of his academic research published. I saw it in a bookstore while traveling in another country and was so impressed and excited, immediately bought it. Not only did I never read it, I may or may not still have it….

        2. Bluesboy*

          My uncle had a book published a few years ago, he’s a scientist.

          I can open that book at random, on literally any page and point with my fingers shut and guarantee that I won’t understand the sentence I’m pointing at unless it’s in the acknowledgements.

          He’s a nice man, but no, I won’t be finishing his book any time soon.

          1. CoveredInBees*

            Yup. I actually helped a friend write a few parts of her incredibly specific medical book and proudly have it on my shelf. I have no plans to read it. My contribution was for things that required only a surface understanding of the topic and that’s all I had.

        3. Melanie Doormat*

          Time to confess that I have never read my brother’s dozen or so novels. I love him, and I’m proud of him, but … do you know how many books there are in the world? SO MANY. I’ll never get around to them.

        1. Danielle*

          Is it bad that I would be honest if someone asked? “Oh. Subject Matter really isn’t my cup of tea. I bought a copy because you’re my friend and I wanted to support you and share your excitement in your accomplishment.”

          1. Smithy*

            I would hope so – and certainly with a coworker, I can’t imagine that would be a response that would be taken poorly. Even just “I’m not a big reader, but so excited to support you and buy a copy,” – I HOPE would be met with understanding.

            Certainly there are people who have friends/family where there would be more sensitive feelings/heavier emotions – but from a coworker where there’s already a professional dynamic, I would hope that would be a well received response.

          2. OtterB*

            One phrase I have used with online writer friends is “I am not the right audience for this book.”

            1. JB*

              This kind of assumption is why I have told very few people about my book, and those in my life who made any noise about buying it got a link to a free copy immediately.

              I definitely appreciate the sentiment and the desire to be supportive, but no – would NOT have appreciated a mob of friends and family descending upon my first book and messing up the Amazon purchase algorithms for it.

              Nobody in my life reads gay romance novels. You know what happens when a whole lot of people who don’t read gay romance are the first to purchase a gay romance on Amazon? The site gets very confused about who the book is actually for, what the content is, and who to advertise it to. It never gets put in front of readers who actually want to buy it. Gets shoved way to the last page of searches. Gets recommended to very confused people looking for self help books or books on gardening.

              I know new authors still digging themselves out of this kind of algorithm confusion hole, just because they were excited to share their book and their friends and family were excited for them and bought the book. It’s very unfortunate. The way that the modern market for books works is very counter-intuitive for actual people.

              1. Former Employee*

                Thanks for the explanation and the laugh. I had no idea it works that way.

                If I were a friend of yours, I, too, would have been guilty of this very thing.

                Although I have to say that even though I am a straight, older female, I might actually like a gay romance novel as long as it is well written.

      2. BubbleTea*

        I bought a Kindle book self published by a colleague and… it was awful. Really badly written and in dire need of editing. I quietly deleted it from my Kindle and never mentioned it. Like you, I wanted to show support and not hurt any feelings. Thankfully I was never asked directly for feedback!

        1. Uranus Wars*

          I have done this for several friends/ex-classmates/ex-colleagues. Not a lot, but about 10-12 books. I’ve read a few because they were subjects I am interested in, saved and shelved a few for support and (perhaps) a future read. Some self-published, some professionally so.

          There is one that was written so poorly I could barely make it through – great storyline overall, right up my ally…and with a professional proofer/editor it had great potential, but was disjointed and hard to follow (lots of bouncing back and forth) and riddled with typos and other grammatical errors.

        2. Name Redacted*

          I had this happen. a friend of mine I went to school with wrote a book that was right in my genre wheelhouse. Asked me for in depth commentary. It was awful. Full of telling not showing, full of heavy handed spiritual quotes out of my religious tradition but clearly not having practiced it, the characters were flat. It was not good. I gently talked to them about the problems with the telling not showing and some dialogue issues, but they made no changes even though they were asking for edits. I tried again a few years later after it got some good reviews on line. Nope still tripe.

        3. Jess*

          I had a colleague when I first started my first office job who was working on a book that he eventually self-published. He asked if anyone was interested in helping him edit it or knew someone who would want to and I love editing writing so I volunteered. He paid me a very small amount for it, which was not enough because OMG it was riddled with errors. He just wasn’t a very good writer to begin with and the book was a disaster of grammar errors, plot holes, weirdly misused words (“air on the side of” instead of “err on the side of”–he didn’t believe me when I pointed that one out!) and also had a lot of explicit scenes with sex and drug use. Oh and did I mention that it was extremely obviously autobiographical?

          I got through about half and then just couldn’t anymore. It was too much. He definitely didn’t expect me to find many errors, ha, and thought it was very good. He self-published and a couple of colleagues dutifully bought it on amazon. I don’t think any of them ever read it.

          1. Sleepless*

            The friend I mentioned above got me to edit one of his later books! I’m not much of an editor but I did manage to find a few errors, plus to my astonishment he included a scene that needed some fact checking from somebody in my niche field. I wrote a note in the margin explaining how this scene should go, and said “Aren’t you glad you got an X to read this?” I’m in the acknowledgments. :-)

        4. FeeFiFoeFum*

          I had this happen as well… read a book a friend wrote, she’s published several things over the years but it was before I knew her. Got her newest book and despite it not being my genre, read it.

          It was poorly written, the plotline was ridiculous and the characters were awful. I was mad at *myself* for spending time on it but I wanted to support her. Fortunately she never asked me for feedback either.

      3. RabbitRabbit*

        Yeah. I have a friend, I bought her book, I realized it was not at all what I wanted to read and let it collect dust. It wasn’t even the content, as much as it was that her writing style – at least in this work – didn’t translate well to long format. (Think of the many Saturday Night Live sketches that didn’t translate well into a movie. Now imagine that but in a very bite-sized non-fiction format, stretched out into book form. There wasn’t enough ‘connective tissue’ to integrate them even into short essays within a book.)

      4. Elizabeth West*

        As a writer, I feel the need to say you don’t have to do this. Don’t feel like you have to buy a book I wrote just because you know me.

        If it sounds like something you’d like to read, by all means go for it, but if not, that’s okay. Not every book is for every reader.

    3. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

      *Thinks of the forgotten, unopened book authored by Former Coworker, mildewing in a box somewhere in the garage* Yep… probably right! (No offence OP – and congrats on getting published!)

      If it were me, I’d be concerned that a coworker may (unwelcomely) see me in a sexual light after reading it. Or that a warning about the R-rated content may encourage someone who wouldn’t have otherwise read it to do so out of voyeurism. But that’s me projecting my own experiences of gender dynamics, and it sounds like OP is genuinely only concerned about the discomfort of others here.

      I think Alison’s advice is perfect. Sure, warn them, and from there they’re adults who can make up their own minds. Don’t let it become a detractor from enjoying this awesome achievement!

      1. Kate Bush Lite*

        Hi, it’s OP—indirectly I was a little worried about this. I’m transgender, the book is largely about trans identity, and peoples’ reactions to sexuality in that context just tend to be stronger for a whole host of reasons. My fear that I could be perceived as dragging my sex life into the workplace stems in large part from the fact that the behavioral threshold that might trigger that perception in others is way, way lower than it might be for some. (And unfortunately experience has taught me that it’s not always the self-avowed bigots who are going to overreact.) I don’t want to gross anyone out—and I also want to protect myself. What a relief that nobody will actually read the book! You’re all correct on that score, of course, & Alison’s script is also extremely helpful.

        1. Accidental Waterfall Chaser*

          I think I might be one of your coworkers! Either that or you and my coworker are in very similar situations (always possible!) My guess is that the only people who will actually get around to reading the book are the ones who are interested in trans/nb themes and not prone to freaking out. And even among that group most of us are going to be too busy to get around to it. (I fully intend to read my coworker’s book, but I also have a big tbr stack already…)

        2. meyer lemon*

          If there are any details you can provide about the book that don’t compromise your anonymity too much, there are probably some commenters (me) who would be interested in reading it!

        3. Nesprin*

          I’m so sorry that you’ve had experiences that make you wary of bigots! I think that most (sane, kind) people understand that writing a book is both an incredible accomplishment and an intensely personal act of sharing. Congrats on publishing your work, and of course your book is going to have non-work appropriate themes- work is boring and people are not!

        4. Drago Cucina*

          Unfortunately there are people who cannot separate the art from the artist. I know a successful country song writer who complains that people think because he wrote a song about a break-up that he experienced it. No, fiction. Just as Anthony Hopkins doesn’t really eat census workers.

          Congratulations on your book. It is an undertaking that many have started but fewer finished.

        5. Queer Earthling*

          This does add some complications, so I do totally understand that concern!

          That said: I’m a queer adult blogger, well past “R rated.” That’s my only “job,” aside from being a homemaker. People in my personal life (including friends, former coworkers, and relatives–basically anyone who follows me on facebook) all know about it, and many of them regularly read my blog. And none of the people in my personal life look at me in a more sexual light. I may just be lucky in that regard, but I think most people are also able to compartmentalize; my sister is a staunch supporter of my work and also has told me that whenever it’s especially personal, she just pretends that it’s about a fictional character.

          The only real difference in how people treat me now versus how they treated me before my blog is that they’re more likely to tag me in certain memes.

      2. Marcella*

        Your concerns are accurate. I used to write erotica under a pen name. Published about 10 books and a few dozen short stories. Unfortunately 1 publisher messed up 1 time and used my legal name in some foreign editions and review copies – and after that both names were linked no matter what I did to frantically kick sand between them. I was shocked by how many colleagues and clients were googling me (they discovered the error before I did) and mortified by how many treated me differently. I had to terminate 2 client relationships after being sexually harassed. It’s been years and people still uncover it sometimes and react strongly.

        I tell writers now to just assume their identity will be discovered at some point. Technology is sophisticated enough to connect dots we think are separated by an iron wall.

    4. Myrin*

      It sounds like the book will inevitably be brought up again, though, both because of the close ties these coworkers seem to have formed and for practical reasons (like the promo tour OP mentions).

      So while I agree strongly that only a percentage of even the most enthusiastic supporters will actually read the book and while that might be important for OP to be clear about in her head to alleviate the stress she seems to be feeling at the thought of upsetting/blindsiding anyone, I don’t think the awareness alone is going to help her much in the moment when confronted with a coworker who is about to start reading her book.

      I think Alison’s proposed script is great in that regard and I would encourage OP to not wait unnecessarily but to just bring it up the next time talk of the book rears its head again – that way, it will be over and done with and some of any possible awkwardness might already have dissipated that way by the time the book is actually published.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        This is a good point – this office dynamic does seem a bit closer than my own. And her co-workers sound like they are all artists of some form or another. I am not, but my friends who are usually are much better at actually experiencing the artwork of other friends (writing, music, etc.) without picking and choosing their favorites. As opposed to me who will buy all day long but only read/listen/display what falls in line with my interests!

    5. WorkingGirl*

      I wrote a book in 2019, my boss and coworkers all said they were excited for me. My boss and one coworker – out of 5 – bought copies. My boss read it, don’t know if the coworker did.

    6. Richard Hershberger*

      Truth. My book is on the evolution of the baseball rules. I hang out with baseball history nerds. Only a tiny fraction have bought, much less read, the book, despite its being aimed straight at the baseball history nerd interests, and despite there being literally no competition from other similar books. That’s just how it goes.

      1. BusyBee*

        Your book sounds fascinating! I’m an avid nonfiction reader and my husband is a HUGE baseball fan, but not much of a reader. He will, however, read nonfiction about baseball, so he and I have a very small, very dedicated Baseball History Book Club together :D

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          “Strike Four: The Evolution of Baseball.” My nym is also my real name. I will spare Alison having to sort through the moderation list, so no link, but you can find it easily enough through the usual sources. A good option, from my perspective, is to order it directly from the publisher, Rowman & Littlefield. Also, reviews are always appreciated!

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          This made me look, since I would read that book. It seems not to really exist, but it did lead me to “How to Cheat at Sports,” which I may pick up.

      2. hellion*

        Just wanted to let you know that my boyfriend and I always exchange books for Valentine’s Day and I already bought this year’s book but this sounds like it was specifically made for him so I just bought it as well. Thanks for mentioning it!

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Thank you. It is a delicate balance between hiding my light under a bushel and being That Guy, who accosts random passersby on the street to tell them about his book. Fortunately, the topic is easy to describe briefly, and the other person will immediately know whether or not it interests them. This lets me do a drive-by plug.

    7. Luke G*

      Yup. I’ve got a graveyard of comic books, short stories, CD’s, and art prints that friends and coworkers have created that I just don’t really enjoy- but I’m so dang excited when someone has a success like that, and want to support them, so I buy it anyway.

      1. starsaphire*

        Yeah, I’d bet more than half the friends who loyally bought one of my books probably never even downloaded it, but I appreciate the support nonetheless.

        I always warn people about the content, though. “Don’t read it at work, and don’t share it with your grandma!” with a big wink usually gets the point across.

        (My elderly uncle, bless him, wrote me an Amazon review claiming that he bought my books but hadn’t read them yet because he’d need stronger heart medication first.)

    8. iglwif*

      Writer with a full-time day job, can confirm! When my first book came out, my entire department came to the launch party–many of them helped to plan it and contributed food–and they were thrilled and excited for me and it was awesome! But also … only three or four of those people actually read the book, and that was also totally fine. Not everyone reads in every genre and it is 100% possible to be thrilled that your friend or coworker got a publishing contract and simultaneously 100% not into actually reading their book because the genre is not up your alley, or for whatever other reason.

    9. Delta Delta*

      This is true. I’m friendly with several authors and I always buy their books as a show of support. I am embarrassed that I don’t always read them.

    10. Another JD*

      I’m guilty of this. My sister-in-law wrote a hugely popular novel that was even sold in Costco. I got it from the library, and just never read it.

    11. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      While that is true, OP does say she works in a place with writers and academics, who are far more likely to read a book.

      1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

        Read a book, sure. But don’t you find that the more bookish someone is, the more likely they are to have specific preferences about genre, topic, author and writing style? The venn diagram between what I would read and what anyone I know would write is essentially a diagram of a bicycle.

    12. Sleepy*

      I published a short travel guide to a very small, infrequently visited country, and out of all my family and friends, only my parents and one cousin read it. Which was totally fine. I don’t receive royalties so I have no idea what the sales were, but they can’t have been high.

      Having created something pretty niche myself, I feel zero guilt about skipping others’ passion projects. My brother’s college-era avante-garde atonal album. My friend’s super niche podcast about a city I’ve never visited. These products exist for a specific community of readers or consumers, and for the creator, and that’s okay.

    13. Not So NewReader*

      OP, a family member wrote a book whose main character is based on my late spouse. I never bought the book. I never borrowed it from the library. I had forgotten all about the book until this post here today. It’s not because I don’t care. It’s because I just. do. not. have the bandwidth.

    14. Oxford Comma*

      Raises hand.

      This is me. I own several books that a friend wrote and got published. I have never read them.

    15. Donkey Hotey*

      “Buying but not reading” is not as bad a thing as one might think.

      A good friend had a book published. It won all sorts of awards and was on many “best of-” lists. Wife and I went to the author signing and bought two copies. I have -Z-E-R-O- intention of reading it because I know it deals with stuff that I find extremely triggering and never want to read about again, thank you. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to support my friend.

    16. NoBeesOnTyhon*

      Yup, my parents and husband haven’t even read my book all the way through.

      I will read anything written by anyone I know, and review the books I like on Goodreads. I would appreciate a heads up about any adult content, though – I find reading sex scenes written by someone I know to be quite awkward, but it’s just a temporary reaction.

  3. Bob*

    “My doctor has agreed to approve my return after two weeks as long as it’s an uncomplicated birth. Two weeks is my plan because I can’t afford to be out longer — unless there’s paid maternity leave you’re able to offer?”
    As George Bernard Shaw once said: “The only secrets are the secrets that keep themselves.”
    Hence Alison’s script is excellent, explaining the issue tactfully.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        Me too! I really hope they’re able to provide some paid leave to OP2. At the very least it should be able to stop them making comments.

        1. Shenandoah*

          Seriously – no comments about “bonding with baby” if you aren’t offering PAID leave! Ugh.

    1. Elenna*

      Yes! Right now, they’re just thinking about your baby, and you’re trying to awkwardly dodge the conversation around the fact that you need money to live. Let them deal with that awkwardness, and either they’ll have to stop bugging you, or they’ll let you know that you actually do get paid leave. Win-win!

      (Of course, there are assholes who would keep commenting even after hearing Allison’s script. But it sounds from the letter like these are fairly decent people who have probably just not thought about OP being in a worse financial situation than they are.)

    2. Momma Bear*

      I would be frank with them that it’s about money and unless there’s a program they have and haven’t told you about (I had to fill out FMLA and disability forms well in advance of the birth) this is really more about their lack of paid parental leave than it is about how little time you take off. If they don’t financially support new parents, they have zero room to give you grief about the time. Even with FMLA I took 2 weeks of my own PTO before the short term disability kicked in at a % of my pay and the last month of maternity leave was entirely unpaid. They didn’t even pay my family’s medical insurance so that had to be out of my pocket. I had to pay them for a month of maternity leave, basically. My coworker was a single mom and back the second the short term disability ran out – she could not afford the unpaid time off. She only got an “extra” two weeks because she had surgery. The whole system is pathetic.

      So…challenge them on their corporate policies instead of laughing it off. They need to revisit their benefits. At minimum, is your job portable and could you put in a few hours remotely? Maybe not be available all day, but check email while the baby is napping and stretch your time a little? I don’t know if you have other kids, but newborns are HARD and you will be sleep deprived. Even the suggestion of remote work will be difficult but I’d challenge this manager to help you with options if they feel that strongly about it.

      Now that said, you should also talk to them about what it would mean if you had a complicated birth, or even just a C-section. Prepare for contingencies.

      I hope you have a simple, quiet, lovely birth experience. Congrats on your pending arrival.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Oh, and one more thing – do they have a “leave bank” and can you tap into that? Basically people donate some of their own hours to a coworker in need. Many companies do this, sometimes just by request and sometimes as an annual thing (you sign up by putting in 5 hrs or whatever) so you can tap into it later. This would provide extra PTO/paid leave for the recipient.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I think this is a really good approach. Some companies have employee assistance funds that could be used for a situation like this, and you might not always know what work-arounds are available to you unless you have someone to help you dig through the policies. I’d say, meet with your boss and use Alison’s script, and ask if there’s a way you can use flex time or work from home for a few weeks if there’s no financial assistance, or if the financial assistance they find isn’t quite enough.

        I’m sorry this is being made more stressful to you because of finances, and I hope you and your kiddo get through the birth healthy and strong.

      3. learnedthehardway*

        This is a really good idea – both because the corporate policy (or lack thereof) needs to be called out, but also because there’s the possibility (hopefully not) that things won’t go exactly as planned and that the OP may need some additional support.

        It makes sense to plan for and try to access that support ahead of time, no matter what the ideal situation is expected to be.

      4. alienor*

        When I was pregnant with my daughter years ago, I worked past my due date because I couldn’t afford not to–I needed every minute of PTO to cover that time between when she was finally born and when short-term disability started. (I was married, but was the breadwinner in the house because my spouse was permanently disabled.) It got really frustrating for well-meaning coworkers to come by and tell me I should be at home resting instead of in the office. I would have loved to, but it just wasn’t possible.

    3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yes, the company wants her to take time off and their reasons are laudable! bonding is important, not to mention that ideally a woman should stay in bed for 40 days after childbirth. So stump up the money for OP to be able to do that!

      1. WendyRoo*

        “ideally a woman should stay in bed for 40 days after childbirth”

        Uhhhh what? Pretty sure that is not true, especially with an uncomplicated vaginal delivery. Walking around and getting light physical activity helps to prevent blood clots in the postpartum period.

        1. Budgie Buddy*

          According to Leviticus it’s only 40 days for a boy – for a girl it’s 80 days that a woman is considered ritually impure and must stay confined. :P

          1. CoveredInBees*

            ‘Ritually impure’ (tumah) does not mean they need to stay in bed. It means they shouldn’t be having sex (which is not a good idea medically anyways) or, when it existed, bring certain sacrifices in the temple.

        2. UKDancer*

          Yes they’re much more into getting people up and moving quickly.

          My father had an organ transplant a couple of years ago. They had him up and moving about on day 2 because they want people moving to prevent deep vein thrombosis and clotting. The physiotherapist was very clear that he needed to be walking around the room soon.

          Obviously some people can’t get up and move after delivery but medical thought at the moment is that getting up and being active helps with healing.

        3. Blackcat*

          I will say, though, if you hop out of bed less than an hour after delivery and take yourself to pee, they will FREAK OUT AT YOU for not asking first (In my case, for good reason! I had a ton of stitches and my god peeing hurt like a mofo. Nurse showed me the “spray water on the stitches as you pee” trick, which is really magic).

          I think the cultures where extended periods “in bed” after baby come out of the fact that one should not, say, be scrubbing the floors or doing other manual labor in the early post-partum period because you can hemorrhage. So having a “she can’t get out of bed” cultural rule prevented women from being forced back into household tasks that were risky. I also think it was likely a way of keeping newborns from getting too much germ exposure (not that it was articulated that way, but still, folks have known for a long time tiny babies shouldn’t be exposed to too much).

      2. Amy*

        40 days is culturally indicated in some places but is not medically indicated. And yes, for C-sections, they really want you up and walking to help with healing.

        I did 6 weeks of strict bed-rest prior to birth. It was the lowest most depressing period of my entire life and I would never encourage anyone to stay in bed if they didn’t want to.

      3. Susana*

        It’s not the company’s place to weigh in on bonding or any other personal family decisions. But the “stay in bed for 40 days” made me laugh pretty hard.

      4. Nana*

        The Chinese, too, have/had the rule ’30 days in bed after childbirth’ Don’t remember about bathing, but there was to be no hair-washing!

    4. LW2*

      Replying here so my response isn’t too buried. I did read through everyone’s comments though.

      First and foremost I want to say thank you to Ms. Green and everyone else who responded to my letter. It helps to see different perspectives on the way my boss and HR responded as well as some first hand explanations of what pp is like. I also appreciate the advice on how to possibly extend leave, though it by and large doesn’t work in my particular circumstances.

      Second I wanted to clarify a couple of things:
      •I do live in a state where there is paid parental leave. I am eligible for 60% of my pay. However, I’ve run the numbers and even without paying things that are on covid hold right now it puts me in a very precarious situation with regards to my home and other have-to-pay bill’s. The risk of losing my place to live is much too high. Part of my job is cost/risk analysis and I did the same sort of calculations for timing and pay with regards to my leave and the best case scenario is when I go back within 2 weeks (1 is actually the best but I spoke with the doctor and I understand 2 is pushing it and so we’ve agreed to 2 if I’m doing ok). 4 weeks is possible, but only if the baby comes by a certain date. 5 weeks or longer and it is financially infeasible.
      •Some people suggested credit or borrowing money from family. Unfortunately I was long term unemployed prior to this job and already maxed out those resources prior to this position.
      •I do have childcare arranged. My parent lives with me and will be assisting me from the get go. (They however, due to personal reasons, cannot work. I am the sole provider for myself, them, and now my baby. Their lack of employment however will be a silver lining however with the childcare.)
      •I don’t have any sick or PTO as all of that has already been used up and essentially what I accrue now goes towards my next doctor appointment.
      •Both my manager and HR are women, have multiple kids and are older then me so I didn’t take offense at their laughing/but what about bonding, so much as I was surprised and unsure how to respond as it felt like they knew something I didn’t but it didn’t feel appropriate for me to ask.
      •They aren’t forcing me to take six weeks off. I will be back when I come back but they’re advertising a 6 week contract position and I understand their need for coverage, but as someone who worked temp jobs when they were younger, it feels like a lie when a company cuts your contract short. Also I am aware that if I come back early and they agreed to a six week contract position they’ll have to pay to break contract, I don’t want that to be my fault.

