updates: the short maternity leave, the needy replacement, and more

Here are three updates from letter-writers who had their questions answered here in the past.

1. My manager doesn’t believe I’ll be back two weeks off after having a baby (#2 at the link)

Well, I did end up having another conversation where I reiterated my two week plan and that the doctor agreed if there were no complications. I didn’t get sputtering the second time but I did get a gentle “pp is much harder then you understand” conversation. I ended up not bringing up my financial motivations because…I didn’t want to seem whiny? Bad with money? I’m not sure. I did bring up my concern about the temp and how if I come back too soon it’ll cut the contract. Turns out that was a non concern as they planned to use her in other areas whenever I came back, regardless if it was two weeks or six. In the end, however both HR, my manager, and your lovely comment section were all right one way or another. Pp is hard! And things did not go the way I expected! I went a week overdue, had a small scare, they induced me and my son ended up being 2.5 lbs bigger then they expected! But also that same day I received my stimulus check which really helped with my financials while on maternity leave! I actually ended up taking 10 weeks off before I had to go back. Those first few weeks were rough! I super underestimated how much work a newborn would be, as well as healing from the birth, and I’m glad I was able to stay with my baby for as long as I did.

Thank you again for your script and especially thank you to your comment section; They had a lot of thoughtful advice (and some reality checks) that really helped me with this!

2. My replacement doesn’t want me to stop helping him

The responses to my post on your site were something I really needed during a really vulnerable time in my life. I had just made a major life change, moving from Iowa back home to Ohio. The job I left in Iowa was huge in pressure and responsibility and I always struggled with feelings that I could never do enough. I ended up finishing my training with my replacement on October 31, this included a training session that went until 11:00 pm at night.

I did follow the advice in one of the responses to my post: once the training was completed I sent an email to my former boss and chair of the finance committee that listed all of the items I had trained my replacement on. I also listed outstanding items where more training was needed. I felt so much better after this! In addition, I found someone from another, local branch, who was willing to assist my replacement when needed. I still hear from my former boss via text. It is usually a quick question about budgets or vendors, questions that could be answered by my replacement. I don’t know if he doesn’t want to bother my replacement, it’s easier to quickly ask me, or if he offers to ask me to help my replacement. Either way, I still find it surprising. Life is good in Ohio. I still struggle with boundaries but am doing better every time.

The responses on your site were so encouraging. I think most of us question ourselves, our reactions and abilities. Work is a big part of our lives, it is where we spend most of our waking hours. Thank you for what you do, it really matters.

3. Will I ever find a job I like? (first question in the podcast; transcript here; first update here)

First, updates on that previous horrible workplace. They made some changes during the pandemic that are causing tons of people to leave including my two good friends that were still there when I left and my old horrible boss! I won’t list the changes made because they are somewhat identifying but it’s pretty bad. I’m only bummed I won’t get to hear all the gossip from there anymore LOL.

On to me… the place I ended up going to after that horrible job ended up being a dumpster fire as well! I was in a weird political situation with my role (basically I was borrowed to a different team and my director forced me to choose which team to work on, and I chose the team I was originally hired onto because he promised a lot and practically begged). Then the pandemic happened and he laid me off, without telling the team I was still borrowed to what happened! I ended up being “saved” for a bit and got my layoff extended through July 2020, and landed a new job right when my extended layoff period ended so I ended up not being unemployed at all AND still got my severance. It all worked out in the end but I would’ve appreciated less drama!

The layoff was a blessing in disguise… I thought I would enjoy the technical work of that job more but I truly didn’t. I decided to actually take your advice to heart and figure out what I actually want from work, what I can live with, what my dealbreakers are, and what I really want in my career. I started an MBA program in the Fall of 2019 and that has really turned me on to strategy/change management types of roles. I actually feel kinda excited about my career path again!

The job I am at now is for a junior PM role, and I just got a promotion to PM! This new job is NOT a dream job by any means; we’re a vendor for the federal government so I have zero autonomy, I work on software built in the 80s, and at 35 I’m the youngest person on the product! But it has the things I am currently looking for, including work/life balance so I can focus on school, tuition reimbursement ($10k/year for graduate level tuition!!!!!), supportive management, and tons of opportunities for growth within and outside the product (my parent company is a multi-national corporation). There are things here and there that bother me, but I’ve gotten better at letting them just roll off my shoulders and being more mindful and appreciative of what I do like about my job.

I think if I had this job a few years ago I’d be miserable, but the mindset shift that you suggested has really helped me see the forest through the trees and realize this job is JUST A JOB, and just a means to get a job more aligned with my career goals in the near future. Thank you again for your advice!

{ 117 comments… read them below }

  1. Dust Bunny*

    OP2: Yeah, start directing those texts back to your replacement. You’ve been super extra Midwestern nice about this but you don’t work there any more.

