I was five months pregnant with my second child when shocking info about my retail company was leaked by a major news agency: “All doors closing.” As my colleagues raced to find answers, secure their 401Ks and line up interviews, I was uncertain about my next step.
I was already a single mother supporting a 5-year-old daughter. Even though I was doing it on a six-figure salary, the monthly cost of daycare had been more than my two-bedroom apartment’s rent. And my couponing skills weren't fabulous enough to cover charges associated with a newborn.
Still, I felt financially secure when I found out I was expecting my second early in the first trimester, and was incredibly fortunate to have certain benefits. I filed my Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) paperwork right away and set up my short-term disability claim. Having been with my company for six years, I would have a paid maternity leave on top of those. Plus, I had stockpiled plenty of vacation hours to use too.
When my company officially announced mass layoffs and a complete field closure, it meant I would be losing my healthcare benefits, my paid maternity leave and that six-figure salary. As I began telling my friends about my impending job layoff I got asked the same question:
“Can they do that?”
The answer is yes. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act protects women from being discriminated against in the workplace and during the hiring process. Reorganization, company closures, budget cuts and performance issues are all valid reasons to terminate employment—even if you are pregnant.
Nevertheless, I felt confident in my ability to get a new job—except for one rude reality: Despite protective laws, most employers would be hesitant to bring on a new candidate only to see her leave for 12 weeks shortly thereafter. Looking down at my growing belly, there was no hiding my obvious timeline.
Now 8 months pregnant, I have taken inventory and assessed my timeline and financial stance to put together the best action plan for myself and my family. Being home this summer means I can move my daughter from full-time to part-time daycare, which will cost much less. My job loss opens up more time to focus on my blog and freelance content creation side business. As the conversations with recruiters continue, I am looking forward to the interviews I have set up 30 days post-delivery. I’m enjoying fewer fancy lattes, but have found pleasure in simple things.
While every woman’s situation will be different, here are a few things to prioritize if you've been laid off while pregnant.
Secure your health insurance.
Ensuring that you have health insurance to help cover the cost of delivery for you and your new baby should be at the top of your list. Find out if you have access to COBRA, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act health benefit, which gives certain former employees and dependent children the right to temporary continuation of health coverage at group rates; research your state benefits or see if it’s possible to go onto a spouse’s plan. Since I have a high-risk pregnancy and already met my deductible for the year, I needed to keep my same level of healthcare.
Curb your spending.
From cutting out your daily Starbucks habit to overhauling your finances, this is imperative to ensuring your financial happiness during this challenging time. In my case, the shift from a salary to a weekly unemployment benefit was a drastic change that required me and my family to reduce our spending and limit the amount of times we go out to eat.
Hit the job pavement.
Before I was laid off, I was secure in my career and had stopped entertaining conversations with recruiters. When I lost my job, however, I immediately updated my resume and my LinkedIn profile. As recruiters approached me for initial conversations, I contemplated each one. Do I say I’m expecting? I needed to be strategic in my job search while still being honest about my planned maternity leave. I responded to a few recruiters, saying I would be interested in exploring their opportunity and that I was expecting. The responses varied. Some continued to pursue. Others responded that I should reach out when I’m ready to get back to work.
Tap into unused parts of your skill set.Now is the time to see how your passions could earn you extra money. From selling your luxury handbags through an app to starting an Airbnb to using your graphic design degree, there are plenty of ways to work a side hustle. You never know; what you started as a side job may turn into your next career and give you the flexibility you need as a mother.
This article was originally published on Working Mother.