      All in all, I believe what I’ll be doing is reiterating using the first part of Ms. Green’s script that I intend to take 2 weeks off barring complications. That I’ve spoken to my doctor and they’ve agreed it’s possible and assuming my condition is ok will be signing off on my return to work. I will also preemptively bring up my concerns regarding the tempnso if they choose to continue advertising it as a six week contract it’s their issue and not mine.

      Thank you again to everyone.

      1. Susana*

        LW, I’m so sorry you’re in this position, and of course wish you had more options available. But it really rankled me that your supervisors thought it was OK to comment AT ALL on your decisions about your family. Saying “the doctor” has to clear you? Why? Are you a pilot? This whole awful thing society does with women, mothers and pregnant women in particular, horrifies me. As if you are incapable or not allowed to make decisions on your own – it’s all ‘doctor’s orders,” or worse – some wait staff telling you you can’t have soft cheese or a glass of wine.

        It is not their business how you bond with your baby, and you are not someone’s property to be transferred from home to office with owner’s approval.

        Congratulations on your baby and I hope all goes well!

        1. Former Employee*

          It’s pretty common for a company to require an employee to be cleared by their doctor once they are out for more than a few days for something medical.

          1. RagingADHD*

            Yeah, that’s not a “woman having a baby” thing. That’s an “employee was hospitalized and out on medical leave” thing.

      2. Shenandoah*

        Wishing you an extremely boring rest of your pregnancy and an easy recovery, OP! Having your parent available for childcare is a lovely silver lining in an otherwise tough spot.

        Your letter was also a good reminder that it’s time to call my congress human and fuss at them about paid family leave. 60% of your pay is… something, I guess, but clearly not enough. No one should be at risk for losing their home for having a baby.

      3. Ellie*

        LW, I’m sorry that you have to go back so soon, but I’m glad you have your parent’s support. Knowing that you have reliable people who are looking after your baby, and who can make sure you get some sleep at night, will make a world of difference.

        You just need to be prepared that if its a bad labor, it might not be possible. But it sounds like you and your doctor are aware of all the possibilities.

        I really encourage you to tell your coworkers that you’re coming back for financial reasons, there still might be something that they can do to help you. At the very least it should shut them up about bonding. Or you could say that your baby will have a wonderful bond with their grandparents – it takes a village after all.

      4. KMG*

        I’m sorry you’re in this position, but it sounds like you’ve thought of all your options. I’m chiming in to say that if you don’t have complications at birth, your plan is certainly doable. I delivered 6 weeks early and had a baby in the NICU for a few weeks, so I went back to work one week postpartum and then took maternity leave once my son was home. I had an uncomplicated delivery (with the exception of going into labor early), so I was able to do this.

        This may have been said already, but if you live in Massachusetts, PFML also covers paid parental leave.

        Good luck and congratulations!

      5. Blackcat*

        I am sorry you are in this position.

        Are you already signed up for WIC? That will help substantially with food. Even if you’re breastfeeding (which would be hard going back at 2 weeks post-partum, but doable for some), you’ll need extra food. I ate ~1.5x my normal diet while breastfeeding. It was… a lot of extra food. If not breastfeeding, WIC often fully covers formula. You should also be able to talk to your OB about this–they may have resources to point you towards. My community has a mutual aid group that is often used by people in situations such as yours.

        I think their “knowing something you didn’t” is similar to a lot of folks–myself included–have posted in this thread. Your body may be pretty wrecked after birth. You don’t exactly want to tell a colleague “Your perineum or abdomen might have a ton of stitches in it, your boobs may be hard and leaking, and working like that will be unpleasant.”
        On that note, if you can acquire a doughnut pillow–the type advertised for broken tail bones–that will help a lot if you have a job where you need to sit. I see them given away frequently on my local “Buy nothing” FB group. I waited until I was 2 weeks post-partum to get one of those and it’s a huge regret of mine. Until I got that, I had to sit on very soft pillows. I know others have very different experiences, but after the first 3 or 4 days, I had no problem at all standing for long periods of time. I think I walked 2 miles the day I got out of the hospital. Sitting, though, was really rough.
        I really do hope you have an easy birth and are okay returning to work quickly. I just so wish you did not have to do it.

        1. Forrest*

          I vaguely remember the doughnut pillows are a bad idea after birth because they can cause blood to pool where you don’t want it? But I can’t remember whether I got that from any kind of medical source or, like, triplehand from some forum or something, so don’t take my word for it, look it up!

      6. Be Kind to Yourself*

        Thank you for chiming in. You seem thoughtful and strong, and if anything I said sounded patronizing, I apologize. For you to be coping with this incredibly tough situation and still have brain space to be concerned about the temp who might get their contract cut short suggests you are a kind person. I’d tell you that it’s OK to look out for number one (and little number one) right now, but it sounds like you’ve got a handle on that too.

        I’m going to guess that maybe your supervisors were trying to be kind too–caught off guard, they spluttered their way into “bonding” in order to avoid doing that rude thing so many people do when you are pregnant: “Oh make sure you have a backup plan because don’t you know how many women grow an extra eyeball in their forehead during labor and then my baby turned invisible and rolled under the sofa and I had to spend 6 weeks hunting for it, also here are other things that probably won’t happen but that you could like awake worrying about.”

        I wish you and your whole family everything good in the world. I’m glad you wrote in.

        1. inksmith*

          “then my baby turned invisible and rolled under the sofa and I had to spend 6 weeks hunting for it”

          That really made me laugh, thank you!

    1. Jackalope*

      Yes, just coming here to add this. And if you aren’t in one of the states mentioned already, it’s worth googling if you haven’t to see if that’s available in your area as well. Disregard of course if you have already checked.

    2. Lucky*

      Washington’s program is based on FMLA, so you can also get paid for your own or a family member’s medical leave.

  4. phira*

    I would absolutely check and see if there are any laws that require that you get paid time off for maternity leave. I went back 5 weeks postpartum the first time, and although we’re remote right now, I was back 10 DAYS postpartum the second time, and I … absolutely do not recommend it. Honestly, their argument that you need time to bond with your baby strikes me as patronizing, but in reality even with an uncomplicated birth, the more time you can have to focus on recovering and being a parent to an infant without a day-night cycle, the better. Good luck, and I’m sorry you’re in this situation! (The leave situation, not the baby situation, congrats on the latter!)

    1. Mellow Yellow*

      Seconding this, OP #2. Please see if there’s ANYTHING you can do to get any amount of paid leave. I’ve had two uncomplicated births but at 2 weeks PP I was still bleeding, could barely walk due to the stitches, and was averaging 4 hours of sleep (broken, not consecutive) per night. I’d have been useless at work.

      Best wishes for a smooth birth and recovery.

      1. Kim*

        I feel that maybe them saying ‘but you need to bond with baby!’ is them trying to (in their mind) tactfully tell LW2 that they don’t want to see her back that soon, for those reasons you describe. Just because you can be physically present two weeks postpartum doesn’t mean you’re able to be mentally present (exceptions exist, of course, but usually not without a nanny or other childcare option present.)

        LW2, I am so sorry you are dealing with this issue.

        1. Beth Jacobs*

          I mean, the need for childcare won’t be any lesser 6 weeks post patrum than two weeks post patrum. Kids don’t go off to college at six weeks :D
          Granted, childcare is easier (not easy) to find at 6 weeks than 2.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              I’ll throw out only the caveat to check by state – in my state they won’t take infants into daycares under 8 weeks.

              1. Momma Bear*

                This. Most childcare providers won’t take a child less than 6 weeks, but maybe OP has a relative or friend who will. The first weeks back my kid’s daycare didn’t have a slot (kid was early) so I had to find a friend to pitch in.

                1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

                  This! I had my child back in the 90’s and the Clinton law was still new. They had to give you time off but not pay you. I was a single mom 1 income household working retail. Boss and his wife generously gave me 1 week paid vacation about a month or two before I earned it. I was at work when my water broke. Had the kid on a Tuesday. Took the paid week off. Took Wen./Thurs. off unpaid and went in to work part time Fri./Sat. Was back to full time by Monday. Next door neighbor was a retired nurse and I paid her 2 days a week watch my baby, Left him with a relative on her days off. Where I work now you can have your baby with you at work until they hit 6 months. Well the pandemic has but pause to this. But I remember being so grateful for that 7 days paid vacation back in the day.

        2. ABK*

          yes. but then they should offer paid leave. They can’t simultaneously request that she take time off for everyone’s sake, but then not pay for that time off. uuurrgghhh

      2. Media Monkey*

        absolutely this. i think may just about have stopped bleeding by 2 weeks after (very uncomplicated but long labour) and was in no fit state to be working. really hope you can get them to agree to some more pad time off and good luck with everything!

      3. Elysian*

        Yeah, I know there are people who have to go back to work shortly after birth because they have to, but if you have any other options I really wouldn’t recommend it. Short term disability, any paid sick leave you have… I had two pretty uncomplicated births and I wasn’t able to sit properly after only two weeks. Even setting aside the sleep deprivation, it isn’t as much about bonding as it is about you healing. If you have to, you have to but… it could delay your own healing and would almost certainly be difficult to do any productive work.

        1. sunny-dee*

          I had two C-sections, and I was not allowed to drive for 3 weeks post-partum and that’s only because I healed so quickly. I have two friends who were well-nigh bedridden for a month after a C-section.

          And, I healed quickly, felt great – but 10 days post-partum with my daughter, I had a massive hemorrhage and ended up in ICU for 4 days and nearly died from blood loss. Childbirth is not a minor physical inconvenience – it takes a huge toll on you, even in the best of circumstances.

          1. CoveredInBees*

            Yes! This! I feel like this was heavily downplayed in all of the birth info I read and class I went to for my first birth. I tried to warn friends but many were certain they’d just sail through and be “back to normal” in a week or two. I think this mindset makes it so much harder to cope with all the changes that come from both delivering the child as well as becoming a parent for the first time.

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              I had so many ideas of what I’d do with my maternity leave – walks with baby! Read a book in the park with baby! Watch baby sleep and be in awe of the miracle of life! Visit friends who were available during the day! In reality though I spent 2 straight months desperately trying to calm a screaming infant and having my butt go numb from sitting on the couch nursing almost nonstop because that was the only reliable way to stop the screaming. 3 weeks in was the darkest time by far. Landed in the psych ER.

              We do parents a massive disservice when we downplay the realities of postpartum life. It also affects how willing folks are to advocate for decent parental leave because “it’s just childbirth; billions of people have done it before you so what’s the big deal?”

              That, however, doesn’t change the reality that OP2 also has her financial situation to deal with as well.

    2. Caroline Bowman*

      The whole ”you need to bond with your baby” spiel is just a badly-worded way for people to say ”it’s really a bad idea and too soon after what you have been and continue to go through during the first insane, amazing weeks after birth”. I know, it sounds patronising, especially if the person saying it is male, but often is simple ”don’t want to say something icky and inadvertently pervy / creepy so I’ll be all patronising instead”! I had to talk quite seriously to a much older, male senior person who was the soul of kindness, feminism and discretion, but who used to use phrases like this (and who, incidentally, insisted on the company extending family / mat leave far, far beyond what was legally required and leading the charge on home-working etcetera in an industry not known for that kind of thing).

      I truly and sincerely hope the OP is able to speak honestly to whoever is most applicable and to spell out that it’s financially not an option to remain unpaid for more than 2 weeks. That this is even a thing horrifies me, but as Alison has said, this is not helpful now. If I were the manager and heard that, I would move mountains to ensure that the OP had the barest minimum of 4-6 weeks off with some remuneration throughout, and even that would not be ideal.

      1. Batty Twerp*

        The way I read it is that OP’s boss is already pushing her to take 4-6 weeks off, so why would they think it’s okay to force (coz it came across as forceful, the repeated asking) her to be unpaid for that long. Do they force people to take unpaid vacations? Weird cost-saving measure?
        It might be that they already planned to pay her some maternity cover, but hadn’t outright said it because they were/are putting those plans in place. OP needs to speak up to clarify.
        (Not in the US)

        1. PollyQ*

          I suspect it’s simply that people who don’t have to worry about money don’t get that there are many people who do.

        2. Lady Meyneth*

          People with really good finantial situations take for granted a lot of things that are super stressful for others. OP should definitely clarify, and maybe there’s something they can do, but I don’t see the boss being malicious here.

          1. Momma Bear*

            100%. Be blunt with the boss that it’s a financial problem to take more time off. If this is so important to the boss, then they will work with OP on options.

        3. Observer*

          Another thing to think about is that is this:

          They are trying to plan for the OP’s absence. They have good reason, despite how it’s worded, to believe that she is NOT going to be able to come back after 2 weeks. So what are they supposed to do? Plan for 2 weeks and then scramble when it turns out that she can’t?

          I’m not saying that it IMPOSSIBLE that the OP will be back and functional at two weeks. But, it really IS unlikely and I cannot really blame them for trying to plan around a more realistic time frame.

          1. Name Required*

            What are they supposed to do? If they don’t want bleeding, sleep-deprived people dragging themselves into the office so they can earn a wage and not be evicted from their homes, then the employer needs to offer paid leave. The only explanation I can think of for not approaching this discussion directly — that it’s unlikely she’ll be able to physically return to work and that they would prefer for her to be at home and covered by another resource, so let’s plan for that — is that they don’t offer any type of paid leave and don’t want to directly say, “We expect you to take unpaid time.”

            It’s realistic to THEM that she won’t return, but people will do impossible things when it comes to surviving, and that will include returning to work 2 weeks postpartum to ensure that their baby continues to have a safe, warm home and food.

            1. Observer*

              No. Not at all.

              A LOT of women really, really cannot go back to work at two weeks. Period. Yeah, even when it means losing their jobs.

              There are a lot of reasons why the the OP’s management might not have been as straightforward as you suggest. A better question is why the OP was not more straightforward. And let’s be real. If the OP wants to be able to have a reasonable conversation with her boss, she is going to have to be very straight AND realistic.

              Right now, the OP is NOT being realistic. It’s totally reasonable that her boss thinks she’s being naive – she clearly does not realize what the likelihood is of there being a real problem. Now, if the OP knows that she is going to go back to work even if she’s not physically fit, that’s a different issue. But she needs to realize and acknowledge that this is a very real possibility.

              That’s why I have mixed feelings about the language that Allison suggests. It’s good in that it’s clear about the reason the OP is trying to come back so soon – and it’s a very, very important thing for them to understand. On the other hand it simply fails to acknowledge the reality that for most women coming back to work at 2 weeks is simply not a reasonable or realistic time frame, never mind “bonding”.

              1. Amtelope*

                I mean, “can’t afford” means “can’t afford.” It may not be “reasonable or realistic,” but if your other option is being unable to pay bills, and the employer doesn’t offer leave, yes, people will go back to work, even if they aren’t really physically fit to do so. “Not becoming homeless” is a powerful motivator.

                Clearly what the workplace should do is offer paid leave. But OP needs to pick the least awful choices of the choices she has. “Just lose your job” is not reasonable or realistic for someone who can’t afford to do that and still have a roof over their head and food to eat.

              2. Librarian of SHIELD*

                It’s likely that “the OP was not more straightforward” because we live in a culture where being poor is heavily shamed. Admitting that you can’t afford a thing that everybody expects you to be able to do is incredibly difficult, and I’m guessing the OP is already really frustrated and stressed out. I’m glad she reached out to Alison for a script, and I’m hoping she can sit down and have a more realistic conversation with her boss now so they can try to make a better plan.

                1. Nonny*

                  +1. She could be in a workplace where leadership is aghast. AGHAST. that anyone is actually there because they need money!

                  And I’ve hear a lot of stories of women going back to work 2 weeks postpartum because that’s what you have to do sometimes.

                  Personally, I was in no shape to go back after only two weeks postpartum, but if I absolutely HAD to? I could have dragged myself in and just did the best I could.

                  If the employer is so concerned about coverage, they can book a temp for a longer contract and if she does come back in two weeks, assign the temp to assist her or give them other work. It’s not like they don’t have options here.

              3. Name Required*

                OP has been very straightfoward, though. She has stated repeatedly that she will be returning after two weeks, and she has been laughed and patronized in return.

                1. CoveredInBees*

                  In the letter, it is not clear that she has said *why* she can’t take a longer leave than that. I know a number of first time moms who were certain they’d bounce right back by two weeks and anything longer than that is just staycationing.

          2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

            If the manager were writing in, I would tell them to plan to have the temp even after 2 weeks, regardless of whether OP is back or not. If they said “I can’t afford to pay them both,” I would raise my eyebrows real high and point out the hypocrisy in expecting a single employee, and a new mother, to shoulder the financial burden of NOT being paid and stay home so you can pay a temp. There might not be anything they can do about it, but that would be a signal to push for some paid leave for OP if possible, for everyone in the future for sure, and perhaps for some extra budget to pay the temp to assist OP in her first days back if his bosses absolutely won’t give her even a few weeks’ paid leave.

            I won’t go on to descending into arguing the benefits of paid parental leave and bemoaning the situation, but. I could.

            1. Name Required*

              Yeah, this seems like the very obvious consequence of not offering paid leave. If they don’t like the risk that poses them in being able to have reliable coverage for work tasks, then it sounds like they need to pony up funds to cover that risk. But they don’t get to have their cake and eat it too. I have zero sympathy to employers who treat pregnant people like children in lieu of having an upfront, professional conversation because they want the employee to shoulder the financial cost of their risk, a 100% predictable and known risk associated with hiring human beings, since most humans go on to procreate.

              1. AVP*

                And if they’re going to pay a temp and possibly commit more weeks to the temp than they strictly need to … sounds like there’s some budget there that might be able to go to OP instead?

    3. turquoisecow*

      Yeah I had a c-section (not planned, but not emergency either, it’s just the way it went) which I know takes longer to recover from but even though I was feeling mostly okay pain wise after two weeks there’s no way I would have been able to go to work at that point. Baby was still getting up every two hours and I was lucky to get any sleep at all. Maybe if there wasn’t a pandemic going on and I could have had my mom or my mother-in-law over to take the night shift, but yeah, I was exhausted.

      I really hope OP can qualify for some short term disability or something.

      1. NYWeasel*

        I had a completely uncomplicated birth and a baby that was sleeping through the night from very early on, and I still felt exhausted and unprepared to be back at work at 8 weeks (which was the maximum paid leave my company offered). OP, I totally get the “have to” nature of not being able to swing unpaid leave, and I’m sure if I had no other choice, I’d stumble through it, but I highly recommend looking into any options (disability, unused vacation day funds, etc) that might be available to you to extend it a little further. At just two weeks out, besides the enormous mental demands of suddenly being responsible 24/7 for a tiny, needy, occasionally frustrating new roommate, you’re also going to be in the midst of having your hormones readjusting back to “not pregnant”. I had a couple days where I was a sobbing mess, and that’s considered “typical” baby blues. There’s no way to predict ahead of time what your experience will be, which is a major reason why keeping your outside obligations as light as possible is best. Even at 8 weeks, it still was stressful, but exponentially easier nonetheless.

        1. turquoisecow*

          Oh yes. For the first month or so I was super anxious (probably made worse by the pandemic) and when my mother-in-law came over to meet the baby in the backyard and casually suggested taking her for a short walk, I freaked out about her not being with me. There was a lot of emotional stuff going on.

    4. DoubleE*

      I agree, the “you need to bond with baby” comment feels pretty patronizing. It’s also kinda sexist unless they’re also encouraging fathers to take paternity leave to bond with their babies.

      1. Momma Bear*

        I think it was poorly worded. Yes, the baby needs you but also women need time to recover. It’s not like going to the dentist. Most people have no idea what’s involved until they live it. There were certainly aspects of birth/posptartum that took me by surprise even thought I thought I’d planned well. The hormones are no joke.

        1. Le Sigh*

          Poorly worded, but also extremely patronizing when they don’t offer paid leave. They may very well be worried about her needing more time (and it might turn out to be very true), but they don’t have much standing here to push back when they don’t offer her the means to take more time off.

    5. Generic Name*

      In addition to laws, does your workplace offer paid vacation and sick time? In places I’ve worked, parents out on parental leave are asked to use up their paid sick and vacation time first before any disability leave gets paid out. If your company has HR, I suggest sitting down with them and asking them about how maternity leave works and explain that you absolutely cannot afford to be unpaid more than two weeks.

      Also, have you thought about plans for daycare? I only bring it up because many centers won’t allow babies younger than 6 weeks, so it’s good to have a plan now, if you haven’t already. Luckily, you’ve got time, and I’m sure you’ll get things figured out by the time baby arrives. :)

    6. Kimby*

      Yes, I 2nd this. The first month for me was less about bonding and entirely about me recovering and just trying to survive and adjust. The first month I felt like a zombie. While the worst of the pain (of a vaginal delivery) was over after the first week, I was bleeding for the next 3 weeks. And, the baby blues are real. I was crying every day for the first 2 weeks before it let up. (Also, I hate the name “baby blues” because it’s too cutesy of a way to refer to the very trying experience you go through). I really hope you can find some option that enables you to have more time. I only started feeling ready for work about 3 months after the birth which is when everything started feeling a little easier.

      1. CoveredInBees*

        After my first, I kept waking in full-fledged terror that I’d fallen asleep in my bed with the baby in my arms and he was now lost under the sheets. I once literally pulled the fitted sheet off my bed looking for him, as if a baby could fit there. Half the time, he was in the bassinet a foot away from my. When I worked up the courage to mention it to friends and my OB (thinking it was a symptom of psychosis), it was “normal baby blues”! What?! No one told me anything about that shit.

    7. Did I write this in my sleep?*

      I … just did this. My son is 11 weeks old on Saturday. I second that if there is anything you can do to give yourself even another week, I’d recommend it, but I also completely understand if you can’t. I couldn’t, as I’m an attorney with a niche practice essentially working for myself. If I don’t bill, I don’t get paid.

      What worked (ish) for me was something close to Alison’s script, ad nauseum, and then actually showing up as scheduled to take calls two weeks after my baby was born. Yes, I was sleep deprived and miserable and not in great physical shape. But it certainly shut them up when I picked up where I left off. And to be clear, some of my clients and colleagues really didn’t believe me, and kept relitigating the issue, but I was matter of fact and they eventually shut up about it.

      As a general PSA, I will just add that it made what was already a crappy situation SO much more difficult when I would hear my clients and colleagues say something like “oh, you should take more time! i bet you change your mind after you have him … you only get to have him as an infant once” crap. No. No I cannot change my mind. No I am not pleased about this. I am aware I am missing out on time with my baby, thank you for pointing it out to me. Yes, I do wish I were in a different situation, but this is my reality and you commenting in any way other than: “Ok, so we’ll plan for you to be out for two weeks around Thanksgiving, and will resume scheduling calls/expecting work product around the first of December” just made me something that I was already near tears about that much more painful. Ugh. Relitigating it 20 times over, plus every time I talked to one of my colleagues made it suck SO much more. I’ll be honest, I may or may not have snapped at a few of the more patronizing men … I’m not proud of it, but I’m not mad at myself, either.