    (Or start billing them as a consultant.)

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      “Oh gosh, it’s been over a year. I just don’t remember anymore. I’m sure Dan is on top of it!”

      1. No Name Today*

        If I may make one addition to this perfectly crafted reply…
        The following week, send a reply stating “Oh gosh, it’s been over a year. I just don’t remember anymore. I’m sure Dan is on top of it!”

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            (And my suggestion is classic Alison…I only borrow from the best.)

            1. No Name Today*

              HA full disclosure, I got that from Steve Harvey’s stand up. He says when he gets a text from family who lives in a different states that includes things like “call me, it’s an emergency!” he gives it a week.
              It never is an emergency. And they’ve figured out how to take care of their own business by then.

      2. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. Just because it’s easier *for them* doesn’t make it right. Redirect or ignore.

      3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I had that happen – from the boss who pushed me out (apparently the other person with the log-in information also got tired of that guy’s attitude and left).

        Waited like three or four days, responded that it had been 18 months and I just didn’t remember the information I hadn’t used in a really long time. I wished him all the best in his dealings with IT support getting things reset.

        He was upset – but he wasn’t my boss anymore, I had a new job in a different field, and I was done caring what he thought.

    2. Annette*

      I’m leaving a job I have been in for 25 years and it will take some time to hire my replacement. My department head asked, “Would you be willing to come back for a day or two to train the person once we hire them?” and the first thing out of my mouth was, “Will you pay me?”

      I didn’t work for free while I was an employee there, and I sure as heck won’t work for free once I’m gone.

      1. No Name Today*

        Mad respect.
        “Oh but you are indispensable.”
        So is every person in the cemetery.

    3. PeteAndRepeat*

      “Super extra Midwestern nice” made me laugh and also cringe in recognition. OP2, you can stop doing free work for your old company with a clear conscience! You’ve already gone way above and beyond; there is no obligation to be a doormat.

      1. No Name Today*

        Is it bad that I did a spit take? I don’t feel bad. I feel kinda like wow, that’s glorious.

  2. automaticdoor*

    LW1, I’m so happy things worked out for you! I was pretty concerned about that plan but I do understand the financial issues that were at play there for you and for many other women. The US just really sucks on parental issues. Massive congratulations!

    1. AVP*

      I’m so glad we got an update on this one! I had a baby around the same time and have been very curious/concerned how it worked out for the OP.

  3. LavaLamp*

    LW1 I thought I could come back to work after a major surgery much earlier. Thankfully my doctor squashed that plan and made me take the required time off. Usually; when it comes to human bodies (surgeries;having babies etc) it’s best to just plan for the worst and be pleasantly surprised because bodies and babies laugh in the face of plans.

    1. PT*

      There’s also a huge gap between what a doctor considers “better” and what a layperson considers “better.” The doctor considers you better when your healing no longer requires their attention. A layperson considers themselves better when they can do everything they normally could without pain or restriction. There can be months or even years in between the time your doctor releases you from care and the time you can go back to all of your regular activities without discomfort.

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        Sometimes it’s the other way around: the doctor says “take at least two weeks to recover from your surgery” and the patient is thinking “yeah, I’m fine, I can get a car service to work and it’s an office job.” I think I made it through a bit over half the day before my boss said “Gollux, go home, we can cope without you for a few more days.”

        I was sitting there thinking that being without my gall bladder wasn’t a big deal, and I’d been able to get around well enough to leave the hospital sooner than they expected. He was thinking that he’d removed a lot of gall bladders and knew what the recovery was like, and that mine had been very badly inflamed. (I was a textbook example of a person who needed that surgery–fat, female, and in my forties. So he specifically, and surgeons more generally, have a lot of experience of patients similar to me to base their predictions on.)

        1. LavaLamp*

          Hilariously I lost my gallbladder at 21 due to genetics. Mom, Grandma both had theirs out. It was just a matter of time for me. I’m a very short person and was so sick I was very thin. You could see the swollen gallbladder when looking at my stomach. I’m just grateful we have laparoscopy now. Grandma had hers done open and has a scar from under one breast to the top of her hip.

    2. Momma Bear*

      I think this also highlights how supporting parents – with decent time off and adequate disability pay – is very important. She got the support she needed so she got the time to heal and bond that she needed. I’m glad it worked out for her.

      1. No Name Today*

        This is the key point. If supervisor and HR really gave a rat’s ass, they wouldn’t have 1) sputtered/mocked OP’s plan. “Oh, well, you have no idea…” because who wants to be treated like that? Particularly at work and particularly about one’s body? and 2) they would have simply asked why and how. Instead of dismissing the plan, because “OP has no idea” and telling her what she SHOULD do, they could have asked why she was doing that and letting her know what they COULD do.
        So a lousy situation made worse by lousy attitudes.

