Spoiler Alert: You Need to Get Pregnant NOW!!!!
Go ahead, I’ll still be here when you get back! 😉
I’m just kidding… mostly. (You’ve still got a couple of weeks!)
I know you teacher-types though (I’m one too, after all), and you like a good plan. SO, if pregnancy is on your master To Do list for the 2018 – 2019 school year (you know you have one), you’re inclined – because of anxiety, compulsiveness, or out of actual necessity- to plan your due date for maximum maternity leave convenience, and you’re one of the lucky few who’s body actually does what you ask it to when you want it to*, then I’ve got some advice for you:
Plan to get pregnant between June and August for a spring due date.
To help this advice feel a little more tangible, I did some highly sophisticated research using a “due date calculator” (found here) and made an equally sophisticated chart to show you some sample due dates and maternity leave options —-
Before I get to the whys of my “ideal” timeline, here’s a little about my own experience (warning: this gets a bit “technical,” but it really is important stuff I desperately wish someone had told me prior to my own family planning)…
My first baby, Sam, was born in July. Because I was silly and knew nothing, I was super excited when I found out I had a summer due date: I’d be able to finish out the school year with my students, get to spend my last month of pregnancy sleeping until noon and blobbing around in the pool (which was pretty nice), and *most importantly* not have to worry about my water breaking in class (seriously, that’s my worst nightmare). As it turns out, however, the summer – especially late summer – is actually a terrible time for a teacher to have a baby from a logistical standpoint….
My school system’s policy – and what seems to be the norm – is that teachers receive six weeks (eight for a C-section) of official maternity leave. During that time, teachers may use sick days to be paid for their leave. So, if you have thirty days of acquired sick leave, you will be paid for six weeks. If you have fifteen days of acquired sick leave, you will be paid for three weeks, and the remaining time will be unpaid. Make sense?
After the initial six weeks (or eight) of maternity leave, the Family Medical Leave Act kicks in for an additional six weeks to get you to the standard American twelve-week maternity leave. But, here’s where it gets tricky: Let’s say you are a rockstar super planner and you’ve saved sixty sick days for your leave — TOO BAD! You can only use sick leave for the designated medical portion (remember, six or eight weeks depending on the type of birth you had) of your time off. After that, though FMLA guarantees you a job when you return (and some schools/districts may even allow longer breaks), it has to be unpaid. Are you following this?
So, back to my story… Sam was born on July 13th and for reasons I still don’t understand, my doctor only approved six weeks of medical “supervision” even though I had had a C-section. If you’re doing the math (if you’re not, I don’t judge), that meant that my “paid leave” time ended about mid August… Right when I was supposed to be going back to school. I couldn’t use any sick days for that time because I wasn’t technically paid then anyway (summer break), but I couldn’t use any sick days for the next six weeks either (even though I had them) because my official medical leave was over and I was now only under FMLA. Have I lost you? The bottom line: I ended up having to take twelve weeks of UNPAID leave because of the way the dates fell.
We made it work, and I was fortunate enough to still be able to take that time at home with Sam. However, it wasn’t what we were expecting, and it would have been enough to throw many women right back in the classroom much earlier than they would have liked. On the bright side, I had lots of sick days left when I did return to work which came in handy for sick baby days and doctor’s appointments – a problem many women run into if they’ve used all their time off for paid maternity leave – but still; it was not ideal.
Four years later, when Nora was born in late March, things went MUCH better. I was able to use my saved sick days for the first several weeks, come back for just a short-stint to finish out the school year, and then take the full two-months of summer at home for which I was already accustomed to being unpaid. Basically, I’m now making it my life’s mission to tell everyone I know that SPRING BABIES are the way to go for teachers! 😉
Typically, I’d recommend taking the maximum amount of maternity leave you can swing; but, with Nora – because she was my second baby and the end of the school year was so close – I actually only took 7 weeks. (The first four of those were paid with sick leave.) Then, I came back just in time to see my students off to their AP exam, distribute the next year’s summer reading, pack up my classroom, and record final grades (about two weeks total). I actually LOVED those two weeks. They were a great “trial run” for the fall, and the transition was easy because I had a “I can do anything for two weeks” attitude. Plus, I had genuinely missed my students and wanted to see them – especially the seniors – before summer. This probably wouldn’t matter for everyone, but I also really liked having a clear distinction between “maternity leave” and “summer break.” The distinction really helped me use my maternity leave time to rest, heal, and bond with Nora and then to use my summer time to have fun with both kids and adjust to “normal life” as a family of four.
Have I convinced you yet?!?!
Obviously, there are TONS of factors to consider when you are deciding when to have a baby. How much sick leave do you have? How much time can you afford to take unpaid? How do you feel about someone else ending your school year? How do you feel about someone else starting your school year? All of these are incredibly important and individual, and what worked well for me, might not be good for you. If you really can’t afford to take much unpaid time or don’t have any sick leave, it makes more sense to try to have a baby at the very beginning of the summer – i.e. getting pregnant at the beginning of September – for example. Or, if you want to have an exceptionally long maternity leave that bleeds into your summer, it would be ideal to shoot for an early to mid-March due date and planning to take the full 12-weeks. (If you play your cards just right – and a have a good amount of luck on your side – you may even be able to swing 6 full months at home this way!)
In the end, only you can decide what is best for you, your family, and your career. BUT, hopefully, my experience and advice will be helpful to you as you consider your options! If you have questions, please feel free to email me – firstname.lastname@example.org – or leave them in the comments! ALSO, I’d love to hear from some of you about your own experiences! Do you agree with me about the “best” time to have a baby? Please share!!!
Finally, if you’ve liked this post and want to read more like it, check out my Maternity Leave for Teachers eBook!! Much of the above comes from Ch. 2: Logistics to Consider and Questions to Ask HR where I outline ALL the important work-related things I didn’t know to think about before having a baby but wish I had. And, that’s only the beginning. My eBook covers everything from first announcing your pregnancy at school, to planning for a long term sub, prepping your students and classroom for your leave, and returning smoothly. If you’re having a baby soon, this will be well worth your $10. (Learn more about the book HERE or go directly to buy HERE.)
Not ready to buy the book yet? Come back next week for some of my top tips for returning from maternity leave!
In the meantime, happy planning!
*I’m absolutely sensitive to the fact that not everyone – in fact, MANY people – are not able to get pregnant at all, much less “on demand.” This post is meant to be taken lightly with the full acknowledgement that ANY time you have a baby is wonderful and a blessing. Please don’t stress yourself out trying to get the timing just right. If it works, great. If not, you’ll forget all about the “perfect time” when you hold that screaming little squish one day. Promise.