      Good luck to you, OP! May you get the rarest of all babies (the early through-the-night-sleeper), and have an easy, uncomplicated delivery. :)

    8. Penny Parker*

      It is an issue of class how long a mother gets to stay with her child. My son was laid off the day before his wife was due with my granddaughter, and so he stayed home with the baby on unemployment while she went back to work in a physically demanding job when my granddaughter was only two weeks old. It is not uncommon at all for people who are struggling to not be able to stay home with their babies.

  5. Ellie*

    OP2 – is this your first baby? 2 weeks would have been doable when I had my second child, but no-way would it have been enough for my first. Honestly, I wouldn’t have been able to walk the distance from my car to my desk, and it would have been a bad idea to drive anyway with the kind of pain medication I was on. Your co-workers talk about bonding can feel patronizing when you have things like food and rent to consider, but its coming from a kind place. I’d recommend looking into whether you have any kind of paid leave at all, even disability leave. If they can’t help you out with that, then they really can’t argue with your timeline.

    1. KateM*

      Hah, I was alone for the first time (my husband had left to do some baby paperwork) with my two children about two weeks after the second was born. With first baby, it sounds way too optimistic to have been adjusted to living with baby after two weeks. What a sucky situation. :S

    2. mayfly*

      Yep, I’ve had three babies and only after baby #3 would it have been physically and mentally possible to return to work within a couple weeks. Baby #1 was an easy baby and good sleeper, but it was a traumatic birth. Baby #2 was an easier birth, but had awful reflux and didn’t sleep for more than an hour at a time.
      There’s a reason childbirth qualifies for STD.

  6. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

    OP #2: I’m so sorry that you’re in this situation. If you have the capital at work to do so, you might consider making them really feel what a terrible situation their lack of paid leave has put you in by asking things like can you work from home and/or bring your baby in with you for a few weeks to help with that bonding they’re so concerned about when it doesn’t involve financial loss on their part.

    You should also draft at least the bare bones of a plan for what you’ll do if you do need more time off to heal and have to make a short-term financial mess of things. I understand that you can’t afford it, so I mean things like researching which of your utilities are being flexible with waiving late payment penalties right now due to COVID so you know which bills to not pay for a month if you have to. (I think my water, electric, and gas companies have all waived late fees right now, and at least some of them aren’t shutting off accounts for non-payment right now even if you’re multiple months in arrears, so while you’d still have to come up with the entire payment eventually, it’d at least be an interest-free one month loan and possibly better than paying those bills by credit card. This is probably the kind of thing you can find out from their websites or possibly on your bills themselves. It’s also possible that the utilities would have hardship programs that you could apply for in that circumstance – “make sure the baby has heat” is the kind of thing that utilities and charities both may have programs in place to support.) You might also want to research any public assistance you might qualify for, and keep a list of how bad things would have to get before you’d qualify for other programs that you find. If you end up not needing any of that, you can just not use your research, but if things don’t go as planned it’d be nice to have a head start on handling the situation and a checklist to follow.

    1. Caroline Bowman*

      this is a good idea! Even just as hopefully-not-required research.

      If the OP is renting, speaking to the landlord and asking to defer a month’s rent to be repaid over months X-Y (maybe over 3 months or something) might work. It is very low-risk for the landlord (I myself have allowed it in certain defined circumstances and it’s never been an issue, especially if someone is a tenant in good standing who generally keeps their rent up to date). So you defer a given month, then pay normally the following month, THEN over the next 3 or whatever, divvy up the deferred month and thus the whole thing is settled in 5 months without causing undue hardship.

      Honestly though, I hope sincerely that once OP speaks plainly to her manager, that some kind of extra paid leave can be arranged or that they find they are in fact due far more than they imagined. My rule of thumb with maternity and parental leave is that if you get the offer of even 1 extra day, take it. Take all of it, it’s never, ever a waste.

      1. Willis*

        I work with city/county grant programs and a lot have opened up new lines of assistance for short-term rental payments and utility assistance because of covid. It could be worth googling to see if your area has something like that and getting some info about where to apply as a contingency plan if you happen to be out of work longer. In some cases it may be limited to people who lost jobs due to covid, but other places have temporary assistance programs designed for helping with when you can’t work because of a short-term medical issue. And their income limits are often a lot higher than for something like food stamps.

    2. Language Lover*

      This is excellent and practical advice.

      I have a few friends who went through med school so I’ve heard stories (not from them) of women who returned quickly from having a baby so they didn’t delay their graduation/getting their license. But I’ve also known women who intended to return faster than they were physically able to.

      Having a baby is usually a happy thing so people want to believe the first weeks after birth are all about bonding with the baby. While that usually happens, a woman is also recovering from a serious medical procedure or event. Not enough focus gets put on that.

      As with any medical procedure, some people recover faster than others so having a plan in place is smart.

      As for the LW, tell your work that you plan to return in two weeks. Final. And in two weeks, if you’re still set on coming back, call them up and let them know. You’re not responsible for them figuring out what they’re going to do with a temp.

      1. Jenny*

        Giving birth also has a serious affect on your brain. I had surgery so I was given medication for that, but I literally had trouble telling time for a week+ after my son was born. I had to use an app to remember how long it had been between feedings. I definitely wouldn’t have mentally been able to work 2 weeks out.

        1. Midwestern Weegie*

          I swear, I lose 20 IQ points temporarily after giving birth. It seems to slowly come back, but for the first few months after giving birth, I was a disaster. I’d forget words, I’d lose my train of thought mid-way through a sentence, I could not keep track of belongings. Baking is one of my main hobbies, and I had to give it up for a few months each time because I could not follow recipes (banana bread with only half the flour the recipe calls for is particularly inedible). It was rough, and I had very easy, uncomplicated deliveries, and very easy babies with pleasant postpartum periods, for the most part. My brain just temporarily turns into swiss cheese.

          Thankfully, we could survive on one income and savings for 12 weeks, because I’m pretty sure I’d have been a liability at work a few weeks out.

        2. turquoisecow*

          My husband and I have an app to keep track of how long between feedings and diapers and it is so helpful because even 5 months in, we have so much going on. I can’t tell you how many times baby will fuss and I’ll say “I just fed her, she can’t be hungry!” but the app will reveal it’s actually been quite a while and she is right to be hungry. We started off just with a shared note but the app is super helpful and I would recommend it to anyone having a baby. Now when we hand off the kid, we don’t have to tell one another when the last feeding and diaper were, we can just see for ourselves.

      2. Jackalope*

        One of the other things that gets overlooked is that most of the time when you’ve gone through a serious medical event that is not childbirth, you don’t immediately become completely responsible for a 100% helpless new human with little concept of adult sleep schedules. Most surgery you can rest afterwards but not as much with a c-section, for example.

        All of this to support the advice earlier. It may not be affordable but your body may also give you no choice in the matter, so figuring out options before the baby comes will be helpful so you aren’t trying to guess what bills you can miss or what have you immediately post partum.

      3. Forrest*

        “bonding with a baby” in the first few weeks isn’t necessarily a “happy” thing in my experience! I mean, of course it’s joyful and wonderful in some ways, but “bonding” is really another word for adjusting to the fact that your physical and emotional needs are entirely subsumed to those of this tiny, unbelievably vulnerable and needy creature and that your entire world will end if you get it wrong. Like, I’m obviously not speaking for everyone, but my first 10-12 weeks with my elder were mostly non-stop terror. That’s not true for everyone, but it’s not SO unusual.

        1. micklethwaite*

          Yes, this – it is amazing but what it mostly consisted of for me is the steepest learning curve of my life, while recovering from the most intense physical experience of my life, and enduring the most severe sleep deprivation of my life. Bonding with a baby sounds cosy and lovely, and there are those moments, of course – but it is INTENSE and it is hard work. Extremely hard work.

          1. micklethwaite*

            (And I had a pretty easy birth with no complications and a healthy baby. Nothing went wrong! Having a baby is just a really big deal.)

        2. MsSolo*

          For the first 6 weeks ‘bonding’ was just a checklist of things I had to do to make sure the baby stayed healthy (and for my husband it was a checklist of making sure I stayed healthy!) and a vague sense of achievement at the end of each day I could tick off as “baby still functioning”. It didn’t really feel like actual bonding until 6-8 weeks, when she start smiling, and the goalpost could finally be a measurable “baby happy”.

          1. Forrest*

            I would agree except the concept of the “end of each day” was entirely non-existent and that was one of the things I found hardest!

            1. Pigeon*

              Forrest, I wish I could “like” your posts because you captured that postpartum period so accurately! Oof.

    3. Forrest*

      I completely agree with this, and also “Assuming I have an uncomplicated birth” is a BIG “assuming”. You can have a relatively straight-forward birth and still not be anywhere near fit enough to walk a few hundred yards, drive, and sit at a desk for six hours (or whatever your work entails) at 2 weeks pp.

      I completely understand how frustrating it is to feel that you’re not being “believed”, and how patronising your, “haha, they all say that, you’ll find out!” feels. But shifting it around, it is completely reasonable for your work to have a contingency plan in place for you to be out for longer than 2 weeks, because there’s probably a 40-60% chance that this is not something you have control over.

      I hope you can find some options that make a longer leave a possibility.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        I agree; that assumption would not set me at ease as a manager. There’s a very good chance that complicating factor arise. These needn’t be major, life-threatening complications, but in my experience birth plans that go awry are more common than straightforward deliveries with an easy recovery (not to say the latter doesn’t exist – it absolutely does).

        1. EPLawyer*

          What is the saying “Life is what happens when you are making other plans.”

          Also “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.”

          I’m just full of cute little sayings today aren’t I?

          OP, I get you NEED to come back after 2 weeks. But you might not be able to. Your whole plan hinges on an uncomplicated birth. If that doesn’t happen, you need a plan in place financially. Hopefully can get some paid maternity leave because the last thing you have to worry about it how to pay your bills while recovering from giving birth and caring for a tiny little human that cannot fend for themselves.

          1. Natalie*

            I’ll add one: people plan, god/the universe laughs.

            My workplace added paid leave literally 1 month before my due date and, it turned out, 2 weeks before I was induced. I had a vague plan before that, but in retrospect I’m so, so happy I just had a regular old paycheck coming and didn’t have to stress about every pizza we ordered or emergency Amazon swing purchase (and if they had offered overnight shipping I would have gladly cashed in a small 401k to pay for it).

            I hope you can ask for what you need, OP, and get it.

      2. londonedit*

        Totally. I don’t have children, but when my sister had her baby, it was a few weeks before Christmas and she now says she has pretty much zero memory of anything that happened over that Christmas holiday. There’s absolutely no way she could have been at work during that time.

      3. UKDancer*

        Definitely. I think if I had a member of staff saying they wanted to come back after 2 weeks I’d want a contingency plan because I’d worry they might not be physically ready and able. In my last team a member of staff had a baby and was quite unwell afterwards for a period of time.

      4. Blackcat*

        Yeah. My son’s birth was “uncomplicated” but I had a third degree tear which obviously involved A LOT of stitches in places where you do not want stitches. I was physically in a lot of pain until ~3 weeks after birth. Honestly, I was in more pain at the 2 week mark than the 12 hour mark.

        I know this sucks. But having to be out longer *without* a contingency plan will suck even more. A contingency plan for bills and such needs to be in place. I agree with others who suggest looking into various forms of assistance to help with this.

      5. kt*

        Yeah. I remember shuffling into Target to buy another nursing bra at about 4 weeks, bursting into tears, and turning around just past the metal detectors & calling my husband to come back and get me rather than parking because I realized I couldn’t walk that far.

    4. anonymous 5*

      I like this, but I’d also add, “…and then present to your employer the results of this research and point out that the lack of paid leave is what necessitated it.” From the sounds of it, the higher-ups are not going to clue in on the real problem here if LW2 merely asks for things like a WFH option. Alison’s “…unless there’s paid leave available…” part is really key here.

      The emergency assistance programs are certainly good to know about; and it would be *very* wise for LW2 to have as comprehensive of a list as possible before giving birth in case they become necessary. But the employer should not be allowed off the hook just because public assistance exists.

    5. Shenandoah*

      Excellent advice all around. As much as COVID will allow, I would also recommend engaging your family/community to help with things like dropping off meals. Take as much off your plate as possible so that you can focus on your recovery and your baby in whatever leave you’re able to take. Don’t try to push yourself in that leave period – I felt really terrible that I was not “bouncing back” right away, and when I talked to my midwife about it, she told me that my experience was very common.

      Get as many recovery supplies as you can from the hospital – 10 days out, I was still using a peri-bottle after using the restroom. It may be helpful to have one of those that you take to work. Ditto with the ice packs or make your own padsicles.

      Also – do you have a private place at work where you can cry? One postpartum thing that surprised me was how much I cried at the drop of a hat and I did not have postpartum depression. A sad song on the radio, a cute puppy on an ad, etc. etc. I would have felt embarrassed if my coworkers had seen some of that, so would recommend finding a couple of hiding places you can have those emotions privately, if needed.

    6. Elysian*

      This is incredibly excellent advice. Have a financial Plan B, even if it means setting out which bills are priorities and which are… lower priorities. Make those decisions now, when you aren’t on pain meds and sleep deprived. Hope to never use the Plan B.

      It is hard to underestimate how little critical thinking you can do shortly after the birth of a child. I ran out of Tylenol after the birth of my kiddo and cried for days because I hurt so bad, but it wasn’t until around 6 weeks that I realized, Hey I could have used Instacart or something to order to the world’s most expensive Tylenol delivery. The fact that I had options (even bad ones) didn’t even occur to me at the time. So yeah, come up with Plan B now, don’t wait until you need it.

    7. Betty*

      One thing to be aware of with the advice to look into short term disability coverage is that, at least in my case, I couldn’t elect to get that once I was already pregnant (or at least, my postpartum leave wasn’t covered). Thankfully I work for a small business that was in the process of revising our benefits package and my employer updated their plan to pay for it for everyone, which meant my pregnancy was covered– but I would have been SOL if that wasn’t an option for them.

      Wishing you a safe and healthy arrival for your new baby!

      1. Carol*

        Yeah, this–by the time you’re actually pregnant it’s too late to actually get the disability leave to cover anything related to the pregnancy. At my company I would have had to buy into the policy at least a year in advance of being pregnant for them to cover anything pregnancy related.

        I think the plan would also have only been something like 1/2 pay, 2/3 pay, I don’t remember. If you don’t make much, that could still leave you not affording to miss that full paycheck.

    8. Third or Nothing!*

      Fantastic advice. It’s basically what I was planning to write too! My daughter was extra super colicky and never stopped screaming for her first 2 months of life. Physically, I recovered quickly from her birth, but mentally I was not in a good place until many months later. Definitely wasn’t prepared for that.

      OP2, please invest the time and energy into making a Just In Case plan. You may not need to use it, but you also might need it, and having a plan in place and ready to go will ease a lot of burden during a stressful time should you actually need to enact it.

      In the meantime, remain firm and matter-of-fact about returning in two weeks. I like Alison’s suggested script – it really drives the point home that if they’re truly so concerned about how much leave you take then they should put their money where their mouth is without actually coming out and saying that.

  7. Maggie*

    I second these comments. Since people say “I can’t afford it,” and they mean, “if I don’t work, I’ll have to rack up tons of credit cards debt and borrow money from family” while other people mean, “I have no credit to max out and no family to ask and will end up homeless.” Those are incredibly different. My first birth was not uncomplicated. Day 10 my daughter had only been home from the NICU for 4 days and was still in a biliblanket. My body was leaking fluids–my work would not have been physically even possible. I racked up a lot of medical debt, and credit debt, and payment plans. Yes, it took me 3 years to pay it all off. But I could “afford” to not work by means if debt, and that was vital to both me and my child physically not dying. Don’t underestimate what you’re up against. Take Medicaid help, take DHS help, take all the assistance you are entitled to after working.

    1. MsSolo*

      Yes, this is my thoughts. I had a pretty easy birth and a healthy baby, and at six weeks I was still bleeding and struggling to regain continence. If you have a job that requires you to go into an office, at two weeks you soon most certainly won’t be safe to drive, and you’ll be taking hourly bathroom breaks to save their chair!

      The reason six weeks is considered a minimum is because for most women that /is/ the best case scenario – easy birth, baby that feeds well, starts sleeping in up to four hour chunks by six weeks.

      It’s not that two weeks is impossible, but your talking lottery-winning odds to do it. If you have a very easy birth, a very healthy baby, a very supportive partner, and can work from home with reduced hours (or the understanding that you’ll be working in one hour chunks at all times of day and night) it might be doable, but that’s a lot of ifs. You really need to plan for other scenarios, even if you never have to use it. It’s much easier to handle debt if you’re not trying to access credit when you’re still on heavy pain meds.

    2. MeTwoToo*

      It really is a horrible position to be in. And to add on to that, many daycares won’t take an infant at less than 4-6 weeks old. If you don’t have family to help, what then?

      1. Deliliah*

        Perhaps she and her partner work different shifts. This is what my parents did when I was born. My dad worked days and my mom worked nights.

    3. Maggie*

      Overall, my ability to accrue debt was undoubtedly better than the situation many new mothers are in. Now is a good time to research and apply for a low or no interest credit card and switch to a credit union instead of a bank with high fees/penalties. Call existing credit accounts, tell them you’re paying a major purchase, and ask for a credit limit increase now, while you have an easily verifiable income. Find moms’ groups online where older mothers will gladly give you items they no longer need for free. Join a church and be open to accepting home cooked meals and help. Print out the application for state assistance and have it ready so if your income drops below the requirements, you’re ready to apply because the application might take weeks to process. LW, I am rooting for you, AND it is not any kind of a failure to use these supports in early days.

  8. Gingerblue*

    I have nothing substantive to add; I just want to note my love for “The Barley Basement”.

  9. Reve*

    That’s almost like finding out a coworker writes fanfiction online. It may intrigue others more and will create more interest or just like a comment above stated, express goodwill interest and not be brought up again unless you bring it up.

    1. Reve*

      Oh to clarify, the fanfiction bit is more of a personal experience with a coworker and not anyway a judgement of the medium

    2. L*

      I was curious if someone would mention fanfiction. The advantage of that is the rating system. E for Explicit, for example. I do miss that in regular publising.

      1. L*

        By this comment I meant it would be much easier for the LW to just send her colleages a link and they could read the description and rating and deciding for themselves whether they wanted to read it or not, no somewhat-awkward conversation needed. Not as easy with a published book.

      2. Queer Earthling*

        I seriously wish that fiction had a system like AO3, where they had a rating system and a tagging system so you could see in advance that there were things to avoid (or things you seek out). It would make it easier for everyone!

  10. Jenny*

    OP2 since they’re pushing you to take 6 weeks, push back and ask about any leave policies, leave banks, or policies. They’re opening the conversation, so use it to push back.

    If there’s any way you can possibly find a way to take more leave, please set it up. I say this as someone who was supposed to have an uncomplicated birth literally right until I was pushing and I needed an emergency C section. 2 weeks after my son was born, I couldn’t walk properly and I wasn’t cleared to drive. Your doctor cannot promise you that you will be physically okay at 2 weeks. Find anything you can to be ready to take more leave.

    1. doreen*

      I don’t know that they’re pushing her to actually take the six weeks as much as they’re making their plans assuming that she will be gone six weeks. In the jobs I’ve had, a two week absence ( like a vacation) requires someone else covering very time sensitive situations in the work assigned to me – that person wouldn’t be covering my entire job, because a fair amount of tasks have a much wider window to be completed. For example, I have to approve performance evaluations within a two month window – if I’m out for two weeks, they can wait until I return, if I’m out for two months I can’t. Other reports have a one month window. So coverage for a week or two of vacation is different from coverage for a two month absence.

      1. MsClaw*

        To me, them asking if she’s taking 6 or 12 weeks makes me think they are assuming she’s eligible for SDI and FMLA. Obviously, that doesn’t cover every workplace or every worker, but the OP should definitely check what coverages she has. I did what most people I know did — took 6 weeks of disability (I had paid in so I got 100% of my pay instead of 2/3) and then the additional 6 weeks unpaid under FMLA. I absolutely understand that not everyone can afford to do the unpaid time. But the OP should absolutely look into whether her employer provides some level of SDI for all employees.

        1. IDK*

          Yes, this. At least look into if you have SDI or FMLA before going back. It may or may not be enough to allow you to stay home longer, but at least check. Also, make sure your childcare provider will accept a 2 week old. In my area, they all require the child to be at least 6 weeks. GL!

      2. Anon mom*

        Yes. I was just getting discharged from the hospital for the second time when my baby turned 2 weeks old. The adult diaper situation alone would have kept me from being able to work 2 weeks out. Please please please have a contingency plan. L&D and the newborn phase are SO MUCH HARDER than people typically talk about.

    2. Super Duper Anon*

      I second this. I had what most people would think was an uncomplicated birth, I labored without complications and my twin babies exited my body in a safe manner and were perfectly healthy and happy upon arrival into this world. Me? I started bleeding as the first baby was making her appearance and didn’t stop. I passed out (luckily while lying down) and my blood pressure crashed and had to have a blood transfusion. That lead to me being in hospital a few extra days to recover while being mostly bedridden. That led to me getting a blood clot in my leg because I had been immobile for two long, so I had to go back to the hospital every day for a week to get blood thinners and then go a lab often to get my blood checked to adjust my medication as I needed it.

      All this to say, none of this was predicted, I thought I would have an easy birth and walk out of hospital a day or so later with my babies, but stuff happens. There would have been no way I would have been able to go back to work two weeks later.

      1. A girl has no name*

        Just want to reassure you that that was not an uncomplicated birth. You have every right to be affected by it.

    3. EngineerMom*

      I’ve given birth twice. Both were considered “uncomplicated”. I was in good physical shape prior to each birth. No way would have returning to work at 2 weeks post-partum have been possible.

      Giving birth is like running a marathon and then being in a car crash to your pelvic region. Some women recover really quickly, but most of us don’t. You won’t actually know how your body will respond until you’ve gone through it.

      Please, please do research to find out any and all ways to extend your leave (ask for paid maternity leave coverage, find out if you are eligible for various programs, contact your utility companies to find out if they’re waiving late fees so you can skip a payment, contact friends/families or local charities/churches to find out if you can get a few weeks of meals (meal trains are very, very common!) or even temporary help with bills (many churches will just pay an electrical, water, or plumbing bill if you bring it in and explain the circumstances). Just stretching the leave out to 4 weeks or ideally to 6 weeks will give you a buffer to physically heal and establish some kind of routine with your baby, which will make going back to work a little easier.

      As for the comment to “bond with baby” – ick. I get it, but yeah, that smacks very much of “only mama can properly care for babe”. It took me months to bond with my first child, because the birth was such hard work, he was an unexpected pregnancy very early in our marriage, and frankly in part because I had so little support (hours from family, first of my friend group to have a baby, etc.)

      I highly recommend checking out mom groups like MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers – really moms of all ages!). There are groups for working moms that can help provide a lifeline of support, both practical and emotional.

      1. Amy*

        I just want to throw in that I had a super complicated birth with an urgent c-section and a hemorrhage that almost required a transfusion. 14 days later, I was not having bleeding, was not on pain meds, was tired from the feeding schedule, but not too bad to function (4 months was way worse than 2 weeks, and the 7 year old insomniac worse than all of the baby stuff), but able to sit or walk. I didn’t drive myself anywhere until week 3, but that’s because I had so many volunteers to drive me places.

        I absolutely would’ve been able to return to work at 2 weeks if I’d had child care, especially if I was financially motivated. it would’ve been hard & heart-breaking, but 100% possible. A lot of people here are telling the OP that she won’t be able to do what she’s planned to do, which isn’t helpful at all…she already knows what’s necessary and has likely made the appropriate plans.