        1. Lexie*

          It’s hard to know what they meant without being there but it’s possible they didn’t mean to mock OP and were just genuinely shocked by the idea of a 2 week maternity leave causing them to react before their filter engaged. They may also have been concerned that OP had not been given realistic information about the postpartum period and wanted to give her more accurate information but just didn’t handle it well.

          1. No Name Today*

            I agree. I think it was a genuine blurt. I am not saying they were even being rude. They were truly shocked.
            I wish they had come back to her with, “Look, my response was not the best. I am not criticizing you or mocking you. I want you to know X, Y Z.”
            But it seems like they really didn’t because they had nothing to offer, other than well, anecdotes and sympathy.
            If OP had said she couldn’t lose the income, hearing them say “yeah, that’s tough, but you really have to,” because, well OP didn’t really have to. She was fortunately able to, through no part on her company other than the legally mandated holding her job.
            So no ill will on their part. The company sucks.

          2. traffic_spiral*

            Yeah, she probably felt like OP had said “yeah, sure I’ll be at the company dinner held at the steakhouse – I just gotta pop out for 3 root canals this afternoon, but I should be done with at least 30 minutes to spare,” and having had a root canal herself before, the boss was like “uh… what now?”

          3. CoveredInBees*

            Yup. I had a friend whose plan was to go back to work in about 2 weeks, despite having paid leave, because that’s what she wanted to do. Her partner would be the primary parent. She thought leave was only about bonding and anyone who tried to mention she might need more time, however gingerly, was aggressively shut down. This was because she thought people were saying this to her because they thought she was “weak” and wouldn’t be able to handle her own body. Even women sharing their own experiences she decided she could just will her way out of it.

            1. Civilian Linetti*

              What was your friend’s solution in the end?

              I’ve had two c-sections and there’s no way I could go back to work after two weeks even if I desperately wanted to.

      2. Formerly Ella Vader*

        Yes, it’s a good resolution for LW#1.

        I hope, though, at some point LW#1 might feel more comfortable letting some people at work know that her previous plan was partly based on financial considerations. I find that sometimes people in management can be unaware of financial obstacles for people at a lower income/security level, and can say or do things that land as insensitive, because they honestly don’t get it. Yeah, I know you’re still working at home in this heat because you have a basement / air conditioning / a lake house, but I don’t have any of those things so I’m coming back to the office. Yeah, I know that your partner stayed home with the kids and you didn’t have daycare crises affecting work, but the clerk doesn’t have that option so they’ll either be late to work all this week or will be bringing the kid with them. Yeah, I know that you never need a travel advance, but we employ people who don’t have credit cards, and not because of principle.

        If you don’t feel okay about letting your bosses and HR know about your own financial situation, maybe keep an eye out for speaking up in a hypothetical situation or when the next person has the option of a long unpaid leave, like “let’s not put them on the spot, keep in mind that taking the leave is a significant financial hardship for many people” along with the “respect their choices and their privacy” generalities. You probably aren’t in a position to urge them to consider amending the policies, but you might at least be able to get them to understand people’s choices a bit more.

    3. PeteAndRepeat*

      That’s very true, but I think women get an unrealistic idea of what “normal” postpartum recovery looks like *because* there is so little institutional support for maternity leave, and what there is tends to be focused on the baby’s needs, not the mother’s. (Including the medical system.) Getting 6 weeks of paid leave is a rare benefit – considering that most American workers have no paid parental leave whatsoever – but even that gives the impression that 6 weeks is plenty of time for anyone to recover from any birth, and really it’s more about bonding with your baby. I know that postpartum and the newborn stage hit me like a ton of bricks, and I had a ton of advantages that many women don’t: I attended all the perinatal classes, I had paid maternity leave, we could afford for my husband to take unpaid paternity leave, I had access to medical care and lactation consultants and all the rest…I was still an absolute mess, physically and mentally, for the first few months.

      1. Lexie*

        Also, you don’t always know the restrictions that will be placed on you until after the fact. I had an unplanned c-section with one of my kids so at discharge was when I was informed I couldn’t drive for 4-6 weeks or lift anything heavier than the baby.

    4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Quote from a friend:
      “Life is all the things that happen to derail your plans”

      Glad all worked out for you in the end OP1.

  4. LadyofLasers*

    #1 I’m so glad you were able to get the time off you needed! For what it’s worth, I didn’t think less of you at all when you said you needed to go back quickly pp for financial reasons. I can’t promise that would have been true of your manager, but I think you would have been pleasantly surprised about her response if you had leveled with her.

    Congratulations on your baby <3. I had mine 6 months ago and he is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and the best thing I’ve ever done

    1. BubbleTea*

      My baby was born 15 days ago and I am currently lying on my bed having just cried because it is so hard, praying that he will please go to sleep for even just half an hour so I can have some food. I can’t imagine how I would feel if I had to work tomorrow – but also can’t imagine how I would feel if I had to worry about how I would manage financially. It’s just really hard all round without adding those pressures.

