Why Maternity Leave Is Necessary for Working Mothers and Their Employers

Let’s start at the beginning.

Let’s say you’re going to run a marathon, but you weren’t given access to the right shoes or training. Think you’ll finish?

Your life. Your career. Those are the marathons you can’t skip or find a shortcut to the finish line for. You need to have the right tools and preparation from the outset to be as successful as you can be.

We know that expectant mothers working full-time are planning months in advance, if not years. Even before they have their baby, they’re looking at their calendars to plot out as much as humanly possible.

From the outset, it’s vitally important to set up the precedent that it’s okay to have both a career and a family at the same time. Each is a huge part of someone’s life and each needs its own dedicated time to flourish.

So when employers offer maternity leave, it demonstrates they’re willing to say if employees are ready to start a family, they are there to support them. This shows employees they are valued from the start. And in turn, employees are more likely to report higher job satisfaction, be more engaged and productive, and remain with the organization longer.

If maternity leave is an option, take it

I took my full maternity leave — three months away from work — when I had my kids. This time is important to bond with your family, rest, and mentally prepare for life after your maternity leave.

It’s not necessarily easy, especially if you’re passionate about your career. You might even feel a bit anxious being away from the hustle and bustle of the day-to-day work you’re accustomed to tackling, but I recommend not checking in at all during your maternity leave. Unless it’s an email from HR regarding your maternity leave or timing of your return to work, let others on the team handle things until you get back.

If you’re a woman in leadership, it’s important to show that taking the full maternity leave exemplifies the norm. It’s not only okay, but encouraged. Expected. This gives confidence to the rest of the women in the organization that they can actually balance their career and family simultaneously.

Similarly, when it’s available, men should take the full paternity leave, too. The same thinking applies here for working dads: This is invaluable bonding time that you’ll never get back and it sets the right example for other men who will make the paternity leave decision in the future.

Maternity coverage and childcare benefits go hand-in-hand

Back to your marathon preparations. Before you lace up the right shoes and head out to run, it’s important to plot out your course and know how far you’re going, with an end goal in mind.

One of the end goals of maternity leave is to have a concrete childcare plan in place and a smooth transition back to work. The childcare part of this is full of challenges and often the missing piece to the women staying in the workforce puzzle, with over 1.8 million jobs lost since February 2020.

High costs. Long waitlists. A lack of nearby options. Inflexible schedules. These are just some of the issues families face when trying to secure childcare, leading to women leaving the labor force in droves.

In fact, my own experience searching for childcare and seeing all these challenges firsthand is actually what led me to start Upwards. We are focused on the ongoing childcare crisis and committed to providing access to affordable, high-quality childcare for all families.

Fortunately for some working moms, their employers are starting to realize the importance of offering employees childcare benefits programs in addition to having comprehensive maternity/parental leave policies. For organizations, the ROI is increasingly clear that childcare benefits are not only beneficial but a necessary part of their core employee benefits planning.

With time to plan months in advance for the arrival of a child, via birth, surrogacy, or adoption, working moms are lining up childcare options before their baby is here and maternity leave has even started. It’s time that their employers look beyond the maternity leave window as well to determine what type of support is needed to figure out a workable childcare solution.

Invest in women and their careers

Look, companies should be investing in women and their potential anyway, whether or not they choose to start a family. Many women who do opt to have children are beginning to mature in their career development and have proven themselves to be key members of their organizations.

Employers need to take the lead here and show working moms that, ‘We believe in you. We’re going to pay for your maternity leave and wait for you to return.’ But it’s often easier said than done.

The reality is that even with the best intentions, not every employer can afford to pay for a full maternity leave. In these cases, any effort is in the right direction, whether it’s offering a job guarantee or helping women receive state benefits for maternity leave.

The bottom line is employers have an integral role to play in supporting working families. That starts with maternity coverage and extends to childcare benefits. These programs range from helping employees with finding quality care and offsetting childcare costs, to securing backup care that can be the difference between being there for an entire shift and missing work entirely.

When training for your marathon, another crucial element is rest. Maternity leave is a priceless time to bond as a family but also to try to rest before jumping back into the fray of being a mom and managing a full-time career.

It’s not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. But then again, the best things in this marathon called life tend to be that way.

Want to learn about Upwards' Childcare Benefits?
Childcare AssistanceBackup CareChildcare Stipends
Dedicated care manager to provide 24/7 concierge supportEmergency childcare when regular care falls throughOffset the cost of childcare-related expenses for employees

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