        I just want to add my 2¢ that it will be doable, even if the birth isn’t 100% uncomplicated.

  11. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    I’ve given birth three times, ranging in difficulty from four pushes to 52 hours plus haemorrhage.

    Even after the easiest, I was basically asleep in bed for most of the first week afterwards. Many cultures enforce or strongly recommend a week or two of nesting – this is where modern meal trains and, yes, maternity leave come from.

    I would urge LW to consider two weeks a minimum, requiring a very supportive co-parent/partner taking the majority of the strain as far as baby’s needs are concerned, freeing you as the birthing parent to recover from that (the hormone changes alone are drastic). As soon as you add any of the very common circumstances such as PPH, busy/unsupportive partner, unsettled baby, jaundice, colic, etc etc, those two weeks start to stretch out.

    What are your childcare plans for baby? Assuming you are not having a planned section, you won’t know your baby’s arrival date until after the fact, and two weeks may not be sufficient notice for a start date.

    All that said, it may well be possible for you to do *some* work two weeks after delivery. Perhaps you could discuss a phased return if the financials are the chief concern. Can you WFH? Could you get by on 30% pay? 50%?

    1. ACM*

      This last point is valid. I think I would’ve been able to get a couple of hours of work a day done at 2 weeks postpartum. Maybe even as many as four on a good day. Just remembering how my husband and I played video games while baby fed/napped, that probably could’ve been work. (From my couch, in total disarray and different levels of clothedness, so def no video calls.)

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Working when the baby is very small is much easier than when they’re a bit older because they sleep a lot, if only in short bursts (glares at eldest) and don’t do much when they’re awake beyond feed and kinda lie there. Many WFH jobs are absolutely compatible with a young infant, particularly if the employer is happy to receive work product when it’s done and not a strict 9-to-5.

        I would definitely recommend to LW to look into this kind of option (reduced hours WFH) as the best compromise between physical recovery and financial stability.

        But most importantly I think LW will only be successful if she has crucial people in her corner: baby’s other parent, or another adult who lives with her and will take on a significant (>50%) proportion of the care responsibilities; and understanding management. It sounds as though her bosses are at least partway there on the second half, which gives us more confidence than if they’d nodded along with her two-week plan and sternly reminded her not to miss the monthly Oatmeal Review even if it falls during her labour.

        1. Natalie*

          Indeed, because I was working from home due to the pandemic, I worked around my daughter’s sleep schedule until she was about 6 months old. I actually really enjoyed it! I was able to be home and spend time with her while she was awake, and it gave the rest of my day structure, adult conversation, etc which otherwise would have been harder to find with everything closed.

        2. RagingADHD*

          Yeah, the tradeoff there is the baby is easier to handle, but the hormones and sleep deprivation wreck your brain more. A lot depends on how much concentration the work requires, and how susceptible you are to the brain fog.

          1. Natalie*

            That’s true. Depending on the exact nature of the work, it would be good to discuss this with their manager now. There could be tasks OP wouldn’t normally do, but would be easier, less time sensitive, etc to take on from home, even on a part time capacity.

      2. Nicotene*

        Especially with WFH situations, I have had friends who were able to put in a few hours of work a day within a few weeks of the baby’s birth – they read emails while they nursed, etc. With a supportive partner it may be possible to do a little more. It sucks but I totally understand that funds aren’t optional sometimes.

        1. Blackcat*

          Yeah. As someone in academia, I am decidedly pissed about having to resubmit a paper at 4 weeks post-partum (they had a 4 week deadline on the R&R and it came back the day my son was born… and “I just gave birth” was apparently not an acceptable excuse to journal editors) even years after the fact.

          But it was easier then than it would have been months later. The sleep deprivation was bad, but my brain fog was actually worse starting after about 6 weeks when the cumulative impacts of sleep deprivation kicked in. 5-6 weeks is also when his colic kicked in…

          I used a wrap carrier to strap the baby to me, swayed back and forth, and he slept while I worked from home on a make-shift standing desk. It was doable. Intensely unpleasant, but doable, even with 25 stitches in my crotch.

          1. Nicotene*

            More than one mom has said that the newborn stage is actually a little more productive than the later, more interactive stage, where they get into things and want to be actively played with! … I would assume the mom’s health is the reverse though :(

    2. Picard*

      I’ve had one kiddo, easy uncomplicated pregnancy, easy uncomplicated birth. I run my own business so I was back at work as soon as I got out of the hospital. (By back at work, I mean answering emails/phone calls, handling PR, etc) Luckily, most of what I did could be WFH but I still had client meetings etc. It was not easy but it also was not impossible. I had a mothers helper that I paid (ahem under the table) minimum wage whose job it was to keep up with the kiddo and bring them to me for feedings etc. In the middle of a pandemic, I’m not sure how applicable this is to your situation. Do you have a partner that can help? Family?

      I think a lot of suggestions need to take into account the TYPE of work you do. If you’re working the floor of Wally’s world vs standing a production line screwing on widgets vs sitting at a desk answering phone calls… all of those require different levels of energy and physical presence.

      I think you’ve gotten some great suggestions about how to push back at work AND prepare by researching community resources. I really hope that everything works out for you. Please update when you can!

  12. rudster*

    Who’s going to be taking care of the baby after the two weeks? Day cares have a lower age limit for infants, typically 6 weeks, so that leaves family or a private nanny/nurse. LW definitely needs to check into whether any providers in her area will even take a child as young as two weeks – I think she might be unpleasantly surprised. As others have mentioned, it’s very common for new mothers to go on short-term disability with their employer for 6 weeks (the customary limit for such policies), so LW should definitely look into that. The doctor will absolutely sign off on it, and unless the workplace is unusually family-unfriendly, it should be fine with them, as this is done all the time.

    1. ACM*

      This – if she’s this close I’m sure she has looked into it, but with COVID a lot of daycares are taking even *fewer* children, and even before COVID a lot of daycares started raising the upper limit on the ages they were willing to take, since the personnel-baby ratio has to be so high and thus a money-suck. For infants of 2 weeks it’d have to be 1-1 basically, since the person taking care of the baby would basically be a parent stand-in. In the country I live in, the legal ratio for children 4 months to 12 months (daycares don’t take newborns under 4 months) is 1 adult to 3 babies, and there’s a very good reason for it.
      — Signed, the person who 7.5 months ago thought “I don’t see what the big deal is, don’t babies basically sleep all day?”

      1. Kali*

        I assumed her partner was prepared to be a stay-at-home parent – maybe they get better leave or are unemployed due to the ongoing crisis? – or she had some similar arrangement with another relative.

        1. Nicotene*

          Yeah I’m not sure what to make of comments suggesting that Only Mommy can provide childcare. That is … not how it works in my culture.

      2. Green great dragon*

        A lot of comments here are assuming that as the mother, she’ll be the one getting up at night, doing all the childcare etc. Maybe she is, but on the other hand maybe she isn’t.

        1. doreen*

          She might not be doing all the childcare- but I’d be really surprised if her sleep isn’t interrupted even if someone else is doing the actual childcare. And the fact that my husband was doing the diaper changing and feeding didn’t make me less sleep deprived when I was waking up a couple of times a night.

          1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

            Yes. It’s amazing what hormones will do.

            My partner often got up with our daughter in order to help me rest during the early days — but even so, for first 4 weeks of her life I would bolt upright every 2-3 hours or so, full of adreneline, and often struggle to fall back asleep despite being exhausted.

            It was like a month of that sort of sleep you have when you know you’ve got to wake up at 3:00am to make a 6am flight — this restless, tense sort of sleep.

            1. Name Required*

              I get the point of comments trying to counterbalance gender norms by pointing out that mothers aren’t always the primary caretakers of children, and I appreciate them. There’s also room for acknowledging that pregnancy and childbirth have unique and substantive effect on the human body that means that the parent who has carried and birth the child will have a very different experience postpartum than the parent who did not, even if they are splitting childcare tasks equitably. When we don’t acknowledge that difference, we can’t accommodate it in the workplace.

              We don’t need the pendulum to swing from assuming the mother will take care of the child completely to the opposite side of assuming that mom will be a-ok just because she isn’t assuming the lion’s share of childrearing tasks.

        2. Observer*

          No. Even if mom is not nursing AND they have a partner who can take up a lot of the childcare, two weeks is just a really, really short time for most women to be able to be back at work full time.

          And in most scenarios where a mother really cannot afford to be away from work for more than two weeks, the likelihood of having the kind of support and assistance that really takes the burden of childcare off of her is not all that likely. Not impossible, but unlikely enough that it’s a reasonable starting place. And given that the OP’s plans are based on some fairly unrealistic assumptions, it’s worthwhile for people to point this out to her so she can starting thinking about how to deal with this.

          1. Jennifer*

            I’m sure she knows that she is going to need childcare. Just because she can’t afford to be off work for more than two weeks doesn’t mean that can’t have a loving, supportive partner or an extended family that’s willing to pitch in. That’s a very classist assumption. There are other forms of support beyond financial.

            1. sunny-dee*

              The childcare issue is a big one that a lot of people don’t realize – it’s not unreasonable to point out.

              But, best case, assuming that she has the world’s easiest delivery and no complications, and she’s not breastfeeding, and she has a husband or family who will take care of the baby while she recovers – at two weeks, I was still in the “drying out my milk” phase, and it was incredibly painful. And I didn’t have my hormones even kind of level out until 3 weeks.

              There is just a lot that your body goes through.

              1. Jennifer*

                I’m sure it’s difficult. That doesn’t mean that women don’t do it out of necessity every single day.

                1. sunny-dee*

                  Yes, but those are very much the minority. Over 75% of women who return to work *don’t* return at 2 weeks. And about 40% of women don’t return at all (meaning, quit and take extended time off). If you go by statistics, of 100 pregnant working women, only about 14 will return to work at 2 weeks. The odds are that the OP will need to plan for something else.

                  And this isn’t a class thing. My nanny ended up quitting her job at daycare when she was in her third trimester and didn’t work until her daughter almost 4 months old (and she came to work for me and she can bring her daughter). She was afraid of covid and would rather go on welfare and borrow from her family. And then she took time to recover after childbirth. Sometimes life and physical health doesn’t leave you a ton of options.

                2. Jennifer*

                  @sunny-dee Your nanny had to go on welfare and you don’t see this as a class thing? I’m at a loss.

                  The point is a lot of those women had to go back to work because they had no other options and they had to pay their bills.

                3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

                  @Jennifer — I think sunny-dee was trying to point out that even if people are in a financial bind, they may be forced to stop working.

                  Tone often gets lost in online discussions, and I think some of the ‘1 in 4 women’ comments could be read with a implication of: “where there’s a will, there’s a way,” suggesting that women could chose to power through the physical impacts of childbirth — but in a lot of cases, they can’t, no matter how dire the financial worst case scenario is.

                  To be clear: I DON’T think that’s what commentors are trying to say, but that’s my sense of what sunny-dee is responding to.

                4. sunny-dee*

                  I should clarify – the welfare thing was before I hired her. She worked at a daycare and didn’t want the covid exposure. Now, she’s been working in my home and has her child here (so, no exposure and no additional childcare costs).

                5. sunny-dee*

                  @Dumplings – yes, that is exactly what I was trying to say. Sometimes people in truly dire financial straits still have physical complications that prevent them from working. It’s not a luxury of the rich or something.

                  The point of mentioning how difficult this can be is to let the OP know that there is a very, very good chance that fate may have different ideas than she does, and it would be really useful to have a plan B.

                6. Forrest*

                  Just as an FY and not singling anyone out in particular, there are a lot of “husband” & “mom” comments in this bit of the thread. I’m a mum in a lesbian family and it’s pretty alienating to see mum = birthing parent, assumptions of heterosexuality and that everyone who carries a pregnancy and gives birth is a woman.

              2. Dahlia*

                I think people realize if they have a baby and go to work, someone has to be there to watch the baby. I don’t think most people plan to leave a newborn alone for 8 hours a day.

                1. never comments*

                  sunny-dee: I’m not sure where you are getting those numbers. I’ve read multiple articles that state that 75% of women in the US return to work within 2 weeks after giving birth. That’s a quarter of new moms working within 2 weeks of work- while yes it’s less than half, it’s disingenuous to call this the minority. Besides the unique outlier (remember the yahoo CEO) these women return to work because they have to. It is definitely a “class thing.” Your example of your nanny having to find public assistance and borrow from family proves this. And yikes are you really saying not a class thing after mentioning your nanny going on welfare. Do we see the irony??

                2. Observer*

                  @never, all of those articles are quoting one single study. And there are tons of problems with that study. On the other hand there are others studies that show significantly different results. I linked to something from the NIH in another comment.

                3. doreen*

                  And assuming it’s the study I was able to find information about , it was based on a survey of a total of 2852 employees including 93 women who had taken leave to care for a new baby in the past year. – I don’t think you can extrapolate from 93 women to the whole US.

                4. sunny-dee*

                  @never comments – that’s 75% of the women who return to work. A lot of women choose not to return to work immediately. The Atlantic article says 43%, but I don’t know where she got those numbers:

                  I’ve consistently read 40-50% of women don’t return from maternity leave.

                  I think there’s a lot of wiggle room in those numbers, but a lot of women who go on mat leave simply don’t come back or leave shortly for a lot of the reasons that we’re pointing out to the OP.

                  Assuming all of these numbers are ballpark accurate, then 40% of women don’t go back to work. Of the 60% who do, then only 23% of those go back within 2 weeks, which translates into 14% of the initial group.

            2. Observer*

              That’s a very classist assumption

              Actually what is classist is your assumptions about the matter. Seriously. For one thing, you are assuming that everyone who is bringing up the issue is currently middle class, and grew up that way. Which is not a valid assumption.

              Also a loving extended family that is willing AND ABLE to pitch in enough to be able to take all of the childcare burden off the OP, is not something that is common. That’s true at all levels of society. And that’s what the OP would need. Being able to provide that level of help while not being able to contribute enough financially to enable them to BARELY manage with more than 2 weeks off is also not common.

              1. Jennifer*

                Give an adult enough credit to know that they can’t leave a two-week old baby alone for 8 hours a day. Geez.

    2. Student*

      I’m sure it’s occurred to her that the baby will need to be cared for while she goes back to work – seems patronizing to assume she hasn’t already thought this through. Not sure how this is relevant to the letter-writer’s actual question. She is more concerned with how she’ll keep herself and baby sheltered, fed, etc. with money earned at a job, when her job is trying to prevent her from getting the money she has clearly told us she needs.

      1. Observer*

        seems patronizing to assume she hasn’t already thought this through.

        Eh. considering what else she seems to have not thought through, I think it’s reasonable to bring it up.

        Which is to say that if the OP wants to have a shot at making this work, she had better make sure that she has some solid plans in place.

        If she’s swallowed the whole “25% percent of women go back to work in 2 weeks” (which is actually not accurate), she may be making a lot of incorrect assumptions.

        1. NeverComments*

          We don’t know what else this woman has thought through or what her plans are. Perhaps she has a partner who will assume the majority of childcare needs and she needs to go back to work right away. Or she has a family member who can offer their time but not financial assistance. We don’t know- the letter did not contain those details.
          And no one is taking the 25% statistic as badge of honor- like 1/4 of women can do it so I can do it too. It should be more of a chance to look outside of your bubble at what women of all income levels have to deal with when navigating childbirth and time off. You know instead of people giving examples about their nanny on welfare.

  13. Nic*

    OP1 – I at one point managed someone who started writing (and selling!) romance novels (I’m male and the team I was managing was almost entirely female). She told us that her first book was being published, and everyone was talking about how much they were looking forward to reading it, including me (basically to be supportive and polite – it’s not really my genre – although I would have at the very least bought it to show support). Later, she asked me not to read it, with the implication that it would be weird due to the content.

    I obviously didn’t buy or read it, and I absolutely didn’t think it was strange for her to ask me not to, because sometimes you just don’t want your manager to read your explicit fiction, even as an author putting your work out there. It doesn’t sound like you’re that bothered if your co-workers read it or not, but just an example showing it’s totally possible to keep these things separate if you did want to, without keeping the whole thing a secret.

  14. ACM*

    Hi LW, I just gave birth 7 months ago and at the time thought I knew what being post-partum would be like. I did not. Some things were easier than I expected but some things were worlds harder. Please follow Alison’s advice on asking them for some paid time off, and read the other comments here with an open mind. It’s easy to get your back up – I sure did and do all the time when it comes to anything to do with pregnancy/parenting – but please please please read them and see what you can do to get a little more time off.

  15. Jennifer*

    #1 Please warn them! I was in a similar situation where an employee at a bookstore I used to go to all the time wrote a book and recommended it to all the regular customers. I bought it and read it and was pretty shocked by the content. I was pretty young at the time, not underage, but young, so maybe I’d feel differently now, but I felt awkward going back to the store after that. Just give people a heads up since not everyone enjoys that kind of content.

    1. allathian*

      Indeed. And even if you enjoy that kind of content when you don’t know the author, it can feel awkward to read that sort of stuff when you do, especially if it feels in any way biographical.

  16. Jennifer*

    #2 It was rude of them to laugh but I am hoping they did it because there is a leave policy you aren’t aware of. Please talk to them.

    I also want to add that there actually are women who wanted to return to work after two weeks and that there is nothing wrong with that either. We’re all different and I don’t think women should be shamed for wanting a longer leave or wanting to return earlier. Every mother is different.

    1. Observer*

      There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with wanting to be back at work at two weeks.

      There is a LOT that is practically problematic with actually planning to be back at work full time a two weeks. Not because it is “wrong”. But because the odds of it being possible are low. And the odds of it being practical are even lower.

      1. Jennifer*

        As I said below, 1 in 4 women in the US go back to work in two weeks or less. Women unfortunately have to do this all the time. I’m sure it’s miserable, but people have to do what they have to to feed themselves and their families. The odds of this being possible are much higher than people some to think.

          1. Jennifer*

            My information came from paidleave . us. But either way, we’re in a caregiver crisis in this country and it’s wild to me that so many people are just like, “just take a few more weeks off” like they don’t know this.

              1. Jennifer*

                Really? So we aren’t in a caregiver crisis and everyone can take the adequate time they need to care for elderly relatives and children? Good to know…

        1. Name Required*

          By presenting the 1 in 4 stat as support for your argument that we shouldn’t shame women who want to return to work, you’re implying a false relationship between the two and also implying that the issue of unpaid maternity isn’t that important … after all, “I’m sure it’s miserable, but people have to do what they have to to feed themselves and their families. The odds of this being possible are much higher than people some to think.”

          This the mindset that explains the lack of federal paid maternity leave policy, and it’s unhelpful and dangerous.

          1. Jennifer*

            What? Alison asked us not to debate the leave issue which is why I left it there. But obviously I think it’s outrageous, as many people do. I just think some of the comments are condescending and a bit unrealistic. There is the world we wish we lived in and the one we actually do.

            1. Name Required*

              I agree that many of the comments aren’t presenting actionable advice to the OP, but I also don’t think it’s helpful or actionable to frame the issue as one of some women wanting to return to work.

              The world we live in is one where many women, often in lower paying positions with little employment protections, have to go back to work at two weeks postpartum when a very small amount of them are physically ready to.

              The world we live in is not one where the dichotomy is between women “wanting a longer leave” or women “wanting to return earlier.” The more realistic dichotomy is between women who are able take a longer leave versus women who are not able. Desire is a pretty small part of the issue, and OP has stated that she CANNOT take leave because she can’t afford it, regardless of whether she wants to or not so reframing it as her wanting to return to work seems dismissive of her specific quandary, in a different way than the people saying, “just be out longer.”

        2. Observer*

          As others have noted, that statistic is actually deeply flawed. But even if true – that is 75% of women who do NOT.

          Her bosses are NOT necessarily being judgemental. This is a real pragmatic issues for them.

    2. DG*

      My only issue with someone trying to return to work after two weeks (financial reasons aside) is the precedent it sets for others. Would that person’s direct reports feel pressure to do the same? Would their manager look down on the next person who chose to take the full leave period, or assume it’s okay to start sending work-related emails to someone a few weeks after giving birth?

      If someone bounces back quickly after giving birth and wants to do something else with their time within a couple weeks, cool – but there are lots of fulfilling things one could do that don’t involve going right back to work: home projects, personal organization stuff, an online course, etc.

      1. Observer*

        My only issue with someone trying to return to work after two weeks (financial reasons aside) is the precedent it sets for others.

        That’s not the OP’s problem. If the company wants to make sure that people feel like they can take leave, they should actually make it easy to take leave, and make sure that THE COMPANY’S fiscal policies (eg paid leave!) actually support people taking the leave they need.

        If their manager decides that because Mother A came back to work at 2 weeks, it’s ok to start assuming that ALL women can and should do that, then they are a very bad manager. Let’s not put the burden of shifting stupid and bad management norms on to the backs of women who are just trying to live their lives.

        I recall a letter some time ago where a letter writer mentioned this. Allison made the EXCELLENT point that we somehow never expect men to become role models in this respect. Why do we ask if of women.

        If someone bounces back quickly after giving birth and wants to do something else with their time within a couple weeks, cool – but there are lots of fulfilling things one could do that don’t involve going right back to work: home projects, personal organization stuff, an online course, etc.

        As you say, if someone wants to do that, cool. If they want to go back to work, WHY IS THAT *NOT* COOL? Yes, I’m shouting. Because, the OP is facing a real problem right now. And people like you, who DO judge women who want to go back to work make her problem MUCH harder to deal with.

      2. Blackcat*

        “My only issue with someone trying to return to work after two weeks (financial reasons aside) is the precedent it sets for others. Would that person’s direct reports feel pressure to do the same? Would their manager look down on the next person who chose to take the full leave period, or assume it’s okay to start sending work-related emails to someone a few weeks after giving birth? ”

        Look, OP is in survival mode. She can’t afford the time off. I’d venture to say that the vast majority of women who return to work within 2 weeks are in the same boat. (By 6/8 weeks, some women opt to return to work even if it’s not a financial hardship, and I do get that).

        People under economic duress should not have the responsibility of fixing society at their feet. OP is trying to survive. Who cares what message that sends?

        1. Observer*

          People under economic duress should not have the responsibility of fixing society at their feet. OP is trying to survive. Who cares what message that sends?

          Yes. 100%!

      3. Momma Bear*

        Actually, the problem is that the company hasn’t provided well enough for its employees. If I were OP’s coworker and realized that she was forced to return quickly due to subpar pay or policies it would influence my decisions. I wouldn’t be likely to stay if my longterm goal was to have children. But that would be the company’s problem, not OP’s.

  17. Kali*

    For OP1, I think it will probably be fine. I don’t know what you wrote, ofc, so I’ll describe what I’m basing that opinion on and you can judge if it’s similar.

    At uni, we had writers-in-residence who we could make appointments with to proofread our work. In my second year I had a big project due, so I made several ongoing appointments with one of them. We bonded a bit because we’re both mixed and had some other things in common. So, not exactly a coworker, but, still, someone I met with regularly in a professional environment. I read one of her books, which was a bit grim. It had explicit rape and torture scenes. Reading that book didn’t make me picture the author in the place of any of the characters, and it didn’t make me think she’d gone through anything like the fictional events she described.

    I did tell her I’d read it and enjoyed it, though it was a bit grim and she said (paraphrased): “yeah, I had a low opinion of humanity at the time, I’m feeling a lot better now”. Even though that does make me wonder if she had an abusive relationship or other terrible experiences, that still isn’t something I dwell on if that makes sense. Like, yeah, when I reflect on that exchange, she probably had gone through something, but I don’t want to reflect on that exchange or picture it, it feels entirely separate to our relationship and to her book. It’s fundamentally none of my business.

