Your Maternity Leave Plan of Action

Decide What You Really Want

Maybe you'd prefer to go back to work after just eight weeks instead of 12, but on a part-time basis at first. Or perhaps you'd like to work from home for a while after taking full-time leave -- or simply take additional unpaid time off. Your company's leave policy may actually be more flexible than you think, so it's possible you could tweak the terms to fit your needs, as long as you're open to negotiating. Talk to other moms in the office to find out how much time off they were able to take post-baby and how they worked it out, then think about ways to "sell" your plan. "You'll be more likely to get what you want if you can convince your company that it will benefit as well," notes Garcia.

Start a Conversation With Your Boss

Once you're ready to announce your pregnancy, make sure that your manager is the first one in the office to know. Schedule a private meeting, and reassure her that you'll return to work post-baby. You can say, "This is an exciting time for me, but my job is important to me, and I'll be eager to get back to work on these projects after my time off."

Go into the meeting with a general sense of your company's maternity-leave policy, but don't expect to discuss it right away -- your boss may need time to process the information. Still, you should also be prepared to answer questions about when your last day might be, how long you expect to be gone, and whom you might train as a temporary replacement. "Try to work with the company to make your parental leave -- and eventual return -- as easy as possible," advises attorney Lisa Guerin, coauthor of The Essential Guide to Family and Medical Leave. "This means, among other things, giving your employer plenty of lead time so arrangements can be made for your absence."

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