      1. NameNameName*

        Sending you all the good mom energy BubbleTea. Momming is hard! You’re doing it!

      2. Shenandoah*

        Hang in there, BubbleTea! These early days are so tough, but I promise you it gets better. Sending you good nap thoughts!

      3. LadyofLasers*

        Those first few weeks are so tough!!! You’re tired and frazzled and hurting and wondering if you’re ever going to feel like yourself again. It does get better I promise. Sending all the air hugs and care!

      4. rkz*

        Sending you all the good vibes! It is SO hard at first but it really does get better and one day you look up and suddenly you are just doing all the things that seemed so impossible just a few days/weeks/months ago (and then there are new challenges but at least they are a change!) Signed, my baby just had his first birthday

      5. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Agreeing with the others BubbleTea. The first few weeks are tough, you are healing after one of the toughest things your body has to do, and you have this tiny helpless human that is totally dependent on you for everything. It does get better – and you will both start sleeping better soonish.

        Signed, mom of two whose “baby” starts kindergarten in six weeks.

      6. TardyTardis*

        If you are having trouble sleeping even when the baby is asleep at night, *tell your doctor*. This is one of the big symptoms of post-partum problems, and it can really drive you nuts. I tried to do too much after my second child and it took a lot longer for me to recover than it should have. Hormones are not your friend, and they can and will mess you up.

    2. rkz*

      +1 to that! I had my baby a year ago and just defending my PhD last week. Whenever I got nervous before the defense, I kept telling myself “this is going to be far from the hardest thing you’ve done this year!”

  5. Free Meerkats*

    Advice from a 65-year old person to #3:

    Really lean into learning that software from the 80s. All those old people you’re working with are going to be retiring, and governments – especially the Feds – are terrible about replacing legacy systems. Someone is still going to need to maintain that system, and once all us grey hairs retire, you can write your own ticket. Frequently in older plants I inspect, the most valued person in the building is the guy who can keep the automation running, one place only a few years ago still had punchcard CNC machines. When they were down, production stopped.

    Keep up with current stuff as much as you can, as well; you never know when you’ll need it.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      IIRC, the US Navy has subs that are still using 8 inch floppy drives, so….yes.

      1. JustMyImagination*

        I think it was until 2019 that the nuclear missile were controlled by floppy disks!

      1. SherBear*

        I don’t know much about computer programming but I believe it’s EBCDIC that my Dad is still doing conversions on – and he can charge out the wazoo as there are so few programmers available (he’s mostly retired but it’s ‘simple’ for him)

      2. Chinook*

        I worked with one of the guys who helped prevent the feared 2000 bug (I think that was the year where there was a fear of computers having date issues) and he said that, due to how they had to fix the old programs, it will happen again in about 20 or 30 years because those legacy programs, including Excel, can only hold 100 years of dates because every date is assigned a numerical code (which also explains why turning date formatting into text or numerical can sometimes get you a seemingly random number. Also, try typing anybdte from the 1800’s or earlier in Excel, or any program, and see if it auto formats to se this potential issue). So it wasn’t really a bug but a feature.

        He also said it those programs may not necessarily be replaced because they are now relatively bug free due to decades of support and use as well as being relatively unhackable due to obselence and not being internet friendly. I thought he made a good point because I barely trust a new programs’s stability, especially with how many updates they require, and is anyone really going to trust their finances or nuclear codes to the equivalent of android or apple apps? Sure, the interfaces can be updated but the hard data needs oo be saved in something stable and reliable. And someone needs to know how to read it and code changes/updates.

      3. TardyTardis*

        If I had remembered enough of my COBOL, I could have made oodles during the Y2K crisis when people were dragging any potential employees on that out of cars. I worked with a guy as a technical writer on that one, and I really should have parlayed that into some visual inspection work of printouts.

    2. Clisby*

      67-year-old here, and seconding that. I retired 5 years ago, but worked for about 27 years where a good bit of my work was supporting/enhancing legacy systems running on an IBM mainframe. Those systems are still running today. Of course, I worked on much more modern systems, like Solaris and Linux, but shoot – Java programmers who work on Linux are a dime a dozen. People who still know how to troubleshoot and maintain IBM mainframe systems are not.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, but given how quickly most things become obsolete in the IT field, I think it’s amazing that computers that were built in the 60s and 70s are still running 50 or more years later.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          The mainframe platform never became obsolete, despite cries in the early 90’s that “the mainframe is dead!”

          It never died. It endures. And IS/IT professionals in that realm are STILL highly in demand.

          COBOL programmers are still in demand. And, I have told youngsters, yes, being a games programmer might be what you want – ooh, boy, there are Goth girls, guys with facial piercings, wow!