    Basically, at no point did I picture anything in her book in relation to her body, even after that exchange. They are separate. I assume the vast majority of the book is fiction, and even if some parts are inspired by life, I have no way of knowing which bits are. So I’m not going to assume any specific bit is real, I’m going to assume any given part is fiction.

    I also read romance novels, and there’s one series whose author I follow on Facebook. Honestly, I kind of hate seeing the author as a real person who has regular day to day concerns and talks about her crushes on her characters. It feels like it should be totally separate. Like the book should have just come out of the ether for me to have a personal relationship with as a piece of art, not as something this woman sat down and made up. (I do intend to unfollow her, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet).

    My separation of work and author might be weird, ofc. I don’t know, I haven’t asked other readers. Hopefully, it’s not, and most people will assume that, sure, you probably drew from life somewhere, but they’re not going to think any specific part is factual or picture you living it or thinking about it while they’re reading it. There are some times when I haven’t been able to separate an author from her work (they’re all women), but that’s generally because they’ve expressed an awful opinion entirely separate from their writing and I just don’t want to give them money any more. It’s never about what the book is about. For example, I really related to Alison Pearson’s I Don’t Know How She Does It and India Knight’s Don’t You Want Me? until I found out about their attitudes towards the working class. Working-class people don’t even appear in those books except as brief caricatures. Yet, I still don’t want to reread them or read any other works by those authors because I can’t stop thinking about the things they’ve done to hurt people like me in their roles as journalists.

    Also, tbh, I’ve known a few people in personal capacities who are published, and I always say I’ll read it and very rarely do. Not because I don’t think it’ll be good – I’m sure they are – just that it isn’t what I would normally choose to read. I generally do intend to read it, I’m not lying when I say that, I just never seem to get around to it. Maybe some of your coworkers are the same and not all of them will read it even with the best of intentions.

    1. Myrin*

      That’s another point I’d meant to bring up as well!
      If I worked with OP, unless she had an outstandingly distinctive writing style which she also used in our company’s documents, I would 100% not even think about the fact that she’s the author of what I’m reading at the moment. I might reflect on that after the fact but then I probably wouldn’t connect it directly to OP in a way where I’d suddenly feel like imagining her in the situations the characters found themselves in.
      But like you say, maybe we’re just unusual in that regard?

  18. Night Vale Seems Good By Comparison*

    Here is a tip on using disability leave for OP2 (hopefully) or anyone who needs to use it for the first time: take my advice and always request MORE time than you think you will need.

    For my first knee replacement surgery, the PA told me I could return to work after 2 weeks, so I believed them. Ha ha! I was not even CLOSE to being able to work at 2 weeks, and filling out more paperwork while recovering from anything medical is the last thing you will feel like dealing with. Seriously, it was a mess. On the other hand, if you are able to return to work early, it’s easy: just requires a doctor’s note.

    For the record, I took the maximum 10 weeks for my second knee replacement and it was barely enough. Everyone’s bodies are different and it’s impossible to know ahead of time how things will go.

  19. Bookworm*

    #4: Yikes. That sounds really awkward, even if it’s something like they just haven’t had a chance to get back to you. No advice, just wishing you good luck.

  20. Manchmal*

    OP#2: When I had my first child, I was teaching as an adjunct at the university level (at two different unis). One was a studio art/design course with a lot of contact hours, the other was a lecture course I had to drive 2 hours one way to get to. I too thought I would be back in two weeks. Of course, when I told that to the HR woman she looked at me with pity, like “you have nooooo idea what’s in store for you, you poor dear?” And she was right! I had an uncomplicated pregnancy and birth. As infants go, my daughter was a decent sleeper. We had a HELL of a time with breastfeeding. I ended up going back after a month. I thought I had to, because I was going on the tenure-track job market, and thought I needed the line on my CV and the material for my teaching portfolio. (That was also true.) So I wasn’t going back “full-time,” but I did it – and it was hell. I was super sleep deprived, anxious to be away from my infant, dealing with post-partum hormones, unable to really focus on my students. And – having to deal with pumping on top of it was horrible. People don’t tell you this, but producing milk is like having two more bladders in your body – two more organs that get filled up and send you distress signals, kind of like having to go to the bathroom, to empty them. And if you don’t: pain. leakage, etc.

    My advice: going back will be hard enough after 6 weeks. If you can get 3 months, that’s better. Take the advice of the poster above who suggested figuring out ways to finance your mat leave – put it on credit cards if you have to. Go on unemployment or disability, get food stamps, get help from charitable organizations. See if you can work part time from home (10 hours a week might be possible). Good luck, and congratulations! The good news is that, once you get a year or two out from it, early infancy will all be a hazy memory…

    1. Amtelope*

      Telling someone who says they can’t afford not to go back to work to “put it on credit cards” is pretty dismissive of the reality of living paycheck-to-paycheck. If the OP had access to credit that would finance this leave, I am sure that she would use it. Unemployment does not cover maternity leave. Federal disability does not cover maternity leave. Food stamps don’t pay the rent.

      It would be nice to take people at their word about their financial situation, and not assume that everyone has access to savings, credit, or family support.

      1. Natalie*

        “Can’t afford” isn’t really giving us that many details about their financial situation. You’re clearly reading it as though the OP is absolutely destitute but it’s a pretty vague phrase that people use to mean all kinds of things. I’m not sure why it must definitely be the case that the OP is a couple of paychecks away from homelessness merely because some people are asserting that as some kind of universally understood meaning of “can’t afford”.

      2. kt*

        No, unfortunately “put it on credit cards” really does acknowledge the reality of living paycheck to paycheck. What cost you $3000 up front (the food, the pads, the formula if needed, the diapers) will end up costing you $6000 down the road because it’ll take so long to pay back — but that’s pretty normal in America. If you have access to credit cards and you don’t have income, that’s what happens.

        Sure, assume the OP has no savings, no credit, and no family support, and has fairly normal outcomes from pregnancy (no complications at all, but not a drop the kid in the field and get back to hoeing and sowing pregnancy) and thus isn’t really able to return to work at 2 weeks but does (let’s say she can drag herself there and is paying the thousands for daycare or handing off baby to a friend, given the assumption of no family support). Unless she’s got really great coworkers, the likelihood of her losing her job due to poor performance and attendance problems is real. So she might as well plan for it all from the get-go, and so should her coworkers. She’s in an impossible situation given the realities. So she should start planning now. Get a credit card with the lowest interest rate you can find so you have the chance to rack up the bills. That’s all commenters are saying. Plan for the worst now, because ending up homeless with a new baby because you can’t manage complicated financial shenanigans post-partum is even worse.

        1. Anon for this*

          That is one strategy, yes, but it assumes a lot. Maybe she’s swimming in debt. Maybe she can’t qualify for a card. Heck, years ago I was in a consumer credit program where I was not allowed to use credit cards at all until all my debt was paid off. Maybe her taking unpaid leave means they do go homeless or become food insecure. We don’t know.

          In the end, I don’t really think it matters what the OP means by “can’t afford.” That’s something she and her family determine. Not us.

    2. Black Horse Dancing*

      Where do people think unemployment would kick in? Unemployment requires you to be ready to work, not to mention OP wasn’t fired nor laid off. Also, disability is possible if OP paid into it at work but getting federal or state–nope. And despite there being a lot of charities, I doubt OP will get enough to pay all the bills.

  21. LGC*

    LW2 – if they can’t afford for you to be off for six weeks (that is, if they aren’t paying), why are they judging you for not taking six weeks? That’s the other outrageous thing here – if they think it’s so important for you to bond with your child and that no doctor would allow you to come back any sooner, then why aren’t they making it possible for you to stay home for that long? Do they think that the ~*~love of a mother~*~ and the afterglow from pregnancy will pay your bills?

    It’s the total lack of insight for me.

    1. Observer*

      There is no evidence that they are “judging” her. And while the “bonding” language sounds condescending, as others point out, it’s often (stupid) code for real stuff that does happen to women. That stuff is real and it makes a huge difference in a woman’s ability to get back to work.

      1. LGC*

        I feel like you’re splitting hairs, since LW2 actually said that her manager and HR laughed at her plan to return in two weeks because she needs to bond with the baby and no doctor would sign off on it (which is actually in the letter). I think it’s a bit judgy, but YMMV.

        And speaking of real issues women face – again, if her boss and HR think she must take significant time off, then they should back that up (which was my main point). They might be fine most of the time, but they both did badly here.

  22. Dorothy*

    LW2 -I adopted and two weeks would not have been near long enough for me to adjust before going back to work. I know you know this and have not asked for advice on how long we think you will need. Alison’s script is perfect. I hope you use it, give dead silent stares if they dismiss your concerns, repeat as necessary and please give us an update. And try to enjoy the time with your baby! Financial stress can make that very difficult and I wish you the best!

  23. mreasy*

    Perhaps everyone posting to LW2 that they shouldn’t be considering returning after two weeks doesn’t intend it, but it’s coming off as extremely condescending, and none of the solutions (rack up credit card debt??) seem reasonable at all. If LW2 says they can only afford two weeks, please believe them.

    1. Jenny*

      I believe then, but the problem is going back early could cost Lw money too, for instance, if she gets an infection (you’re vulnerable to infections early on). She 100% needs a contingency plan.

      1. Shenandoah*

        This. Her doctor quite simply cannot guarantee her an uncomplicated birth and recovery.

        1 in 4 women in the US go back to work after 10 days of “leave” – I absolutely believe that the LW cannot afford to take more unpaid leave, it is very very common. But it is also very very common for postpartum people to have ongoing medical issues which require more leave. Thus the need for a contingency plan, which will hopefully help OP avoid debt.

        1. Nicotene*

          This was my exact thought. I’m not a mother but I have heard this statistic, so obviously it is possible for many women, just perhaps not white collar blog-readers as make the audience here (guilty).

          1. Observer*

            That statistic is quite misleading because it doesn’t cover what happens after these women “go back”. And given that they talk about “leave” it clearly doesn’t cover jobs that don’t do “leave”.

          2. sunny-dee*

            Well, also that’s for women who go back. About 40% of women *don’t* return to work after having a baby.

    2. anonymous 5*

      Amen. We’re only ~70 comments in as I’m writing this and the comment section is already pretty frustrating to read.

      1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

        I have tons of empathy (sympathy?) for the LW2 OP, because she’s in a maddening and frustrating position.

        I like Alison’s script, because its realistic and addresses the fact that she can’t afford to stay out of work, as well as the fact that there is NO medical guarantee she can be back at two weeks. I do hope for the best for the LW, because its a lousy position to be stuck in, and having patronizing out-of-touch bosses who can’t grasp the reality of “I literally cannot afford to do this” is not making a situation better.

    3. Mx*

      I feel the same as you. I didn’t say anything because I never had any children. I have no idea how a woman feels 2 weeks after giving birth. But the comments are a bit patronising , even if well-intended. OP didn’t ask advice on how to stay on leave more than 2 weeks.

    4. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I absolutely agree with you.

      I do think it’s a very tough subject however, because there is a real chance that she won’t be able to work two weeks after childbirth. Women who are injured or develop an infection during childbirth and need more healing time aren’t that unusual, so there’s probably a lot of people reading this who identify with that. I think people are wondering if OP really has considered all her options and encouraging her to do so if she hasn’t……and honestly, I’m very sympathetic to that with regards to childbirth. It’s not uncommon to meet people who have an idealized image of how it will go.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        An addendum: I think ideally all those suggestions would be nested under one thread so OP could close them if they’re not helpful for her. It does get really frustrating when they’re nested all over.

        (Which I’m certainly guilty of; often when commenting you get into the mindset of responding to just one person/one comment without realizing the impact on the tenor of the overall thread.)

      2. Elysian*

        I think many people have just had this experience – they have an idealized image of how it will go, and some of us have been there and know that even in the best case scenario, it will be way harder than she is expecting. I mean, no one told me that at two weeks post-partum I would be wearing adult diapers, would be on a lot of pain medication, and it wouldn’t be safe for me to drive. And I was an uncomplicated birth. My doctor probably would have cleared me to work if I had asked. And if you have to work in those conditions because the other option is you’re literally homeless, then you have to, you just have to make it work. But make a plan for where at work you’ll be changing your own diapers. If there is literally any other option than that, no matter how financially painful it will be (cash out savings? withdraw retirement funds early? let the water bill go in arrears because you need heat more than water?) those options should at least be on the table.

    5. Manchmal*

      Well, “can’t afford it” can mean a lot of things, everything from “I won’t be able to save 20% of my salary if I don’t go back” to “I’ll be evicted and penniless if I don’t work.” The OP like all women who haven’t had kids doesn’t yet know what it will really be like post-partum. Western culture has a way of playing down how hard those first months are. (Can she do her job on three hours sleep a night? Can she safely drive there? Does she have to stand for long periods (impossible while you’re healing)? These are all worthwhile to consider. Maybe she has, but I don’t want her to be blindsided.) Here you have 70+ comments letting her know the realities. At the very least this is helpful so that she can plan for the contingencies and go back to her bosses in a clear-eyed way that will allow them to feel confident in her proposal for return.

      1. Mynona*

        Oh, I don’t think American culture plays down how hard it is to be a mother of an infant at all. That idea is embedded in all the comments above saying that there’s absolutely no way OP will be able to go back to work after 2 weeks. I’m sure OP wants to stay home longer–who wouldn’t?–but she says she can’t. No wages for a whole month would make a lot of American households insolvent.
        So, yeah, OP needs a backup plan because she’s counting on a best-case scenario and the worst could happen. But the “you say this, but are you really sure?, try this obvious thing” comments deny the OP’s lived reality.

      2. Jennifer*

        I think there are many women who unfortunately returned to work in pain and sleep deprived because they had no other choice. If she says she can’t afford it, she can’t afford it. There’s no need to be overly pedantic and drill in to what “I can’t afford it” really means. I’m sure she knows it’s not going to be easy. But not being able to feed yourself or your kid isn’t easy either. She has a doctor to let her know about the possible outcomes and Alison gave her some great suggestions on how to handle it IF, not when, there are complications.

        Sometimes people know something is going to absolutely suck but they have to do it anyway. That seems to be getting lost here.

    6. Rin*

      I agree, I find a lot of the comments at best to be missing the point and at worst extremely condescending.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Not every instance of warning someone about something they seem to be underestimating is condescending. Sometimes people need to hear that what they seem to be thinking may be pretty dang unrealistic.

        If they were telling her that she would be too emotional or sentimental to return to work after that short a time, then sure, but people are warning her that her plan has a very very small chance of succeeding and that she really needs to heavily explore other options before relying on it. And also warning her that she may not have a choice at all- if her body makes it literally impossible to return to work after two weeks, which is likely to happen, some contingency plan is going to be necessary. Sometimes a near-unanimous or at least bountiful group of strangers going “oh no, please don’t stop exploring other options” is what someone needs to hear.

        1. GothicBee*

          She’s talked with her doctor though. The LW literally said “assuming an uncomplicated birth” which means they’re aware that the plan to return after 2 weeks may not be possible. But if it is possible, they want to do so. And considering how many people do have to return to work quickly after giving birth, it’s not exactly an unrealistic time frame.

          1. Observer*

            And what her doctor said is, at BEST misleading.

            For one thing, there is a significant chance of the birth NOT being “uncomplicated”. For another, as many have already pointed out, even with a medically uncomplicated and EASY birth, healing TAKES TIME. Even if Mom has all of the help she needs and perfect childcare options. If the birth is “uncomplicated” but not so easy or there are any other unexpected issues, then things get more complicated quite quickly.

            1. Empress Matilda*

              (CN: birth stuff)

              Yes, and I think it’s worth exploring what “uncomplicated” means as well – it’s possible that the doctor has a very different definition than what OP is thinking. For example, my first delivery was “uncomplicated” in the medical sense, but it also resulted in third-degree tearing and a helluva lot of stitches to a very sensitive part of my body. In medical language, uncomplicated doesn’t mean “perfect,” – it’s more like “no unusual interventions.” Which is fine, except some of the usual interventions can be very complicated for the person receiving them!

              (end CN)

              This seems like a case where the OP and her employers (and partner, medical team, etc) should hope for the best and plan for the worst. Plan for 6+ weeks of leave after the baby is born. If you’re able to go back after 2 weeks, great! If not, you have everything in place already and it will be another month before you have to worry about it.

              Best of luck to you, OP!

              1. kt*

                Yes, thank you! I too had an “uncomplicated” birth — fast, vaginal, second-degree tearing, maybe 8 stitches, hard to walk for 4 weeks, more painkillers than I’ve ever taken in my life, a few months later problems with mastitis that really affected me, nearly collapsing in a few public places (Target, the airport). It was a normal and uncomplicated birth :) both physician in the family and physician who cared for me agreed.

            2. Blackcat*

              “there is a significant chance of the birth NOT being “uncomplicated””
              Right. Around 30% of all births in the US are c-sections. Another chunk will have one of the common complications that delays healing (ex: hemorrhage, 3rd or 4th degree tear). It’s basically a coin flip, and I completely understand the boss wanting to plan for a more normal length leave.

              “Assuming an uncomplicated birth” is a reasonable assumption if OP has already had an uncomplicated birth*, but not if OP is a first-time mom or had complications with a previous delivery.

              *Though I tore badly, my son’s birth was “uncomplicated.” Because it was a precipitous labor, I’ve been warned by two different OBs that a second birth could be so fast it would be impossible to get to the hospital. But both pointed out that since I didn’t have a life threatening complication, odds are extremely high (like >90%) that I and a baby would both be fine if I gave birth *on my own.* If OP has had one birth like mine but without the tearing, I actually understand the 2 week plan. If I hadn’t torn, I could have resumed most of my normal physical activities immediately. Besides the weird abdominal muscle atrophy problem, the rest of my body was *fine.* By 6 weeks post-partum, you couldn’t even tell I had been pregnant. Some of people win the genetic lottery and can pop out a baby like it’s no big deal. OP might be one. But there’s no way to know if she hasn’t given birth before.

      2. Persephone Mongoose*

        Unless they were removed, I haven’t seen any condescending comments here. All the ones I’ve read are rightfully concerned that two weeks is not nearly enough time for the LW to successfully go back to work. There is no guarantee that she will have an easy pregnancy and she needs to explore other options. That’s not being condescending, that’s just reality. People are still being kind about it.

        1. Not Me*

          Actually, it’s condescending to offer unsolicited advice on a situation you don’t have all the information about. LW didn’t ask for advice about childbirth, or whether to talk to her doctor again, and didn’t even mention if they’ve had a baby before. All these comments essentially suggesting LW doesn’t know what they are talking about are rude and condescending.

    7. Jennifer*

      Amen. Extremely condescending. They have no idea how she will feel or if she wants to rack up debt or if she has a reasonable landlord that will give her a break on the rent (many don’t care) or many other factors.

      1. Who moved my cheese?*

        I thought the comments about a contingency plan based on like, which utilities could you get help paying or defer paying? was helpful and not condescending, although I’m not the letter writer.

        The comments like “but someone must care for your baby!! have you considered you will need childcare???” were …. not.

    8. GothicBee*

      Agreed!! A lot of people go back to work quickly after giving birth because they have to. It’s not uncommon (in the US at least) and just because it sucks doesn’t mean that the LW will necessarily have another option. The LW has already talked with their doctor about it too, so I’m assuming they’re well aware of all the issues people are pointing out here.

      I do think it’s worth doing what Alison says and pointing out to management that they can’t afford to take more than 2 weeks unpaid and checking if there’s any options for paid/partial paid leave.

    9. AthenaC*

      I mean – it’s reality. If 95% percent of people are saying, “It’s literally not possible to come back to work after two weeks” and the other 5% are saying, “I was able to come back to work after two weeks, but there was no way to predict ahead of time that it would be possible,” how is it condescending to point that out? Currently LW2 is putting ALL her reliance on being that 5%, and those are just not good odds. LW2 has about a 95% chance of being forced to take more than 2 weeks, and if she hasn’t planned on that contingency, she’s REALLY screwed.

    10. Observer*

      but it’s coming off as extremely condescending

      That may be. And I’m sure that the OP means it when they say that they can’t afford it.

      But when someone says something that is this out of touch with reality, it’s not unreasonable to note it. And when the disconnect has the potential for serious negative effects for the speaker, it becomes important to bring it up.

      The reality is that it REALLY, REALLY is extremely unlikely that the OP is going to be able to get back to work full time at two weeks. The doctor who is saying he will sign off, with no discussion or warning, is not doing his job.

      The OP absolutely NEEDS to figure out what she is going to do if she is unable to go back to work at 2 weeks. Because it REALLY is the most likely scenario.

      1. Dahlia*

        Saying OP is out of touch with reality is really unnecessary. Their “reality” is they can’t afford to take 6 weeks of unpaid leave. What is going to change that?

      2. Managing In*

        I left a similar comment below, but – it’s a big leap to assume the doctor is saying he’ll sign off with no discussion or warning. I don’t see that reflected in the letter at all.

          1. Managing In*

            That’s interesting! I don’t see that in the letter. “I spoke with my doctor and he’s agreed to two weeks assuming it’s an uncomplicated birth.” Am I just not seeing it?

            1. Managing In*

              Hm, I’m wondering if you interpreted that as ‘my doctor assumes it will be an uncomplicated birth’ while I read ‘if it is an uncomplicated birth, then my doctor agrees to 2 weeks.’ I see how someone could read it either way. Grammar! Language! They’re beautiful.

          2. EventPlannerGal*

            I don’t see that in the letter? I mean, the OP didn’t go into massive details of what she discussed with her doctor (which frankly I don’t think she should have to do to satisfy the commenters of a workplace advice blog) but I don’t see how “he has agreed assuming it’s an uncomplicated birth” is an ironclad guarantee that he’ll sign off with zero further discussion. It would be extremely surprising to me if any medical professional gave such a guarantee.

            1. Managing*

              It occurred to me that “assuming it’s uncomplicated” has some gray area where it could either mean ‘my doctor assumes it will be an uncomplicated birth’ or ‘if it is an uncomplicated birth, then my doctor agrees to 2 weeks.’ I’ve had some really great doctors and some doctors who were idiots, but I charitably interpreted that the doctor meant the latter.

    11. Saberise*

      Thank you for saying that. I was getting frustrated by people not answering the question that was asked which seems to happen fairly often here. People assume they haven’t looked into or considered alternatives. If she simply can’t afford it 100s of posts telling her ways that she may be wrong is not helpful in the least. I myself returned to work 4 days after having my daughter. We had bills to pay. Sure it sucked but sometimes you just do what you have to do. A bunch of people on the internet telling me that I hadn’t looked into it enough or considered all my alternatives wouldn’t have changed my reality. If anything it would have made me feel worse about it.

    12. Momma Bear*

      I believe that she can’t afford it, which is the distressing thing. We are pathetic when it comes to parental leave.

    13. Nikki*

      I think we all believe the LW when she says she can’t afford more than two weeks. The problem, like many other commenters have said, is that this is likely unrealistic. Our society loves to downplay the effect of childbirth on women’s bodies. The expectation is that immediately after birth, we’ll be back to our pre-pregnancy size and feeling great. I felt like I was well informed about the birthing process and I was still shocked at how painful and exhausting the post partum period was and I had an easy delivery. It’s great that some commenters were able to work soon after birth, but the reality is that for most women that’s literally physically impossible. Just because she’s hoping she’ll be able to work after two weeks doesn’t mean that will be the reality. Making contingency plans now, before the baby is born, is a much better plan than hoping for the best and having to scramble later if she’s in worse shape than she expected.

