As your pregnancy winds down, you may wonder when you should leave your job and begin your maternity leave. Should you work until your due date? Perhaps you could stay until delivery? Is there one right answer?
I've personally done it both ways. I've quit work weeks before my baby was born, dreaming of long walks, baths and naps at any time of the day and long hours spent in the nursery getting ready. Turns out it was more of an opportunity for people to bother me and for me to get anxious than anything else. So I've also worked right up until I gave birth twice. Once I was pregnant with twins. I went to work on Friday and gave birth on Saturday, at just past 40 weeks gestation. Then another time, I went to work, not in labor and rushed home mid-morning to have the baby a few hours later.
There isn't one right answer to the question of when to quit working. However, there are some questions that once you look at the answers to, you may figure out more easily what is best for you:
- How is your pregnancy going?
If you are experiencing a high risk pregnancy, like twins or other pregnancy complications like preterm labor, you may need to take off sooner, rather than later. You and your doctor or midwife should discuss what is healthiest for you and your baby or babies.
- How much maternity leave do you have?
If you only have six weeks of time, quitting your work before or at your due date, will run down the clock at a time when you might not yet have your baby. If you go two weeks overdue, that leaves you only four weeks with your baby. She may not be old enough to start day care, if you plan to go back to work, so you may wind up taking two weeks of unpaid leave.
- What are you going to do with the time?
Trust me, there is nothing as bad as sitting around twiddling your thumbs waiting for baby. If you take off and baby isn't around, you might find that you're bored to tears and that can even be more stressful than working.
- How are you feeling?
If you're having issues with sleepless nights, swelling and pain when you sit for a long time, you may want to consider alternatives. You can certainly take the time off, but what about modifying your work space to be more accommodating? Could you come in later and stay later in the evenings?
- Do you have other options?
Can you start a flexible work schedule? Perhaps you can work from home some days. If you can do partial days or work from home, you might have the best of both worlds. Talk to your boss and stress that this is likely to keep you at work longer. It's a win-win for both parties.
Look at all the issues surrounding when to start your maternity leave. Discuss them with your family. Get ideas from your friends and co-workers. Then talk to your boss. There is usually a good middle ground.