The decision to go back to work after having a baby is a personal one, and often depends on many factors. Maybe you want to work because you enjoy your job, or maybe you have no choice but to work because it’s the only way you can survive financially. Or perhaps you want to stay home and you’ve spent the past few years shoring up your finances. Whatever you decide, know that your decision isn’t etched in stone. Women, much more so than men, tend to move in and out of the workforce to accommodate children. So whatever you do this year might not be what you’re doing two, five, or ten years from now.
If you don’t plan to return to work:
- Find out if your employer will pay you for any unused vacation/sick time.
- Be up-front about your plans and remain on good terms with your supervisor and colleagues in the event you change your mind about working or need a reference in the future.
- Pay down debt where possible.
- Try to live on one paycheck before you leave work, which can help you cut non-essential spending.
- If you have federal student loans, a deferment or forbearance request can give you a six-month reprieve from paying them.
- Continue to save for retirement–you can establish and contribute to your own IRA (traditional or Roth) based on your spouse’s earnings under the spousal IRA rules.
- Keep your professional skills up-to-date by taking occasional courses, networking, reading trade publications, and so on, and be on the lookout for new opportunities.
If you plan to go back to work:
- Confirm your maternity leave with your employer. Make sure you know your rights under the law–the Family and Medical Leave Act requires 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain employees.
- Talk with your supervisor about your current job responsibilities and plan for your leave as much as possible.
- If you’d like to modify your current schedule, think about your ideal work arrangement, then request a meeting with your supervisor to discuss your well-thought out proposal.
- Start researching child care options now. At work, contribute to a dependent care flexible spending account (if available) so your child care costs won’t be part of your taxable income.
Finally, remember that no arrangement is permanent. You might stay home for awhile and then decide you want to go back to work, or vice versa. Try to keep an open mind and be flexible when facing the realities, financial and otherwise, that come your way.