    14. Ryn*

      Ah but don’t you see? It’s an issue of a woman’s reproductive choices and bodily autonomy — therefore everyone can comment whatever ludicrous things they want and its fine! After all, pregnant women are open season for judgement on what they’re doing with their body and their child. /s

    15. MCMonkeybean*

      I do agree that it often comes across a bit condescending, but I also do think it is worth pointing out that even if she can’t afford to take more than two weeks off she may need to be prepared for the possibility that she physically might not have a choice about it (and that therefore it also makes sense for her office to be prepared for that possibility, even if they are going about it in an obnoxiously dismissive manner). I have never had kids so a lot of what people are saying is news to me!

      It’s the sort of thing you don’t really need pointed out so many times, but that’s what happens in comment sections because a lot of us leave comments without first reading everything that’s already been said.

    16. fhqwhgads*

      I believe her, but the problem is things happen that you can’t predict and it’s not as rare as one might hope. Three years ago I had a colleague who only planned to take 4 weeks because she couldn’t afford to take more (the company had paid parental leave, but it was tiered based on how long you’d been there. So she was eligible for 4 weeks paid leave at that point. She’d also used up her vacation earlier in the year before the birth). Everyone believed her, no one pushed about how long she said she’d be out, and work planned for her to be out 4 weeks.

      Turned out she had a very complicated birth for both her and the baby. She ended up out for 20 weeks. Some of that ended up being SDI, and I don’t quite know how the rest of it worked out but she wasn’t medically cleared for that long. That’s an extreme case, but look at all the other examples upthread.

      It doesn’t help the OP to pretend that those things aren’t possibilities or aren’t common.

  24. Nikki*

    LW2: I really hope you’ll talk to your employer to try and find any way to make a longer maternity leave work. Working part time for a few weeks, short term disability, asking them for paid maternity leave, etc. If you have a plan in place now, then if it turns out you do need more time you won’t be scrambling, but you can still go back at two weeks if you’re actually feeling up to it. I totally get your thinking. I’m the type of person who never sits still. Ten years ago, I had surgery to remove a cantaloupe sized tumor from my abdomen. It was a major surgery and I was very sick but I still went back to work two weeks later because I couldn’t stand being idle at home and I’m a bit of a workaholic. When I had a baby four years later, I figure it would be easy in comparison. It was not. I had a very easy delivery, but I was shocked at how much pain I was in and the level of exhaustion I was dealing with constantly. There’s no way I could have gone back to work after two weeks. I hope your experience is different and you’re feeling great after two weeks, but if you’re not I hope you’ve made a contingency plan for some extra time off.

  25. Pretzelgirl*

    LW2- is there anyway you could work out a WFH solution for 4-6 weeks after baby comes? Perhaps you could be on a reduced workload and work when you can (ie: when you feel ok, when baby is napping).

    I know its been mentioned above, but there is no way I could have worked 2 weeks after giving birth. I am so sorry you are going through this. See if your employer offers Short term disability. Almost all of them cover maternity leave. I wish you the best.

  26. voyager1*

    LW4: I made it to the final round of interviews, was about to get an offer… then the manager who I would be working for had a medical emergency and was out in the hospital then home for several months. When they resumed the interviews half a year later I didn’t even get an interview.

    Sometimes life just happens to people.

  27. Quickbeam*

    OP #3: thank you for addressing this at your company! I am a non-drinker and have several family members in recovery. My company was extremely alcohol focused…gifts, events, conferences were all heavily booze related…..until I spoke up. I’d find bottles of wine left in my office and we had mandatory events that were essentially cocktail parties.

    I returned all bottles of alcohol and arranged a sit down with our HR person. It made a big impact. They now offer non-alcoholic alternatives at all prize occasions and have made drinking events optional.

    Since then I have had several employees at the large company I work for thank me indicating they were very uncomfortable with the drinking culture, many for religious reasons. This is a large conservative company, not a start up.

    If you are feeling it is over the top, I can guarantee there are people who are very uncomfortable with it.

    1. Nicotene*

      Yeah, I thought this was an interesting letter. I’m not even sure it’s only about people who can’t/don’t drink, it’s just like … is this really the office culture you want to promote?? It reminds me of the WeWork guy, who brought shots to his board meetings or whatever. Ideally your company culture would be like, commitment to excellence or whatever, not “we need to escape into booze.” Nice that OP is actually in HR and might have some ability and standing to say something, usually I’m the intern in these situations and just have to be like, huh, that seems weird.

      1. Myrin*

        I’m not even sure it’s only about people who can’t/don’t drink, it’s just like … is this really the office culture you want to promote??

        That was exactly my reaction. Drinking isn’t a loaded topic for me (although I do it extremely rarely because I really dislike the taste of alcohol) but what OP describes honestly just sounds annoying as hell and pretty unprofessional in a way that would have me rolling my eyes constantly.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        Sounds like a “work is stressful I can’t wait to escape into alcohol” culture. That can’t be what the boss wants to promote, can it?

    2. often trapped under a cat*

      I am also not a drinker–no religious reasons, no addiction issues, I just don’t like drinking alcohol and never have–and I think OP3 should be prepared for significant pushback, based on my own experience. I have been accused of being judgmental, of not wanting people to “have fun.” I have had people badger me at company or work-related events until I accept or buy an alcoholic beverage and be annoyed with me when I ask if there will be non-alcoholic options available for people who would prefer not to drink (often there are not, or only water or coffee). In the Before Times, even people I considered friends at work would exclude me from in-office social functions, like hanging out in someone’s office for a while at the end of the workday because “everyone will be drinking and we know you don’t approve.”

      I’m glad that Quickbeam’s office responded so well, but I’ve seen time and time again that this is far from a universal experience.

    3. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. And as part of HR, it’s well within the role to speak up. I once worked for a company that thought it would be funny to post intoxicated pictures of managers on the website. I later learned that some potential clients were entirely turned off by that. Maybe it’s time for this company to re-evaluate its image and priorities.

  28. Person from the Resume*

    Ha! That’s not how the courts view discrimination.

    For total ‘fairness’ both the mother and father would get the same amount of maternity/paternity leave. In reality the person giving birth has had a medical procedure and needs time off to recover for medical reasons in addition to being there to care for a baby that needs attention hourly and disrupts both their sleep.

  29. Cat Tree*

    Paid maternity leave isn’t legally required, but many places offer it. It’s misleading to say that we just don’t get it, because many parents do. I will get 18 weeks paid when I have my baby in May-ish, and all places I’ve worked have offered typically 6 to 12 weeks paid. Also, some states require it even if it’s not required federally (a common scenario in the US).

    But, just like every other aspect of employment in the US, it varies widely. And typically the parents who don’t get paid leave are the employees with the least bargaining power and the lowest pay. The discrepancy is almost as much of an outrage as the lack of legal requirements.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Hmm, this comment was supposed to nest but didn’t. Without context it’s pointless and off topic.

  30. Rebecca*

    So as someone who had no paid leave available with my first (no short term disability, no maternity leave eligibility), I second seeing if they’re willing to make anything available. I also had complications and wouldn’t have been able to work at 2 weeks. I hope this doesn’t happen to you, but if it does I’d suggest putting together a list of resources now. You may be eligible for WIC, baby for Medicaid or your state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, utility and rental assistance – a hospital or county social worker can help if you find yourself in this situation.

    1. Observer*

      Yes. Whatever you do, OP, put together a list of resources. Whether or not you are able to get back to work full time at two weeks, if your finances are this tight ALL of this could be helpful to you.

  31. Rin*

    I feel like a lot of commenters are operating under the assumption that LW2 is overestimating the speed of her recovery rather than making realistic plans based on her financial situation and what leave options are available to her. To me, it was pretty clear that the LW would happily take more time if she was able to.

    If I was in her shoes, I would send an email and be pretty blunt. “After our conversation the other day I’m concerned that you were both left with the impression that I’m only taking two weeks off post-partum because I think I will be ready to come back. I want to make it clear that I made that decision based on the PTO/paid leave that is available to me. Taking unpaid time off is not a financial choice I can make for my family. If there are options I am unaware of that would allow me to take more time to recover, I would love to discuss them with you.”

      1. who bot*

        Yeah, I think there’s value in making it 100% clear what’s happening to her management: the company doesn’t provide paid leave, and doesn’t pay well enough for workers in the OP’s position to survive six weeks without pay.

        Both of those things are pretty common, but they’re terrible, and part of the reason they persist is that the people in decision-making positions are able to pretend to themselves that things are fine and everyone is freely making choices.

    1. AnonInTheCity*

      But I think “making realistic plans” has to include the possibility that she literally may not physically be able to work at two weeks postpartum. Granted I had a complicated birth (which again, you can’t just assume your birth will be uncomplicated) but I was in the hospital for NINE days. At two weeks postpartum I had barely been home for a week. I couldn’t climb into bed. I couldn’t leave the house because I couldn’t walk up or down the two steps of our front porch. I guess if I had a very flexible work from home job I could have technically have propped myself up in front of the computer and dialed into calls but I certainly could not have done even 10% of my job.

      1. Rin*

        Welcome to being poor in the US. It doesn’t matter if you just gave birth and need time to physically recover both mentally and physically. If you don’t have PTO you either rack up debt you’ll never be able to pay off or you get your butt back to work. Though I also have more personal reasons for not having kids, the fact that I would be unable to take more than a couple of weeks off due to limitations of PTO is certainly at the top of the list of reasons I am not having children.

        It really doesn’t matter that it’s not practical or healthy to go back to work after two weeks. It doesn’t matter that it can cause further complications, and therefore bills, down the road. If your choice is “definite financial trouble now” or “possibile financial trouble later” many of are forced to choose the former.

        1. Observer*

          What people are telling you is that it’s not just a matter of being “practical” but POSSIBLE.

          There is a reason why the FMLA is supposed to protect people’s jobs. I know that it doesn’t always work that way, and that too many jobs have been turned into “gig” work etc so that people lose those protections.

          1. Dahlia*

            Observer, what are your suggestions for OP to be able to pay her rent if she can’t afford not to work? Her medical bills? Food, diapers, heat?

            1. MsSolo*

              I mean, ultimately, she may need to have a plan Z that is “what do I do if we end up homeless? Where is our nearest food bank? Which charities can supply baby essentials? Where is the nearest shelter that will let me in with a baby?” It’s horrible, and it’s a long way from plans A-Y, but it’s worth preparing for now so she’s not trying to figure it out from a hospital bed in a fugue state.

              Before that (let’s say somewhere around plan M) she’ll want to know what the ramifications are for each bill she misses, how long it takes her landlord to evict people, what the referral criteria are for local food and baby banks, which friends can lend money, whether her employer would be willing to advance money if she can’t return to work as planned.

        2. AnonInTheCity*

          I’m not talking about practical, healthy, or the possibility of future complications. All those things are certainly true. I am saying that there is a non-zero chance that working at two weeks postpartum will not be physically possible. Just as you could not go to work if you had two broken legs and were in traction in the hospital. And it’s naive not to consider that in making plans.

        3. Risha*

          This is true, but it’s also true that a non-zero percentage of women who are in that situation still literally won’t be able to work, no matter how determined they are. They and their children end up hungry, homeless, living with their abusive mother again, etc., but it happens. It’s not wrong to note it as a possibility that should be accounted for.

        4. Jennifer*

          “Welcome to being poor in the US.” Exactly. It’s about people doing what they have to to survive.

          1. SnappinTerrapin*

            You don’t have to be poor at the start of the process for the parade of horrible consequences to come about. Any medical complications, followed by loss of income, could drive almost anyone into poverty.

            The writer has been pretty thorough in analyzing her situation and her options, and has developed a rational plan for a situation where her options are suboptimal.

            I hope and pray that it works out well.

            I am impressed that she also sees the good in her situation.

            God bless her and her family.

    2. Forrest*

      There’s two different versions of “realistic” going on here, though. The one is the OP’s financial reality, and the fact they can’t afford to take longer leave. But there’s also the physical reality, and whilst it sounds like the employer is being incredibly unhelpful by addressing this in a “haha, you don’t mean that, six weeks it is!” kind of way, it’s not wrong or unrealistic for them to refuse to work to a plan that assumes someone can come back to work 1-2 weeks after giving birth.

      Genuinely, what would your response be if someone said, “I have major surgery planned, and I have to be back at work 1 or 2 weeks later. I can’t afford not to be. How do I make it clear to my employer that I will be back after 2 weeks, not 6, which is the typical expected recovery time?” Do you think the employer would have the right to push back on that and say that it’s not a realistic time frame for 80% of the population, regardless of the OP’s wishes or financial situation?

      1. Jennifer*

        1 in 4 women in the US return to work within two weeks of giving birth. I’m sure it was horrible for them and is completely outrageous but people are acting like this isn’t a thing that tons of women do everyday.

        1. Observer*

          Which means that 75% do not come back at that point. And that assumes that this statistic is actually an accurate reflection of reality.

          It probably is not – the main source of this statistic is a very small DOL study that mashed up many types of maternity situations and didn’t separate them out for analysis. Including putting adoptive and birth mothers into one pool. Which is RIDICULOUS and only works if you simply ignore that physical aspects of giving birth.

      2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        We can and do by requiring a doctor’s note to return. Which LW2 already said her doctor will provide, but of course s/he cannot do so until after LW2 gives birth. (And of course, contingent on what actually occurs.) Honestly, I’d probably require a note from the doctor at a 2 week checkup giving an all clear to come back.

        It sounds like, though, the employer is trying to plan for a more precise absence by hiring a temp – which of course there’s no way to really know. I had a situation where I had to talk down a manager to explain that, yes, her direct report COULD extend her maternity leave by an additional month with little notice, as it was still less than the maximum of what we as the employer allowed, and the realities of the unit’s workload really didn’t matter.

    3. Observer*

      I feel like a lot of commenters are operating under the assumption that LW2 is overestimating the speed of her recovery rather than making realistic plans based on her financial situation and what leave options are available to her.

      This is a false dichotomy. I have no doubt that the OP is being realistic about her finances. But there is also very little doubt that she is absolutely overestimating the speed of her recovery.

      I do agree that being straightforward about the issue is the way to go here, though.

    4. LGC*

      This is pretty spicy, but…it’s merited in this case.

      The one thing I’m worried about is what happens if they say, “we’re doing nothing, but we wish you the best?” (Or worse?) It is risky, and LW2 sounds like she’s in a precarious position.

      1. Uhtcaere*

        Well, if that’s their response, it wouldn’t make her situation better, but it wouldn’t make it worse. It’s firmer than Alison’s suggested language, but — if they won’t do anything, they won’t, and that’s something OP needs to know.

        And as other people have said, from the tone of their comments, there’s a good chance that they genuinely haven’t considered the issue, either because (a) they personally have enough money that missing those paychecks wouldn’t be a problem, (b) they’re assuming OP is eligible for something that she isn’t, and would be willing to make up the difference if they knew, and/or (c) OP is eligible for something she’s not aware of and they’re assuming that she knows (best option is this).

        I also don’t see them replying “then don’t bother coming back at all” (though it’s marginally possible, it’s really unlikely unless they are astonishingly vindictive). So she has very little to lose, and potentially lots to gain (especially if option c).

  32. Colette*

    #4 – 2 weeks isn’t long, and the circumstances (that you don’t know) really matter. It’s possible the interviewer took time off to help with the arrangements/look after the friend’s kids/etc. – “friend” covers a lot of ground. And interviews probably aren’t their top priority. Ask for an update on timeline, but that’s all you can do.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      This! Although it might be 3 weeks, I can’t quite tell from the letter.

      Hiring is not the interviewers’ primary job. When overwhelmed with the loss of a friend and requiring time off, they could be very focused on the absolutely necessary part of their job and hiring isn’t a priority.

      It does suck that the HR coordinator did not respond to you, but maybe she doesn’t have a timeline to tell you so she’s waiting.

      There’s absolutely no way I think this is a weird plot to ghost you. Unless the friend was also an employee of the company, I don’t see this impacting your candidacy. But unfortunately company’s do ghost candidates even after interviews if you never hear back attribute this to normal ghosting not a tricky plot to ghost.

    1. Anon, good nurse!*

      Unless you’re a municipal worker! Cities and towns can opt out- and as far as I know, not a single Massachusetts municipality has chosen to adhere to the otherwise-state-mandated paid family leave. As one of those municipal workers, I’m struggling with how to manage finances during my own maternity leave. OP, I’m so sorry you have to go through this.

  33. Person from the Resume*

    LW#3, I think Alison’s advice is right. You should mention it.

    I wouldn’t be uncomfortable myself, but I definitely wonder if someone who talks about “how good a drink will be at the end of the day” has a drinking problem themselves. It’s entirely possible that fancy cocktails has become their quarantine hobby without an addiction, I guess, and it sounds like your boss’s interest has caused this become a bonding topic. I think you should mention it to her and maybe mention that it’s unprofessional. (I’m not sure what the memes are, but I imagine they’re at least brushing up against unprofessional.) But since this has become a group thing, someone (maybe you as HR or maybe her) will likely have to tell the group that the drinking memes need to stop and enforce if necessary.

    I’m hopeful for everyone that you pointing out that this has become unprofessional may be enough to drive her to cut it out.

    If that doesn’t work, you can respond to every meme with the phone number for an addiction hotline or something. just kidding, but tempting.

    1. RC Rascal*


      Methinks your boss has a drinking problem. In my experience people who insist on talking about alcohol are hiding addictions.

      If this is the case, you boss may be unexpectedly defensive when you bring this up. I would still bring it up, but consider you could get this kind of response and prepare for it.

    2. AnonPi*

      As someone who can’t drink (I can’t for health reasons, and really never had the desire to anyways), it’s really annoying when work events are centered around drinking. Even for more social things, coworkers think nothing of having events at a family friendly bar and don’t get why I don’t want to go. Because almost every event at a place like this somehow alcohol becomes the focus (what is everyone drinking, trying others drinks, or criticizing/sympathizing with those not drinking). The few times I’ve every brought it up as problematic, everyone assumes I’m a recovering alcoholic which is doubly annoying. Though once or twice I was just called a party pooper. Because they can’t enjoy themselves without a drink in hand. So yeah, I (and others I’ve talked to that feel the same) loose out on the networking aspects of these work get togethers. If you can speak up about it that would be great, but just don’t expect miracles if your workplace is like mine.

  34. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

    WRT #1, does the calculus change at all when you’re a manager? I just had a short story published and wanted to share it with my team as they have expressed interest in my creative writing (we are technical writers so they think it’s a funny “busman’s holiday” thing for me to do). Also my company has an internal message-board thing and there’s an area on there where people share their creative endeavors — photography and the like. I’ve hesitated to share the story with team members and colleagues at all, especially on the company-wide forum, because of some NSFW content in the story (not an actual sex scene, but reference to and discussion of sexual stuff). It’s well within the parameters of ordinary fiction for adults, not something you’d classify as a story particularly about sex, but still: being a manager has just made me hesitate to share links to the story, or even to say “hey I got a story published; hit me up if you want the link.”

    I think for #1, since you’re not offering up the book directly but just giving them info about it, I think a simple warning of “hey it’s rated R” is probably adequate. I think I would feel comfortable doing that… anyway congratulations to you!

    1. SomebodyElse*

      As a manager, I wouldn’t do it. Especially if there is some NSFW content. If you want to do it, I’d honestly run it past HR first, as there is an element of sexual harassment risk here since you are a manager.

      Even if it were totally “G” rated, I still wouldn’t share it, since I have a pretty rigid work/personal life separation policy.

    2. miro*

      In your case, maybe if you said something like “here’s a story I wrote if you’re interested, but just a heads up that it’s somewhat NSFW and so I don’t think we should discuss the actual content at work.”

      That what you’re giving people the option to read it if they want but also a) keeping them informed of racy content and b) since you’ve said you won’t discuss it further at work, hopefully nobody will feel pressure to read it (as, for instance, they might if they thought it was going to be a topic of office discussion/you would know whether or not they had read it).

      Same advice could apply to OP1 too, now that I think about it.

      1. Nicotene*

        I like this script, coming from a manager I’d keep it very, very casual and perhaps not send the direct link, just mention it. People will naturally assume they should read it and praise you just because you’re the boss and they want your approval, so it’s just a weird situation to get into. Ideally managers can get their satisfaction elsewhere than from their employees.

        1. miro*

          That’s a good point. I think it probably depends where you’re sharing the link–in an email definitely seems too pressure-y but for instance if you’re dropping it into a Slack channel that seems different/better (maybe??)

          As with most things, this will vary *wildly* depending on the specific culture and dynamics of the org, not to mention quite how detailed/extensive/potentially shocking the NSFW content in question is.

          1. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

            Yeah, I have pretty much decided against sharing the link in email or in *any* forum for group communication. If I feel comfortable enough with an individual to mention in conversation that I’ve had the story published, I will, but otherwise I’m just keeping it out of work entirely.

            1. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

              Which, I should add, makes me a little sad, because I’d prefer to crow about it! :D

            2. Who moved my cheese?*

              I think that’s the right decision, if my coworker let alone manager shared a NSFW story they wrote with me I would be STUNNINGLY UNCOMFORTABLE.

    3. Librarian of SHIELD*

      One of my first library bosses was also a romance novelist whose books were at the “moderate” spice level. She never promoted her own work to us, but she was a regular speaker at local book at writing events so we all knew about it. She was a wonderful, delightful person and an excellent boss, and I love romance novels. I have read zero of her books. It was just way too weird.

      1. Nicotene*

        Hehe I think this is the right level; it’s not some weird secret, but it’s not like she sent you the latest pre-order links either. If you were personally moved to look it up yourselves, you could, but she didn’t act like that would give you some kind of professional boost or anything.

    4. Janet Alcorn*

      This is why I’ve recently adopted a pseudonym. I’m getting closer to having some fiction go out into the world, and I hold a leadership position in my organization. I don’t even want to think about sitting across a conference table from someone who has read one of my sex scenes (and knows I’m the author). Way, way too weird.

  35. Kaykay*

    OP#2 – If you happen to be in Massachusetts, the state now offers Paid Family and Medical leave, which includes maternity leave for 12 weeks.

  36. notacompetition*

    Re: short term disability for pregnancy–most insurance plans require you to be enrolled at least 10 months before they will guarantee a payout. So this may not be an option this late in your pregnancy.
    P.S. if you know of a policy that does NOT require this please let me know because I, too, am pregnant!

    1. Midwestern Weegie*

      I came to say this. I paid into Short Term Disability cheerfully for over a year before conceiving my third child (it wasn’t available with my first two, so we saved ferociously and lived very frugally for 12 weeks)… and my company filed for bankruptcy when I was 12 weeks pregnant.

      The panic that set in knowing I couldn’t get more short term disability, nor would I be eligible for FMLA at a future job, was intense. I really thought I was going to be in this LW’s situation. Mercifully I was offered a grant-funded temporary job that will end just a few weeks before my due date, and it pays well enough for me to live off of savings for a few months again. I really feel for this LW, because it’s a horrendous situation to be in.

  37. Salt & Vinegar Chips*

    #2 Have you checked with HR at your company that you can come back after 2 weeks? Its ridiculous but I have worked places that will not let you return until 6 weeks even with a doctors approval. Their liability insurance wont allow it even though they do not pay maternity leave.