          But when it comes to putting food on the table, paying mortgages, and stuffing your 401K and/or IRAs, MAINFRAME IS A PATH TO NOT IGNORE. It’s been going for over 50 years and will likely outlast anyone’s career time today.

          Trust me, I know…

    3. Transit Agency Employee*

      This is very true. The NYC subway system has places that are running on 100-year-old signaling hardware. Most technology at most government agencies isn’t quite that bad, but there are a ton of legacy systems out there. Even when some things get upgraded, backwards compatibility with some other system component from the 60’s or 70’s can be the norm.

      1. CoveredInBees*

        Yup. I worked for an NYC agency and EVERYTHING we did relied on a very old, clunky system that felt like it belonged on a computer that required disks to boot up. When I was there (almost a decade ago) there was one person left who knew how to deal with the system and he lived in Virginia, worked on his own schedule (contractor), and was no spring chicken. The only up side to it was that it was so bizarre and convoluted, I doubt a hacker could have gotten into it and we stored a lot of sensitive personal information.

    4. Pugs*

      Hi – OP #3 here, we’re actually being sunset and the software is getting completely rewritten… Although I’m on that decom project and it’s going to take waaaaaaaaaaaaay longer than the government thinks it will! I do appreciate this advice though, I’ve worked on a lot of “ancient” software in my career and it’s been kind of discouraging, but hearing this keeps my hopes up!

      1. Observer*

        The skills will come in handy. Especially if you pair it with more current tech. Because there are going to be a LOT of decom projects. And there are going to be a lot of projects where a decision gets made to keep portions of the old software and mate it to a more modern front end / partner system.

        For a long time COBOL as a language was “dead”, but that’s actually been changing. It turns out that it actually still works quite well for certain types of situations. So it makes more sense to update the compilers / interpreters and find (or train, in worst cases) people who can handle the language. And, given the stability and high reliability of this stuff, it just makes more sense to keep it alive in many cases.

        Also it turns out that once you start looking at certain types of business systems, many concepts translate. And when you are running that need REALLY high availability, having that kind of mentality is more valuable to many employers who write / maintain these systems than someone coming with the latest tech skills who got trained on “move fast and break things” or anything remotely close to that.

    5. HelenofWhat*

      From what I’ve heard from even private companies that are old and stodgy….yeah, this is valuable knowledge (in addition to knowing up to date stuff).

      1. TardyTardis*

        I know a company who is still using Titan for inventory and asset depreciation…

  6. Shenandoah*

    OP1, I’m so happy to see your update – your letter really stuck with me as I had an unexpectedly tough postpartum period too. I’m so glad things worked out for you, and I’m still so mad that postpartum people are put into that position. Congrats and hoping you are recovered and enjoying parenthood!

  7. Mommy Shark*

    LW1, I am SO SO sorry you didn’t get a robust paid leave to bond with your child, but I am very happy you were able to take 10 weeks off.

    On my soap box, as someone who’s had two kids:

    The lack of paid leave in the US is completely shameful. Postpartum is HARD, and birthing parents are going through so many changes. They need time not only for themselves, but for their child. I had postpartum depression that left me crying in the shower that my child would never love me. If I had been forced to return to work so soon it would have been even worse. We’ve got to do better.

    1. Allie*

      The real cruelty is the people who most need it are often denied it. People who can’t afford the cost and work jobs that are on their feet typically get no paid leave at all. Whereas we’ll paid office jobs do often provide leave.

      I’m not saying anyone should be denied leave, I’m just noting the current system is particularly cruel.

      1. emmelemm*

        100%. It’s one thing to ease back into your job typing on a laptop while you’re still laying in bed a few hours a day. It’s another to stand on your feet for 8 hours after a big physical disruption like, oh, birth.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        And just as cruel, pregnant women who loose the pregnancy before the baby is at term frequently get no care or leave at all from work. While some miscarriages are physically easy to recover from, none of them are emotionally.

      3. Temperance*

        Yep. I don’t need paid maternity leave, but I have access to it. I also have a relatively cushy, flexible job that won’t hurt to go back to while I’m physically recovering from childbirth.

      4. Ponytail*

        Your comment reminded me of what happened to the kitchen staff at a previous job, where pregnant staff came back to work amazingly quickly, because they were only guaranteed full pay for a certain period. I’ve just checked and the MINIMUM period of maternity was 18 weeks – full pay. I’m so used to expecting mothers to take 6-12 months (where affordable) that the idea of coming back to work after only 4 months seemed inhumane, and it seemed so unfair that the kitchen staff couldn’t take longer because then they’d be relying on the state maternity benefit which is not even enough to cover rent, as far as I know. And there’s this situation, where someone couldn’t afford to take more than 2 weeks off. Sheesh!

    2. Momma Bear*

      10000% agree. Most people are unable to take the time they truly need (myself included). It needs to change.

