When Should You Start Your Maternity Leave? Here's How to Decide

© VadimGuzhva / Adobe Stock

pregnant at work

© VadimGuzhva / Adobe Stock

Allie Hofer
Allie Hofer
April 18, 2024 at 6:49AM UTC
To leave or not to leave before the birth? Figuring out when to begin your maternity leave is quite the conundrum. On the one hand, you’re exhausted. Spent. Swollen. And want to spend just a few more minutes in the nursery which obviously is now the most expensive room in the house. On the other, you want to spend every minute possible of the (terribly-allotted) three months off you receive on FMLA with your new baby. The solution? Balance. And here are three ways to ask for it so you get the best of both.
Ask for a modified work schedule. Before you go ahead and start the FMLA clock four weeks before it’s necessary, consider speaking with your employer about a modified work schedule until the baby is born. Ask if you can work part of the day in the office and the other part from home. See whether you can take half-day Fridays by working an extra hour Monday-Thursday. Your boss may or may not be able to accommodate these requests, but please. Just ask.
Ask for a flexible arrangement. The research is clear that when our workplaces give us the freedom and ability to work from anywhere (ahem, home, please!), productivity skyrockets. Set up a one-on-one with your boss to let her know that you’re 100% committed to seeing your work through before the baby arrives and you’ll best be able to accomplish that in a modified work setting at this point. Bonus? If you can prove to her that the arrangement works nicely for everyone, you might be able to swing something more flexible after the baby arrives.
Ask for intermittent FMLA. If you’re searching for a more holistic approach, ask for intermittent FMLA. Come to terms with the fact that your post-baby version of work-life balance looks a whole heck of a lot different than it did before baby arrived. Replace the lofty idea of achieving day-to-day balance by looking at your work/life scenario as a whole.
When you can adopt this perspective, it may be worthwhile to begin asking for intermittent FMLA beginning the month before baby is due to arrive and continuing on an intermittent basis when baby is here. Express to your boss that you are ready to have some time off before the baby comes and you’re willing to do that at the expense of logging on a bit to work from home during your three months off.
This scenario is a win-win. Your boss gets to benefit from not losing an entire person in the workflow, and you get to maintain a very small amount of professional channeling as you learn how to wear this new mom identity. Oh yeah, and you won’t miss out on as much pay since they’re probably not paying you for your leave anyway (sigh).
The overarching message is that if you don’t ask, you won’t know. Set the precedent today that you know you are a valued, contributing employee and that part of continuing on that path means fighting for your rights as a mom in the workplace. So go ahead, ask. Ask for that modified work schedule. Ask for that flexibility. And ask for a more holistic approach to FMLA. You got this, mama, you got this.
Allie Hofer, a self-proclaimed career matchmaker and work-life balance enthusiast, is a Professional in Human Resources (PHR), Society of Human Resource Management - Certified Professional (SHRM-CP), and Recruiter Academy Certified Recruiter (RACR). After having her first child, she opted out of the traditional office setting to work from home. Since then, she has been consulting with organizations in the public and private sectors to support the Human Resources function in recruiting, compensation, training and development, and performance management.
She started Office Hours with the belief that instead of creating resources and companies to help women return to work, we should help them find flexible opportunities so they never have to leave.

Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace and lives of women. 
Join us by reviewing your employer!

Why women love us:

  • Daily articles on career topics
  • Jobs at companies dedicated to hiring more women
  • Advice and support from an authentic community
  • Events that help you level up in your career
  • Free membership, always