    – When you talk to HR ask about short term disability and if they have any other options for you being paid.
    – Check your welfare office some states have options to help with food and supplies for women and Infants. They can also direct you to other community organizations that can help you. (this doesn’t help with a paycheck but maybe you can divert some money from here to rent)
    – Helpamotherout.org can help with diapers
    – If your childcare is at a center double check your baby will have a spot at 2 weeks old.

    Join some local mommy groups they can help sometimes with information about options.

    1. blink14*

      I had a similar thought. At my workplace, anything major medical or if you are ill and need to be out for more than a week requires very specific paperwork to return. I was out for several weeks due to a major surgery, and when I started working from home part time, I had to have a letter from doctor outlining the exact number of hours I was allowed to work from home. When I moved to full time work from home, same thing, and then when I went back into the office, similar letter. I also needed a letter stating I required a temporary handicap parking pass. All of this went through an HR rep who would review the letters I submitted and then give a written response to myself and my manager stating that I was allowed to return at this much time per week, work from home full time, come back to work, etc.

  38. Sarah*

    Lots of somewhat condescending comments re: Letter 2. I know many women who have returned to work 2 weeks after having a baby out of financial necessity. Ideal: no, possible: yes. I myself would have been ok to work 2 weeks after giving birth to my son. I think Allison’s phrasing works well – who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky and this will spur them to revaluate their maternity leave policies! Best of luck with your new little one, LW.

    1. Forrest*

      Out of interest, what kind of jobs? Right across the range or mainly blue-collar/customer service level roles, or white-collar, sitting down ones? It would have been SO impossible for me both on a physical and a mental level that I can’t even imagine it.

      1. Allypopx*

        All across the board, if maternity leave isn’t offered. The statistic is 1 in 4 women. It’s everywhere.

      2. Sarah*

        The women I’m referring to all worked with me at a large animal shelter. A few of them had desk jobs but most of them were animal caretakers and thus there was a lot of standing, walking and lifting light objects (ie. a dog bed, toys, etc).

        1. Forrest*

          Does that not create major liabilities for the company? Are employers immune from any injuries that result from people who’ve just given birth doing physical work, or is this flying-under-the-health-and-safety radar type environments?

    2. K*

      I understand that it feels condescending, but I think what many people are trying to express is that there is a decent chance it may not be physically possible (not just painful, inconvenient, etc) for her to return to work as normal after only 2 weeks. Hopefully LW2 is keeping this in mind already, but if not it’s something to consider.

  39. buzzbuzzbeepbeep*

    OP #5: I am jealous! A job title change and compensation change without a change in job duties, that’s awesome! I have the opposite – a change in job duties to a higher level with no job title change and no compensation change. My company sucks! At least I didn’t get what my coworker got — a change in job duties to a higher level with LESS pay. My company’s reason — the employee was going from night shift to day shift so they wouldn’t qualify for the shift differential anymore, thus they would be making LESS with more responsibilities. So fun! I love my job…..

  40. Observer*

    #2 – Your doctor is doing you no favors. You need to figure out how to manager more than 2 weeks of leave because it is actually VERY unlikely that you will be ready to come back to work within 2 weeks. That’s true even if your birth is uncomplicated and un-medicated. The fact that your doctor has not warned you about this worries me a bit.

    It’s not for nothing that standard disability pays out for 6 weeks after a birth, with nothing more than documentation of the actual birth. You can be sure that it women were generally physically fit to come back to work after 2 weeks, they would not be paying for one day more than that without fights.

    Which leads to two questions. One is do you not have short term disability from work? If you are actually an employee, in many states the employer is required to provide some coverage. It’s not a lot, but it could make a significant difference. Secondly, I am assuming that you either don’t get PTO or know that you will have exhausted what little amount you get with your two week leave. But, as others have mentioned, check to see if there is any sort of paid leave requirement in your state.

    1. Jenny*

      Yeah my doctor said to me “you’re in good shape so everything should be easy”. Hah, nope.

      It’s not condescension, this LW needs to have a contingency. I thought I would be just fine too. Instead I spent 5 days in the hospital.

    2. Allypopx*

      We don’t know what the conversation with the doctor was like. I’ve had sobbing conversations in my doctor’s office about not being able to get necessary-but-not-emergency surgery because I can’t afford the time off work. He might be trying to meet her where she’s at. It’s not ideal, but doctors work with people in all sorts of socioeconomic conditions and sometimes they have to make accommodations. If she can’t go back to work without a doctor’s note, and can’t ensure herself and her baby will be cared for if she doesn’t go back to work, the doctor’s going to take that all into account when he decides what he’s going to approve.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yes, this. A terribly large percentage of women in the US do go back to work at about 2 weeks (I saw someone quote 1 in 4 else where in the comments), mostly out of economic necessity. It’s not healthy, it’s not what any doctor would recommend, but doctors are used to seeing it and helping patients navigate what’s awful but survivable and what’s seriously dangerous.

      2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        Agree. Doctors routinely meet their patients where they are at. Even if it’s not ideal.

      3. Amtelope*


        If the choice is “OP goes back to work sooner than would be ideal” or “OP is homeless or food insecure with a baby,” it’s probably better for both OP and the baby to go back to work.

      4. Observer*

        All good and fine. I certainly hope that any decent person, including doctor, would work with a person. And there are certainly a lot of situations, unfortunately! where going back to work too soon is a better alternative than staying home with the baby. I’m not saying it cannot happen or that the doctor should ignore that reality.

        On the other hand, the reality also is that there is a really good chance that the OP will not BE ABLE to go back. If the doctor has not raised that possibility and left that OP with the belief that this is not really a potentially significant issue, that is a real problem. And based on what the OP says, that seems to be the case here. If I misunderstood, I’m sorry. But I can only go on what the OP posted.

    3. Managing In*

      Most people don’t include every detail in their letter and this one is short, as letters go – I think there is a ton of room in the phrase “I spoke with my doctor and he’s agreed to two weeks assuming it’s an uncomplicated birth.” to include ‘my doctor and I talked in depth about the possibility of a more complicated birth, but my doctor is also willing to sign off on a quick return to work if I’m doing OK, because my doctor understands that my baby and I need food and shelter and unpaid leave is not viable’. Which is to say, it’s a big assumption that their doctor hasn’t warned them.

      1. Observer*

        True. But the OP does sound pretty naive about the situation – otherwise she would understand why he boss thought she is naive.

        The bottom line is that regardless of what the doctor says, there is a significant chance that the OP really won’t have a choice about being out only 2 weeks. Thus it makes sense for her to pull together as many resources as possible.

        In addition, when talking to her boss and grandboss, being clear about her intentions, her understanding of the problem, and the REASON she is planning such a short leave despite the very real problems she is likely to encounter (assuming she can come back to work) is the best way for her to approach it with them.

  41. LibraryLady*

    The problem with short term disability is that there is often a penalty time frame that you have to wait before it kicks in unless you plan ahead and subscribe to it enough in advance. Usually you need to let them know least 10 months before you give birth for no penalty (and I live in a very blue state with good care). I believe for us the penalty was 60 days without pay before short term disability kicked in. So if you’re looking at planning ahead or a very lengthy recovery, then short term disability is an option. But if you need income right away it may not be. (Source: me, who had a first baby in April and did not know this until I was already pregnant.) Another complicating factor is that the new PFMLA does not apply to municipalities unless they manually opt in, and many have not. So if they are a municipal employee they aren’t eligible for paid leave unless you’re in a rare area. (Source: me again; librarians are often municipal employees).

    1. Anne of Green Gables*

      I was coming to say something similar. In my situation, short-term disability only counted if it was not a pre-existing condition. Once you are pregnant = pre-existing condition. So if I signed up for insurance before I was pregnant, I was fine, but if I signed up after, it would not cover me. (I actually asked my midwife to be sure to notate my actual conception date in my medical chart instead of last period, which is the date they usually use, because while the conception was after the July 1 effective date of the insurance policy, my period was in June. )

      So PSA, if your company offers short-term disability and you are considering trying to get pregnant, look into the policy now, not once you are pregnant. (And yes, I realize this won’t help OP but I didn’t know so I’m assuming others may not either.)

    2. Observer*

      For most workplace plans (in states where this is required), as opposed to the ones you buy yourself, this is actually not the case. And most of those plans pay out 6 weeks with no need for more than documentation of the birth. It is NOT a lot of money, but whatever it is, the OP should get as much of it as she can, if it’s available.

      1. Adultiest Adult*

        Curious to know what states (I assume you’re talking US) require employers to provide short term disability? Because I’m not familiar with any. The short-term disability plans through every employer I’ve had work exactly as others are saying: you need to have it elected the open-enrollment period before you get pregnant, which means that you need to plan in advance. I remember one poor colleague getting a very rude awakening because she hadn’t planned for ST disability in advance. It’s dreadful but that’s the situation the OP may be working with.

    3. Observer*

      For most workplace plans (in states where this is required), as opposed to the ones you buy yourself, you are eligible from the first day you go out, so even a short leave gets a payout. And most of those plans pay out 6 weeks with no need for more than documentation of the birth. It is NOT a lot of money, but whatever it is, the OP should get as much of it as she can, if it’s available.

      What I don’t know is the current rules about how far in advance you need to be enrolled.

  42. Observer*

    #4 – It is possible that you are being ghosted – or not. And if they are doing that to you it stinks, even though it’s so common.

    But, the idea that they would have made up a dead friend as an excuse to do so is simply bizarre. Unless you have seen evidence of REALLY outre behavior on their part, you really need to put that out of your mind. If the death did have anything to do with the matter, it would probably just be that it’s proven to be a distraction and possibly created some work on their part which has slowed down the time line.

    If they are indeed ghosting you, then it really doesn’t matter why they are doing that – it’s still not a good way to treat people, especially when they have gotten as far as you have! On the other hand, if things are just gong slower than they expected or any of the other things that Alison mentions, you really don’t want your judgement of them clouded by an internal accusation that’s so problematic. It’s just not going to be helpful to you.

    1. Uranus Wars*

      I was wondering if, in this case, they were out for, say, a week dealing with their friends death or helping with arrangements. And then they came back and had to resume workload, plus deal with what they missed when time was taken off and that the interviewing kept falling down the list of priorities.

      I agree with Alison that one more well-worked outreach would be ok, but then to solely leave it in their court and try to move on.

  43. It is a big deal.*

    “a genre in which there is often an assumed identity between the words written and the lived experiences of the author.”

    What genre is this?! I’m assuming it’s not memoir, because that’s not exactly “assumed” but rather “intentional” and I can’t think of any other genre with such an “identity”. Fantasy? Fiction? Horror? Romance? True crime?

    1. Kate Bush Lite*

      I really can’t tell y’all because you could all 100 percent track me down if you felt like it lol. It’s not fiction, though.

      1. It is a big deal.*

        Ahhhhh, yes, that’s a genre with an assumed identification. But I don’t think knowing it was poetry would help us track the OP down, given how much sexually explicit poetry is out there, so probably not the right answer, but at least it makes sense. :D

  44. Elsie*

    For #2, you could also ask if you can advance future vacation/sick time you haven’t yet accrued. It’s not ideal as it means of course you have less (or none) later, but it is at least paid. The federal government offers this and is historically how a lot of federal employee parents managed parenting leave. (No paid parenting leave at all up until recently.) Here’s more info: https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/leave-administration/fact-sheets/advanced-sick-leave/ Good luck!

  45. employment lawyah*

    1. Should I warn my coworkers about my book’s adult content?
    Chances are that they are aware that adults do things like have sex; I doubt anyone will care. Just give the AAM warning and move on.

    The trick that that YOU need to act like it is perfectly normal/regular (which it is!) because if you act like it’s something to be ashamed of they will pick up on that and play to it.

    2. My manager doesn’t believe I’ll be back two weeks off after having a baby
    Er… what? They don’t get to tell you how you should parent!

    AAM is right but also, document EVERYTHING and talk to a lawyer, because a company which is this stupid is going to do other things wrong and you may be fired/etc.

    1. Observer*

      2. My manager doesn’t believe I’ll be back two weeks off after having a baby
      Er… what? They don’t get to tell you how you should parent!

      This is not about telling people how to parent. This is about a very reasonable assumption that there could be a problem and that the OP will need to take of longer. I do agree that they are handling it poorly, but there is no reason to make the assumptions you are making.

  46. memyselfandi*

    I happen to live in one of the states listed by Alison in her response to letter #2. I also work for an agency that looks at uptake of benefits. It is far more common for middle and upper class families to claim short-term disability benefits for any of the eligible conditions including maternity leave. I strongly encourage the writer to explore these benefits even if only for the two-week leave. I hope they can find an advocate that can help walk them through the process. Try calling 2-1-1 which is operated by the United Way. It helps connect people to benefits.

  47. Alexa*

    “the lack of paid maternity leave is an outrage”…why? As a business owner why should I pay you to not work for me? I genuinely don’t understand. If someone chooses to have a baby how does it then become my responsibility?

    1. Allypopx*


      Because if you don’t women go back to work after two weeks because they need to live and suffer major risks both for themselves and their child by not being able to properly care for themselves.

      Because not offering it severely limits the participation of women in the workforce.

      Because you offer (I sincerely hope) vacation time in order to have happier, more productive employees, and this falls under that same umbrella.

      Because humans are humans and not work robots and our economic reality requires steady income for food and housing regardless of physical ability to work for extended periods of time.

      Because as an independent business you are not a monolith but part of a living economy that requires people to have money and children to be raised properly.

      I could go on?

      1. Alexa*

        Hypothetical situation: I own a construction firm, I pay an accountant $6,000 a month, she chooses to have a baby and I’m supposed to just gift her (2 months) $12,000?! At the same time I have to pay someone else to do the accounting. Again, I have to ask how her choices somehow become my financial responsibility.

        1. AnonInTheCity*

          Well, someone whose skills are so in-demand that she earns $6000 a month as an accountant will have her choice of employers and will decline to work for you the second she sees your benefits package doesn’t include paid maternity leave, so luckily for you the situation will never come up. Hypothetical resolved.

        2. Jaybeetee*

          Well to start with, in countries with mandated mat leaves, it’s not the employer covering that salary. In Canada, it falls under EI, which every working Canadian pays into.

          Taking that financial detail aside, if you want to hire and retain good female employees, that means investing in them. I would think a white-collar job with no mat leave would shake out to women leaving your employment if they have the option to do so. For women who don’t have the option, you get people like this poor letter writer, planning to go back to work when they might not be able to walk properly (also probably not great for your business).

          Sure, the last option is “don’t have kids if you can’t fund your own mat leave”, but most civilized society would find it heinous to promote the idea that only those well-off enough to not need to work should reproduce.

        3. Natalie*

          Many company do actually do that, because it is an employment benefit (not a gift) that allows them to attract good employees. The same way they might decide to cover some percentage of dependent health insurance, or offer vacation pay, or a transit pass, or any number of other benefits that some people will take advantage of due to their life choices, and other people will not.

          But also, as mentioned, statutory parental leaves are typically funded through the state, not directly paid for by the employer.

        4. Hamish*

          Well, leaving aside basic morality and understanding of how maternity leave payouts usually work in reality… being an accountant who makes that much myself, if someone offered me a salary of $72k and no maternity benefits, I wouldn’t be accepting the offer. If I had already started somewhere without checking mat benefits and realized there were none, I wouldn’t be an employee there for very long. (It usually takes me about 3 weeks of searching to have multiple job offers in hand.) If I found that there were no maternity benefits and ALSO found out that my manager had this attitude, I would make sure to mention it to other accountants at every local CPE seminar I attend for the foreseeable future.

          If you want your business to be competitive, you need to offer a competitive package to employees.

        5. BBA*

          Not a gift, just the conditions of doing business involving humans.

          But also, we all benefit from some people having children in order to have a functional society. Generally societies require humans and human labor to function. No new humans? Pretty soon, no society.

    2. pally*

      It shouldn’t be a business owner’s responsibility IF the wages paid are high enough to allow mothers to comfortably put away sufficient funds needed to cover the time off after giving birth. But this is not often the case.

      Otherwise, what are we saying here? Only those who can afford to be without a pay check for a couple of months should have children? IS that reasonable?

      1. Allypopx*

        No, it still should be, because we live in a humane society. No two financial situations are the same. What’s adequate for one family may not be adequate for another for all sorts of reasons and women don’t need to submit a financial health report to their employer in order to conceive, nor should their reproductive rights be up for public debate.

        1. pally*

          Not disagreeing.
          It’s just that whenever a business owner balks at paying for something for employees, they should be reminded that the employees must be compensated in other ways to pay for that something (like paying higher wages for the position-no matter who holds the position).
          And given every financial situation is different, then the wages need to be high enough to compensate for that. It is easier to just give maternity leave as a benefit. Just do that.

    3. Forrest*

      On a personal level, the same reason you offer above the minimum wage, obey equality law and offer other benefits: it helps you attract and retain good staff. Why would I want to work for you if my choices are “never become a parent” or “put my health at risk by coming back to work with a second-degree tear through my pelvic floor”?

      On a social level, what is the actual point of your business if it exists solely to make you wealthy or make you feel like you’ve achieved something, at the expense of your workers having full and healthy lives?

      1. Momma Bear*

        Well, firstly I think this is a trollish question. But…

        Businesses can do all kinds of stupid, unethical, morally bankrupt things and sometimes get away with it. But if I ran a business I’d want to give my employees decent wages and benefits because it would be to my advantage to keep people instead of having a revolving door. Frankly, I’d encourage all parents to take parental leave – many men take none or very little. Things like short term disability and FMLA aren’t just for maternity leave. Anybody could need it/use it and sometimes that need is not a choice. If you only see people as numbers and not human beings with lives and value, then you are a terrible business owner.

        1. Forrest*

          It always amazes me when people are like, “society should support my small independent business!!” “what, my small independent business should do something that benefits society? Why?”

          If your business doesn’t enable workers to have decent lives, it’s a vanity project that exploits people and it deserves to fail.

          1. Mr. Tyzik*

            Any business that can’t afford to offer living wages/total compensation should fail. That’s not business, that’s exploitation.

      2. Third or Nothing!*

        Yep. Even my business classes in a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps and work hard all the time” area taught this concept when I was in college a decade ago. Employee retention is waaaaaaaay cheaper and better in the long run than having a constantly revolving door.

    4. Myrin*

      In addition to what other commenters already pointed out, nobody said anything about business owners – where I’m from, the state pays for parental leave for up to three years because the state recognises that a society benefits from having children and that people should not suffer while simultaneously helping society to go on.

      1. Natalie*

        This is true even in the US states that required paid leave, it works more like the UI system where employers pay a small tax into a state leave fund.

      2. Washi*

        I agree, I don’t think employers should be in charge of paying for maternity leave or health care…because I think the government should do it.

    5. RagingADHD*

      As a business owner, if your employees aren’t worth retaining over a period of medical leave, then you aren’t hiring the best employees, and your business model is scraping by on very thin margins.

      It would probably behoove you to examine how you could improve the value of your business by investing in more capable and productive employees. Because if high-quality workers have to choose between taking care of their health and working for you, they will go elsewhere.

      Retaining good people is more profitable in the long run than constant churn, and healthy people do better work.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Healthy in this context meaning people who are able to take recovery time, people who are well taken care of.

    6. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Because most of us aren’t robots, as y0ur username suggests you might be. We’re humans, and part of a society.

      If we weren’t, there literally wouldn’t be businesses or money, and you wouldn’t have people you aren’t related to doing things for you, like picking crops, driving buses, repairing your plumbing, making video games…

      1. Anon for this*

        I giggled at their user name choice because I literally work for (some might say “on”) Alexa, and I got a full month fully paid prepartum leave + 5 months post partum paid leave so…not even a good troll name

    7. Sunglass*

      Yeah let’s just drive women* out of the workforce, that’s a great idea. What the hell kind of question is this? Go and build yourself some goddamn robots if you don’t think treating your workforce like human beings is reasonable. My god, I hope the people around you show more humanity and empathy than you’ve demonstrated in this comment.

      *Not all women will have children, not all women will physically carry/birth their children, not all people who need to stay home after having children (through birth or adoption or other process) are women, but refusing any kind of paid maternity leave is something that would disproportionately and hugely impact women.

      1. Mr. Tyzik*

        I mentioned upthread – the internalized misogyny is strong here, that business owners don’t have to treat women fairly. I love your response!

      2. Hamish*

        Hey, thanks for the little disclaimer at the end here. I’m a trans man who’s currently 4 months pregnant, and the constant refrain of “pregnant women, moms, woman who just gave birth,” etc. in any and every conversation about pregnancy gets so wearing. The commentariat here swings so PC in general (not a criticism), I thought that here at least some folks might bother saying “pregnant people.” Not so much.

        So I appreciate your comment. <3

    8. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      If I don’t live on your street why should I pay taxes for the city to fix a pothole there?

    9. Grapey*

      Presumably the worker you pay has some knowledge about your business that you’d lose if she decided not to return to work for your cheap ass. Not having to continuously onboard new people (since people will generally have kids, even if not all of them do) is the point of retaining workers.

    10. Amtelope*

      Well, why should you pay your employees to take vacations, be sick, or go to funerals? Because your employees are human, and cannot work every day of every year without breaks. And because if you don’t, your best employees will quit and work for someone who offers humane working conditions.

    11. Ryn*

      You might not remember this, but at one point you too were a baby Alexa, and someone needed to care for you. In other words, “I don’t know how to convince you that you should care about other people.”

  48. Delta Delta*

    #3 – situations like this always remind me of the song “Laid” by James that goes, “I’m so obsessed that I’m becoming a bore, oh no.” (everyone who sang the next line, you’re welcome!) It becomes tiresome to constantly hear someone talk about the same thing over and over. In OP3’s case it’s drinking. But it could be how awesome cooking/yoga/playing the recorder is, and at some point it’s like, enough already. No real advice, just commiseration from another angle.

  49. RagingADHD*

    LW #1: If your coworkers look at the cover, blurb, and sales listing – in other words, if they actually get through the entire process of finding & purchasing the book – and are under the impression that it is squeaky clean & child-appropriate, then one of two things has happened:

    1) Your publishers are morons who don’t understand how to market books at all, or

    2) Your coworkers are morons who have never selected and read a book from the general-fiction section of the store or library.

    I’m an author, too, and the #1 driver of angry reviews is when readers don’t get what they expected. Every aspect of book marketing is intended to set coreect expectations, so if your publisher is competent nobody should be surprised that the book is for grownup readers.

  50. Be Kind to Yourself*

    LW#2: While there’s a chance you’ll be fine and ready to return after 2 weeks, I recommend thinking of it this way:

    If you end up not being in any condition to go to work after 2 weeks, you will NOT be in any condition to be scrambling to figure out how to cover your finances.

    If you’re too tired or sore or whatever else to do your work (all of which would be totally normal!), struggling with unplanned money loss will be a nightmare and could also slow down your recovery. You could easily end up with even less money than if you’d planned for extra time away.

    I don’t think it’s a case of “Hope for the best, plan for the worst,” but maybe “Hope for the best, plan for the . . . very possible case that you need more time than that.”

    Good luck, and congratulations! : )

  51. Brett*

    The context of the letter and the answer implies that “can’t afford” is purely financial.
    My first read through I thought “can’t afford” was from a career and work load perspective.

    In the industry I am in, there are two four week periods where people can’t afford to miss work because missing work in that period will set them back an entire year. Their teams would take huge losses, they would take a professional hit just from not being able to complete their work for the year. The paid leave, free disability coverage, and ongoing pay are all there to support taking time off, but the non-financial costs of taking time off at key times are significant. I think a very relevant analogy would be playing for a pro sports team and needing to take time off at the start of the post-season. Even still getting paid, you will never get back the opportunity for key career achievements (e.g. winning the championship).