    3. Ana Gram*

      Absolutely. My sister took a week off after having her baby. Neither she nor her husband had paid leave and they couldn’t afford to do more than that. It’s appalling.

    4. Aquawoman*

      Yup, soooo much lip service is devoted to the importance of families, right until you have one and then it’s a personal decision.

    5. nonbinary writer*

      just want to say thank you for using the term “birthing parents” :) :) :)

    6. Temperance*

      Yep. It’s sexism; the white collar working world was, generally speaking, built for and by men: men whose wives didn’t work, so they would just stay home with kids. It’s like being a woman is fine, so long as you don’t do womanly things like get pregnant or parent a child.

      Lower-class women have always worked while having kids. They didn’t have a choice not to.

      1. TardyTardis*

        There was an episode of SUPERSTORE where they contrasted the care two different mothers on two different places on the food chain got. It was an appalling and probably true to life portrayal.

  8. Aggretsuko*

    Wow, software from the 80’s? That’s making my organization look good. Wow.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I work for the largest hospital system in my state and our main billing system is a terminal-looking interface that was programmed in 1991.

    2. TheAG*

      hahahaha we just switched from software from the 80s to SAP based systems and lost a TON of production, quality, and automation integration capability.

  9. Lizy*

    OP1 – congrats! PP is hard, and there are always unknowns you don’t foresee.

    However, I strongly encourage you to bring it up to your boss/supervisor that you didn’t initially want to take extra leave because it would be unpaid. We have GOT to push for paid leave, and IMO pointing out that you can’t take the leave you want because it’s unpaid is a big part of that. I took about 3 weeks with my daughter, and the C-suite was definitely pushing for me to take more. It doesn’t matter what I “should” be doing with my money – the reality is I couldn’t afford a bunch of time off unpaid (or 60% disability, which is still a joke, because hellooooo having a baby cost MORE money, not less). I firmly, but kindly, told them I could not afford to not work/have a full income, so I’d be coming back after my existing PTO was used.

    My direct supervisor later said that after that meeting, the C-suite said to each other that they really need to review their parental leave policy. I’m not sure if anything actually came from it, but man, I hope so.

    (Obviously, only mention it if you’re comfortable.)

    1. I take tea*

      Honestly! You are not whiny or bad with money for not being able to take a lot of time off unpaid. We work, because most of us need the money. The cluelessness some people have around that annoys me no end.

  10. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP1 I’m very happy you got your stimulus cheque right then!
    Yes you were wildly underestimating what childbirth can do to you, and how much a baby needs their mother.

    In the comments previously, I mentioned that ideally women should stay in bed for 40 days after giving birth. This is of course a cultural norm in many countries, but there are plenty of medical reasons for letting the young mother rest and do nothing but establish breastfeeding in that time. The body can heal that much better.

    Some commenters countered that they were made to walk on day 2 after their caesarean: yes, traditional methods don’t cater to such things. Still, I think that taking things relatively quietly and not doing anything but heal your body and care for your baby is very important.
    In the traditional countries where the mother is to stay in bed, her female relatives all turn up and pitch in and help out so she can do that. Here in the west there’s no such tradition, but I’m trying to start it up again by telling friends who have a baby that I have no money for a present for the baby but I’m going to do X hours of housework one day when the mother feels like she’s falling apart.

    American employers should stump up for maternity leave.

    1. ALonelyExplorer*

      American employers should stump up for leave, period. Maternity, paternity, caregiver, all of it.

      1. TardyTardis*

        There’s a reason the birth rate in this country went way down even before the pandemic.

    2. Dahlia*

      OP wasn’t “wilding underestimating” – they were accurately estimating how much money they had. They could only do this because they got unexpected money. You can say “I want 6 weeks leave” all you want but they won’t take that at the grocery store.

      Also staying in bed for 40 days sounds like a good way to get blood clots and muscle atrophy.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Especially after c-sections. You up the odds of embolisms by being that stationary. Plus 40 days in bed is a great way to loose muscle tone.

        I will however agree on taking it easy and listening to your recovering body.

        Signed the person who had two c-sections.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          yes I specifically said that’s a different scenario! The point is that the mother is primarily to rest, not rush about like before the birth. Telling her to stay in bed is a way of making sure she doesn’t try to do too much, and absolves her of guilt if she spends all day watching reruns of her favourite series while tending to the baby.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        She was wildly underestimating what childbirth can do to a woman’s body, in light of the lack of maternity leave. That’s why I say American employers should stump up for it. They are endangering women’s health by not providing decent coverage for that.

        Of course a modern woman wouldn’t stay in bed for literally 40 days. But the bed or couch does need to be where they spend the most time. Between a night’s (broken) sleep and something like 5 hrs breastfeeding a day, there’s not much time left for doing much else.

        And if you tell her to stay in bed, she might not do that but she’ll think twice about rushing off to go shopping and other usual stuff. Excursions out will be a gentle walk down to the duck pond, and she’s allowed to veg out watching romcom or whatever while the baby naps or feeds, instead of clearing up. So many women feel guilty doing nothing!

        The point is that the first few weeks of a baby’s life is like time out of time, you shouldn’t rush back to work for the sake of your baby and for the sake of your own body. For those who have maternity leave you don’t take advantage of it to clear out the garage and whip the garden into shape and host big parties of people come to see the baby including prep and clean-up.

        1. Lexie*

          You don’t need to tell a person to stay in bed for 40 days to make sure they rest, don’t run around to the store, and that they should just take gentle walks. You tell them what their actual restrictions are. If a doctor tells someone to stay in bed for 40 days some people are going to take that as exactly what they are supposed to do.

        2. Dahlia*

          No, she wasn’t. She could not afford to stay home without a large amount of unexpected money, and no one was offering that up.

          You SHOULDN’T rush back, probably, but when you can’t make rent, where are you going to take your newborn baby during a pandemic?

      3. CoveredInBees*

        In addition to physical health, if I wasn’t “allowed” to get out of bed or out of the house for 40 days, I would have gone totally stir crazy. I think it helped my recovery a lot to move around and get fresh air. This is not the same as running errands or doing things you “have” to do.

        All that said, having family and friends around to help out made a huge difference as well. Especially when I had my 2nd baby and also had a toddler who needed care.

    3. Observer*

      In the comments previously, I mentioned that ideally women should stay in bed for 40 days after giving birth.

      Yes, you said that. It was not true then, and it’s not true now. There is a difference between taking it easy and staying in bed. And it’s actually NOT good for women recovering from a normal, uncomplicated birth to actually stay in bed for that long.

      1. Lexie*


        I did have complications with one of my births resulting in a c-section and they had me out of bed and in a chair less than 24 hours later to decrease the risk of post operative complications.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes, medical best practice is now to get people out of bed and moving around to reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis and other clots. I can understand telling people not to do heavy manual labour or lifting but definitely people should be moving around.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            yes as I explained, it’s more a matter of making sure young mothers don’t do heavy lifting, shopping, etc., of course they need to move around, but it’s better to take a gentle walk round the park than rush off on errands. And definitely they shouldn’t have to worry about whether there’s enough olive oil or toothpaste in the house!

      2. NotAnotherManager!*


        It would be nice birthing parents in the US got more time off, and it’d be lovely if they had family/friends who were nearby, willing, and able to come and assist. By all means, offer to assist new mothers, if that is something they would like to have, but encouraging them to take to their beds for 40 days is not something to encourage. Staying in bed for over a month is not ideal or advisable under most circumstances. Leaving aside blood clot risks, muscle loss, and bedsores, the boredom and lack of physical movement can also exacerbate depression. By the end of week 2, I was desperate out of my house for a short walk for a change of scenery and some fresh air.

      3. Allie*

        +1 I had a c section and getting up and walking around helped me heal. I actually was waking the halls in the hospital. Being in bed would have been awful.

    4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Your I have no money for a present line, yeah that was what OP was thinking when employer wanted her to take more time. Unfortunately things like rent, utilities, and groceries generally can’t be paid with IOU’s (and even if it gets put on a credit card – you still have to pay the credit card bill). Plus the hospital or birthing center needs to be paid along with the staff who were at the delivery. Far too many women have no choice but to go back to work after two weeks of less because of money.

    5. RagingADHD*

      Traditional “lying in” or confinement practices don’t entail literally not leaving the bed for 40 days. The incidence of perinatal mortality would have skyrocketed and stopped any such thing from taking hold.

      It’s about staying home, avoiding heavy lifting or stairs, no housework, staying warm, and restrictions on bathing or certain foods to eat or avoid, and ample bed rest is encouraged. I don’t doubt that many women are pressured by their elders to stay in bed more than they’d like, but the human body is the same in traditional cultures as in modern cultures, and any kind of literal confinement to bed would be easily observed to be bad for people.

    6. AcademiaNut*

      The traditional method has its weaknesses too. You need female relatives who live nearby and don’t work outside the home themselves – if your mother, aunts, and sisters have full time jobs and live a plane ride away, they’re not going to be swooping in to care for you. It also doesn’t work if you don’t *have* the family members in the first place, or aren’t good with your mother moving in and taking over your household for a month. Also, a whole month spent in bed is kind of extreme, and not all that appealing to a lot of people.

      There should be a nice balance between going back to work two days after giving birth, and spending a month confined to bed with unwashed hair while your mother does all the baby stuff except the actual nursing.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yes of course it does entail putting up with your relatives. I never said it was ideal! But telling a woman she should stay in bed does at least make her think twice about rushing off to get wallpaper to decorate the nursery.
        And the whole point is that if relatives take care of her, she does have plenty of time to wash her hair.