    How does the script change in _that_ scenario? Where you cannot afford to take the time off because of the non-financial career costs and want to be at work versus cannot afford because of the financial costs of not getting paid (and don’t have those costs because of generous paid leave policies)?

    1. Allypopx*

      Given how casual the manager and HR are being about the matter, I don’t think that’s the read for this letter. However, in general, that’s something you know about pretty early on and prepare for either by training a replacement, getting the team in good shape perhaps planning a way to participate remotely if that makes sense. But sometimes this is a thing that happens with pro sports players. James White missed some games when his father died this fall, and I don’t think he would have played or certainly played well if they happened to be in the post-season. That’s not a 1:1 comparison but it does all fall under – sometimes life happens and the company deals with it.

    2. Be Kind to Yourself*

      If you’re that crucial to the team, I suspect the conversation would have been different from the get-go. “OK, LeBron, we have every reason to expect that your delivery will go great and that you’ll be back for the playoffs, but if you end up needing a C section, we should talk about how we’ll handle the small forward and power forward positions.”

      And if it’s more about your own career opportunities that you might lose, I would argue that it’s better for your career for you to show your bosses you are planning ahead in case it’s needed–for the team’s benefit as well as your own–than for you to insist on future heroics that the baby and your body can’t guarantee.

    3. Forrest*

      This question pre-supposed that there are some careers where you can have a baby and NOT experience it as a “setback” in career terms. I’m extremely unconvinced that’s true. I think the vast majority of people who bear children and think of themselves as having careers (as in, identify with their work and have professional goals and aspirations) experience a trade-off and sacrifice so me career advancement in order to have a baby and meet its needs in the first few years of life. Even my friends who have partners who are the primary carers and who are take minimal maternity leave and are able to continue to work long hours or who work in female-dominated, equality-focused sectors or whatever find they don’t aren’t in the place they’d be if they hadn’t had kids. I certainly am not.

      But even if you “can’t afford” to take time off because it’s a critical time of the year, your body doesn’t care about that. If you injure your and can’t play in the Grand Slam tournament you were hoping to win— bad luck! I’m not convinced you can opt out of having a baby having an impact on your career any more than you can opt out of having cancer having an impact on your career.

    4. Brett*

      Thanks everyone. These were all very helpful! (And helpful to think from a manager context about how to properly prepare and strengthen a team to deal with the potential impacts of any health related issue including pregnancy.)

  52. lost academic*

    I too think that physically 2 weeks is a nightmare but it’s not my body and not my decision, and I assume as an adult the LW has a backup plan.

    But I also might note that we don’t know if the LW is keeping the baby. We shouldn’t assume that either. Best of luck.

    1. Observer*

      Yeah, we don’t know that, which makes the “bonding” comment bad.

      Nevertheless, that’s not really the key issue. It’s a huge mistake to assume that the only, or even MAIN, reason that women NEED to take off is because they are tied to the baby. There is a lot that is going on physically after a baby is born, no matter what happens with the actual child.

  53. HRBee*

    I returned to work two weeks after the birth of my first child. But *HUGE HUGE* caveat, I returned in a WFH capacity. I literally held my baby almost the entire time while my laptop sat on my coffee table and I typed with one hand. When he napped, I’d put him in his bassinet beside me. I also could not afford to take off more time and didn’t have any family (besides my husband who also needed to work for us to afford life) in the area.

    As crappy as it is to have to work so soon after giving birth, I think you’re setting yourself up for failure if 2 weeks means literally back in the office in two weeks. I had a ‘perfect’ birth and no ill effects afterwards. My doctor didn’t release me to even drive for 8 weeks. My advice would be to seriously talk about WFH options with your manager/HR.

  54. twocents*

    Re #1: my co-worker’s wife writes romance that is not so subtly based on her sexual fantasies with her husband/my co-worker. Less than zero desire to read about their roleplaying, but thankfully, co-worker has never followed up to ask if any of us have ever read his wife’s books.

    I have another coworker whose wife writes historical non-fiction about, frankly, tediously boring places. He followed up ALL THE TIME on it, and that’s a niche market. So please, OP, never ever ask if your coworkers actually read it. If they have, assume they’ll tell you.

  55. Did this already*

    OP2, please consider all the advice to make a plan in case you can’t go back after 2 weeks. You really never know what will happen during a pregnancy. I planned on 6 weeks and ended up being out for 10 ( 2 before and 8 after, dr orders, there was no arguing about it).

  56. kristinyc*

    For OP 1-
    On my third week at my job, my team had a little party to celebrate a colleague’s book winning an award. The book was a memoir about him as a teenager learning he had diabetes at the same time he was realizing he was gay, and it intertwines those two topics. I normally read a lot of humorous memoirs by gay men (Sedaris, Burroughs, etc) and thought this would be right up my alley. So I bought the book and read it.

    The first chapter was about masturbation. The book was great, and I read all of it, and there was more content that most people probably wouldn’t want to know about their co-workers. I told him I had just read the book, and he was mortified and immediately said “OMG, I’m so sorry! I should have warned you about the content!”. I didn’t mind at all, and enjoyed reading the book because it was hilarious, and it helped me learn things about him and get to know him better. So, uh – I wouldn’t worry too much about it! Might be worth giving a heads up.

    Another co-worker published a book a few years later that detailed an affair she had with a colleague, and while it didn’t mention it, it was CLEARLY at our workplace. Was definitely an interesting and unexpected read! I find it fascinating learning about co-workers’ lives. :)

  57. Be Kind to Yourself*

    I think people believe LW about being financially unable to take more leave. I think what is setting people off is “How can I approach my manager and HR again about this and get them to understand I will only be gone a couple of weeks?”

    LW isn’t going to sway anybody by guaranteeing things about the baby and their own health that simply can’t be guaranteed about the wildly variable and unpredictable physical process of giving birth. You might as well say, “My manager doesn’t believe that when I bet on the roulette wheel tomorrow, it will come up with an even number. How can I approach my manager and HR again about this and get them to understand that when I bet on the roulette wheel tomorrow, it will definitely come up with an even number?”

    Sure, there’s an excellent chance that it will! But the employers have seen it come up odd a lot of times. It could happen, whether or not one can afford for it to happen.

    Insisting to the bosses that something you don’t have complete control over simply will not happen because you can’t afford it is not a position of strength.

    I think their incredulity is an opening for LW to put additional pressure on them for more leave, maybe even more than Alison suggested: they know darn well it is the practical as well as ethical thing to do.

    1. Be Kind to Yourself*

      PAID leave, that is, and more than two weeks of it. (Writing about letter #2, obviously.)

    2. Blackcat*

      Yes, this is exactly where I land.
      If OP hasn’t given birth before, it’s roughly 50/50 odds of being physically able to get back to work between c-section risk & risk of other complications with a vaginal birth. If OP has given birth once before without complications, that’s different. If she’s done it twice without complications, then it’s really different. Then there’s a reasonable script: “This is not my first rodeo. Birth goes smoothly for me, and I and my doctor believe it’s quite likely I will be able to physically return after 2 weeks.”

      Even then, she can’t tell her employer she’s definitely going to be back after 2 weeks. Her employer needs to plan for coverage knowing that she may be out for longer. Even in the best case scenario (history of extremely easy births), there’s like a 5-10% chance of stuff going sideways, and many employers will want to plan for that.
      Her employer is definitely being crappy about the whole thing (the “bonding” comment is condescending, and WTF no paid leave at all). But they’re not wrong that there’s good odds OP will be out longer than 2 weeks, and OP insisting she’ll be back after two weeks just isn’t believable.
      Pressuring for paid options is the way to go here. “If I can get the time paid at 50%, we can plan on me being out for 4 weeks.” is a reasonable thing!

  58. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

    I feel like so many comments for OP2 are focused on the fact that she won’t be able to go back to work after two weeks. I have two kids and I didn’t have to go back that soon, and I currently work for a company that provides mother’s and fathers four months paid, but the reality is that getting paid time off for maternity leave is a privilege most women don’t have in this country. Women go back to work after two weeks all the time, and they have to in order to support their family. This isn’t good policy, or socially equitable, but it is a fact. Also, I see a lot of people commenting on daycare etc., again, I don’t think that is helpful. I think we can assume a working woman, who is getting to the end of her pregnancy knows that. So what is helpful: OP2 – ask for more leave. Ask about short term disability. And if nothing is available that will support you after the birth of your child, ask them not to raise it again. I wish you all the best, good luck, and I hope they extend your leave with pay.

  59. Ryn*

    Honestly this comment section is a good reminder that even in 2021, people refuse to trust women when it comes to their own body and choices. The concern trolling here is unhelpful, and the implication that this woman doesn’t know what she’s getting into are paternalistic and based in misogyny.

    LW #2 wrote in asking for communication and messaging advice. Instead, she’s received dozens of comments from complete strangers who know nothing beyond the few sentences provided here, implying that she’s not prepared to give birth.

    To LW #2 — I am sorry you are in this position; we live in an often cruel society. As others have said, highlighting that this is a decision based out of financial need and asking if there are benefits you aren’t aware of seems to be the way to go. Congratulations on the pregnancy and good luck with motherhood!!

    1. Forrest*

      Conversely, I think it’s the other way around: it’s because of misogyny and the cultural willingness to overlook what a big physical trauma birth is means that most of us have no idea what kind of physical outcomes and effects to expect after birth. I still have no idea where the short- and long-term effects I experienced fall on the scale of normal-to-severe because there’s such enormous pressure on us *not* to talk about the physical impacts of giving birth and especially the recovery.

      1. Ryn*

        I don’t disagree that there’s a cultural willingness to overlook the physical trauma of birth — but that is not what LW #2 wrote into this column to talk about that. This is not the moment to give unsolicited advice to a pregnant woman clearly put in an impossible situation. Assuming this woman doesn’t know what she’s getting into is, again, paternalistic. Destigmatizing the dangers and traumas of pregnancy does not mean “tell pregnant women facing financial insecurity they’re unprepared for giving birth.”

        1. Forrest*

          I think I would disagree about what “paternalistic” means, tbh. I can’t think of any situations where I’d describe, “I’ve been through this experience and I think you might be overestimating how much control you have, that’s common, I did too” as paternalistic. I’m not sure I’d ever see comments coming out of lived experience as paternalistic.

          But I agree that the sheer number of people making similar comments is probably overwhelming and unhelpful for OP.

          1. Be Kind to Yourself*

            I 100% guaranteed my boss that I’d be back the day after I had my wisdom teeth out. I knew sometimes that surgery was hard on people, but nobody in my family ever had a hard time, and I had a history as a healthy person who recovered quickly from things. My boss cautioned me gently, but I was sure, and there was no swaying me. I knew myself and my body, and that was that. Guaranteed.

            She moved an important deadline two weeks back anyway, which was good, because a week later, I was still throwing up, with my head shaped like a giant square. I still couldn’t leave the house.

            LW is asking, “How can I approach my manager and HR again about this and get them to understand that I 100% guarantee something that is not guarantee-able in this world?” LW is asking the wrong question, and it is not paternalistic to point that out.

            No one person could have changed my certainly about what my body would react after my wisdom tooth removal. But there’s a chance that I would have at least been alerted to my hubris if I had heard 30 people saying, “Hey, the body of every human being, male and female and everywhere in between, has a say in how it responds to a major physical ordeal. You are asking how you can convince your bosses that your brain can overrule it, when it simply can’t. Maybe ask a different question.”

          2. Be Kind to Yourself*

            Nesting fail, sorry! I meant to mostly agree with you, especially “I can’t think of any situations where I’d describe, ‘I’ve been through this experience and I think you might be overestimating how much control you have, that’s common, I did too’ as paternalistic.”

    2. Observer*

      and the implication that this woman doesn’t know what she’s getting into are paternalistic and based in misogyny.

      That’s nonsense. A good proportion of the people responding here are women. Here is the fact – it simply is not possible for the OP to know with this level of certainty that they will be ABLE to come back in 2 weeks. Even if she’s has 2 or more uncomplicated and fairly easy births AND she has a really good care team, there is a small but significant chance that something could work out very differently this time. If she does not have that, then the chances are far higher that she’s just not going to be able to do it. It’s not about knowing her own body, because that’s not the whole story here.

      We do no one any favors by pretending otherwise. In fact, all it does it put pressure on women to start working long before it’s healthy for them.

      In fact, if the OP wants to get her message across she needs to acknowledge this reality. She should ALSO be clear as to why she’s only planning on two weeks if it is at all possible AND ask for what kind of paid leave or other accommodations can be made.

      1. Ryn*

        If LW #2 had wanted that type of input, she would have gone to a parenting advice column. The continued insistence that we simply must tell this naive woman the ways of the world because she knows not what she begins is ridiculous. Can’t help but see some classism there too (“if LW can’t afford to take time off, they clearly don’t know enough about pregnancy”) LW asked a question about business communication and got answers about why her birth plan is bad.

        Btw, women can perpetuate misogyny. I’ve been questioned and harangued about my fertility choices by women way more than by men.

        1. Be Kind to Yourself*

          Enh, most good advice columnists frequently give you not the advice you want but the advice you need, and that advice is often, “You are asking the wrong question.”

          LW’s question boils down to, “What business communication will convince my employer that I can 100% predict the future regarding my body’s response to a major physical ordeal?” The bulk of these responses are just saying, “Well, there isn’t going to be any business communication that can do that, because nobody can predict the future, and they know it. Maybe rethink the question instead.”

          1. Ryn*

            That would be well and fine if that’s all that people were saying but there are people in these comments saying nonsense like “all pregnant women should be on bed rest for 40 days.” That’s… not work-related advice and not a helpful redirection.

            1. Observer*

              Please, most commenters are not saying anything close to that.

              Straw man arguments are not helpful to the OP.

          2. Dahlia*

            That is not what OP is saying.

            OP is saying, “If there are not complications, this is the plan.”

            1. Forrest*

              yes— the split is between people who think that most people who anticipate uncomplicated births get one, so that’s a solid basis for a company to plan on, and those who think that lots of people who anticipate an uncomplicated birth actually get a complicated one, and therefore that’s a bad basis for planning.

              That doesn’t excuse the company for making LW feel unheard and patronised (or, obviously, not offering maternity pay.) From a business planning and H&S pint of view, though, “back in two weeks IF I have an uncomplicated birth” is an awfully big IF.

            2. Be Kind to Yourself*

              A matter of interpretation, I suppose. OP does say “assuming it’s an uncomplicated birth,” so your reading could be accurate.

              However, to me, “get them to understand I will only be gone a couple of weeks” sounds a LOT like OP has written off any complications or even normal physical effects as a possibility, and since the OP’s question is about wording, it makes sense to look carefully at the wording OP is already using, here and with the employer.

              If a gajillion commentators read “get them to understand I will only be gone a couple of weeks” as “I know for a fact that there won’t be any complications,” then there’s a good chance the employer will too, and OP won’t be especially persuasive.

              Only OP can say. Maybe they will chime in and clarify, if they manage to read all of these comments!

        2. Observer*

          “if LW can’t afford to take time off, they clearly don’t know enough about pregnancy”

          That’s extraordinarily silly. It’s also a total figment of your imagination. No one is claiming that because she’s in a difficult financial situation that proves she stupid and uneducated.

          What we are saying is that given the way childbirth works, you can know your body and STILL have a really high chance of not being able to come back to work in two weeks. In my experience this failure to recognize this is actually more common in people who have grown up with more resources rather than less. Because unless and until you have had kids or have been VERY close to someone who has had issues after a child, when you have access to resources it tends to gloss over the level of difficulty outsiders see.

          To take an extreme example – if your primary example of what happens after a baby is people like Marissa Mayer (at the time of Yahoo) who can literally spend $!m+ to build a nursery for your child at work, and who NEVER has to pick up a broom or other household implement unless she chooses to, then it’s easy to miss how hard childbirth is. On the other extreme if your primary experience is people who go into childbirth already exhausted and then struggle to take care of themselves and the baby afterwards because they have no resources, you are NOT going to be naive about what it takes.

          Of course there is a LOT more that goes into forming our attitudes, but don’t kid yourself. People in lower socioeconomic situations are not especially likely to be naive about the problems of having a baby.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        “A good proportion of the people responding here are women.”

        Why do people even say this like it’s an actual argument? Come on. You know perfectly well that women are capable of misogyny. I would say that it is *especially* common on the topic of childbirth, the work/parenting balance and the “right” way to be a mother. This is such a basic thing.

    3. Elysian*

      This isn’t about not trusting her because she’s a woman. It is about not trusting anyone’s certainty about events that haven’t happened yet. If she had said “I am two weeks out my from birth and I feel capable of working. I need the money and need to go back, but my boss won’t let me because he says I should take more time to bond with the baby.” THAT would be a whole different question, and I would whole-heartedly trust her perception of her lived experience. But that isn’t this question – this question is about planning for something yet to come, where she does not know what the outcome will be, and the outcome she wishes for is very unlikely. If two weeks come and she’s ready to go back, I trust her. At the moment, I think she needs a contingency plan because we aren’t there yet and most women aren’t ready to work after two weeks.

  60. momofpeanut*

    OP2: you have my thoughts. Good luck with your new baby. As someone who also couldn’t plan to take time off after my child’s birth, I know you are making the best choices you can.

  61. agnes*

    I had what was undoubtedly the easiest birth ever with my first. A couple of hours of labor, she popped right out, home in less than 6 hours. She was born on a Monday, I went back to grad school the following Monday. Had my baby cooperated, everything would have been fine. I felt fine, but my baby was not. She developed colic at about 2 weeks of age and I honestly just about lost my mind. I finally dropped out of grad school for the semester because I was almost psychotic from lack of sleep and having so much worry.

    Point being, there are many variables to consider with bringing a new life into the family, so the advice you’ve been given to explore all options to be out as long as you can is appropriate. I wish you well. Work from home might be an option too.

  62. Utopianna*

    LW2: going to go ahead and assume you have done all of the due diligence commenters above have described. You really have to go back to work after 2 weeks pretty much no matter what, you’re working on getting connected to other resources but it’s not enough, you don’t qualify, you work in a state with awful labor laws, you’re buried in red tape and worried you’re gonna be buried financially before you actually get the kind of assistance you need, whatever. Your priority then has to be to preserve the job you’ve already got, because you’ll be just as screwed if you go back to work at 2 weeks & then are let go a month or two later because you can’t perform to expectations. If your bosses aren’t going to offer you paid leave, then you have to have a very frank and very specific conversation about what expectations are going to be like when you do go back to work, and what kind of accommodations they can offer you. You may also have to revisit that conversation depending on how the birth goes. But I’d have that conversation as soon as humanly possible, and I’d get it in writing.

    1. Utopianna*

      Part of the problem I’m having with a lot of this commentary is that they just assume you work the kind of job where WFH is a possibility, so I will give you examples of kinds of accommodations a coworker who had to come right back to work after giving birth got when I was in food service: she only worked the cash register, instead of more strenuous tasks in the kitchen. She had a stool and was allowed to do her work sitting down. She had more scheduled breaks in addition to the legally-required time to pump. We had a great manager & so she didn’t have to negotiate for any of this, but these are all things you can ask for. To be honest a lot of us picked up her slack for a long time but we were happy to do it if it meant she and her baby had food and shelter. Good luck to you.

      1. Utopianna*

        ALSO (sorry, I am on a “more poor people advice” tear, apparently) we put together a little cushion fund for this person in case she had to be out for longer than she anticipated. We were all poor, too, but between the lot of us throwing in a portion of our tips for awhile we scraped together enough to get her through another pay cycle or two. It is absolutely demeaning and wrong that we have to step in to care for and protect each other when owners of businesses and the state won’t, but you shouldn’t discount asking your coworkers for help if paid leave turns out to be a non-starter.

  63. OP #4*

    Hi – I’m the one who submitted question #4.

    Firstly, thank you Ms. Green for answering! I love this blog and I was really excited I got a response!

    Secondly, I do have a bit of an update – I did send one more follow up and 3 days later, the HR coordinator said they hired someone who had more experience. I’m happy that I didn’t get ultimately ghosted, but I was disappointed that I didn’t get to have a “re-do” interview with the guy who unfortunately lost his friend, especially since every round leading up to it seemed to be going amazingly.

    Also, after some reflection, it does feel stupid to think they would make up a death to get out of an interview. Things happen, especially this past year, and I realize how cold I must sound. Please note that I really did feel bad for him, but it was also very awkward as I had never experienced that in a interview before.

    Here’s hoping a job will come through soon for me and anyone else struggling with job hunting (and for things in this world to get better fast!).

  64. Paris Geller*

    For LW #2: I hope you do have an easy and uncomplicated birth, but as several of the commenters have pointed out, that’s not always a guarantee. I don’t find it concern trolling like some commenters do–just many people giving their personal experience how birth and the recovery is something you cannot 100% plan for, because some things are just out of your control.

    With that in mind, IF you do end up needing more than two weeks, and you work for a company that does this, could you possibly have additional leave fronted to you? Ideally, we would have paid maternity leave, but since we don’t, people often have to come up with solutions. I’ve seen some commenters above mention looking into seeing if your organization has a leave bank, which I think is definitely a good idea. However, I do know some companies will front a certain amount of leave, and then after you return the leave you accrue goes toward that leave that was fronted until the you’ve earned back the leave you’ve taken. This isn’t something everywhere will offer, but it’s worth looking into. I know my organization doesn’t do this, but a friend’s company does–she was able to get more leave than she had accrued when she started a new job and and then had to be out for a week for medical reasons within the first couple of months.

  65. BTB*

    Thank you for posting the question about showing the promotion on the resume! I was recently promoted with a status change (non-exempt to exempt) and a role title, but about 80% of my duties stayed the same. Some new things got added in, but not many. Should I include a caption under the new role in my resume saying something to the tune of “new duties in this role include…”??

  66. Betsy S*

    OP2: I absolutely believe you that you cannot afford to take additional time off, and I wish you very smooth sailing. The problem is, you might not have the choice. I very much hope this is all moot; one in four mothers in the US return to work after 10 days.

    Out of compassion, I would urge you to do the exercise of figuring out a ‘plan B’, hoping you never need to use it. What would you do if you were forced to miss 4-6 weeks? Borrow? sell stuff? Miss a month’s rent and deal with the consequences? Run a gofundme? (I’m in) . (how soon is soon – can you or partner take a temporary gig or more hours to build a cushion? I know that’s easier said than done)

    Bottom line, you may or may not experience the equivalent of being hit by a truck. Me, I was unable to work for more than six weeks, will spare you the details. Your boss and HR may know you sincerely want and need to return to work, but their experience tells them you may not be able to. Sounds like they don’t want to say so out loud, so they’re going with ‘you need to bond with your baby’ instead of saying ‘we need to cover our tails”.

    Wishing you the very best, please keep us posted and post a baby pic!

    1. Betsy S*

      missed the OP’s response until after I posted mine, can’t figure out how to delete. guess I forgot to hit refresh. My apologies and best wishes again.

  67. mystiknitter*

    Alison, is there any way at all I (we) can contribute to LW#2? I was a family day care provider when my 2nd and 3rd children were born, and had a weekend off for child#2 and a week off for child#3; I would never ever wish that for any mother if it were within my magic powers – but I would very gladly offer money to our letter writer. There are so many unexpected expenses when a baby is born and growing!
    It is unfortunate that in the US, one in three campaigns on GoFundMe is for medical expenses. GoFundMe has become one of the largest ‘medical insurers’.

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