        At least with corona, there are not too many visits so people don’t stress out about keeping the house clean for visitors. Breastfeeding rates are going up, because mothers don’t agonise over baring their breast while creepy uncle is visiting (also, because it’s the baby’s best protection from covid).

      2. CoveredInBees*

        Yeah. I have a friend who was ready to throw her mom out during this time. Her mom was super controlling about what she could or could not eat and at what times. Additionally, her mom freaked out and screamed at my friend for washing her hair too soon. It may have come from a loving place off wanting to help and protect her daughter, what her daughter wanted or felt comfortable with was entirely irrelevant to mom. So, yes, there can be way too much of a good thing.

    7. Jasmine*

      I’m not a mom but I have lived in Taiwan for almost 29 years. The Chinese custom of 坐月子 “sitting the month” doesn’t actually require a new mother to stay in bed for 30 days or 40 days. It just means that she stays home to recover from her delivery and be well taken care of my family members. Traditionally her mother-in-law will come and make special food for her. The mother in law also helps as needed to take care of the baby. In the past there were more restrictions like not washing your hair and not taking a bath. But now I’m sure women do bathe and wash their hair but just dry off well afterwards. One reference said in some places visitors were not allowed in the first two weeks. (Sounds good to me!) Now when many mother-in-law’s are not available to come help because of circumstances or just by choice women some choose a different option: professional centers where the mother and babies live for a month and get specialized care. All meals are prepared and brought to her in her comfortable room. Professional nursing staff on duty. I don’t know all the details but it sounds kind of nice.

  11. Pointy Stix, Sower of Chaos*

    I still chuckle over a comment that one of our clients made years ago. One of his staff had just had her baby on a Friday (to keep it simple). He said something along the lines of, “Oh, she should be back to work on Monday.” No, he & his wife didn’t have children.

    1. Pretzelgirl*

      Co-workers used to give my husband grief for taking time off after we had our kids. One older male co-worker said he was at work later that day, after his wife gave birth in the morning. Thankfully my husband, just looked at him like he was nuts and walked away…

  12. KL*

    re. #1, Oh man, I couldn’t even SIT IN A CHAIR for a month after having each of my kids (small babies, healthy pregnancy, fit mom, no complications). You never want to question someone’s decisions about their health, and pregnant people are subject to a LOT of that, but I remember that letter had me shaking my head. I’m so glad it all worked out well for the LW!

    1. TardyTardis*

      Did they use a stapler to put in your stitches the way they did for me? (joke, yet not funny)

  13. Observer*

    #1 – I’m so glad things worked out well for you. It sounds like you had a large but healthy baby. So congratulations!

    It sounds like your management was being pretty reasonable, and I’m glad of that, too. I hope that the resources some people mentioned to were / are useful to you. (By the way, if you haven’t done it yet, look into WIC – the income thresholds are much higher than other assistance programs, and if you qualify there is no reason you should not avail yourself of the help.)

    I do want to say that you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of in worrying about the financial issues of a long unpaid leave. But I do hope that your financial situation improves enough that in the future that won’t be such a concern to you.

  14. WantonSeedStitch*

    LW#1, I am SO HAPPY for you. I missed your original post because I was on my own maternity leave, and not keeping up with AAM. It really IS hard, those first few weeks, both physically and emotionally. Can people return to work two weeks after giving birth if they have to? Yes. Is it what’s best for them? Probably not very often. Our bodies undergo so much change and trauma during pregnancy and birth, and we need time to heal. Even with a healthy baby who eats and sleeps well, things change so fast early on that you feel like just as soon as you get used to a routine it gets completely upended. And then there’s the fact that especially for the first 2-3 weeks it is REALLY HARD to get enough sleep to function beyond survival tasks for you and the baby. All that combined with baby blues (even if you don’t get PPD/PPA) takes a toll on your emotional well-being too. I’m glad you were able to take the time you needed.

  15. agnes*

    So glad the woman who was planning 2 weeks of maternity leave was able to stay out longer! When I read the original letter, I was concerned for her. I had to (long story not worth hashing here) return to work less than two weeks after my child was born 35 years ago and I almost had a nervous breakdown over it. The fatigue, the worry, trying to breastfeed–it was horrible. I am so glad there are laws now that help parents take leave without losing their jobs and I hope we continue to strengthen them and include paid leave as part of the deal!

  16. Gigi*

    I feel like where LW 3 landed is a great example of how a great job can just be a means to an end to support the rest of your life. If you have fantastic balance with your home life, great benefits, and a boss you respect, do you *need* to be passionate about the work? Obviously that would be rad, but I also think we’ve been sold on this idea of “having it all” in an unattainable way. The unrealistic expectations breed unhappiness when actually this sounds like a pretty sweet set up. Good luck LW 3! I’m happy you got out of that ridiculousness.

Comments are closed.