Ask An Expert: Should I Quit My Job After Maternity Leave?

Author Lauren Smith Brody Lends Her Expert Opinion On A Very Tricky Kind of Exit

Sometimes Not Safe for Mom Group gets a question from a member where an expert opinion is in order. When it comes questions about how to navigate the often tricky places where career and motherhood intersect — especially in the first months post Baby — Lauren Smith Brody, author of, “The Fifth Trimester”, is the person to turn to. Lauren is a former magazine executive, an advocate for new working mothers, the founder of The Fifth Trimester Movement, a frequent speaker, and a career consultant. (She’s also an empath, very down-to-Earth, and one of my favorite people in the “motherhood” biz.)

One NSFMG member, “R.” sent in this “Hey Mom Group” question, below, about how to plan an exit strategy when you realize returning to work after maternity leave isn’t going to, well, work so well. Lauren’s practical, and strategic advice in response, is something we can all (working moms and non working moms) learn something from. I especially appreciate Lauren’s insight about how R’s work decision could potentially impact her marriage, and her “mental load” at home. Read on:

Hey Mom Group:

I’ve been chief of staff for almost five years, having started off with the new management team. We had a lot of success and were recently bought by one of the largest Private Equity firms. Needless to say we’re doing great.  

I was able to negotiate four months leave prior to having an emergency c-section but I had serious complications and didn’t heal, and could not do much until my baby was three months old. My OB extended my leave so my company had no choice but to also extended leave for another three weeks (no pay). While having this conversation with them, I also requested that my hours be changed to 9-5 (from 9-6) but the CEO who I report to refused.   I loved my job, this is a new industry for me and I learned so much, had complete autonomy, love my coworkers and I have great benefits/perks in addition to a good salary.

I never thought I would not want to continue working. Perhaps because of the complications I endured, and not being able to properly bond with my son (I could barely walk for the first two months), I decided I wanted to stay home with him and raise him myself for the first couple of years. Having said that , I worked my ass off last year at work — pregnant and all. I have a guaranteed bonus that gets paid out in late May. My plan is to go back to work, get my bonus, save as much $$ as I can — then quit after a couple of months.

I’m wondering if other moms have gone through something similar, and if were able to work out a favorable exit strategy? I think that may save me months of being away from my baby and wonder if I should just get it over with. I know that I can use my work schedule as leverage because if I wanted to put my baby in daycare I wouldn’t be able to. Daycares require pick up by 6pm latest. I’m just wondering if anyone out there has advice for me and for many other women in this situation.

— R.


What Lauren says:

This is a really unfortunate situation in a high-stakes (big upside, big downside) industry. Some of what she’s dealing with is the lack of flex that comes along with being paid very well. It’s the very nature of Private Equity. It sounds like she thrived previously in that industry/environment and very well could again but just needs more time to on-ramp after what sounds like a hellacious recovery. All of the studies say that it takes women at least 6 months to recover physically and emotionally from birth. In her case that number is going to be higher. So she should in no way blame herself if this feels hard . . . of course it’s hard. In any other country in the world she would be more supported. I say that with all empathy. 

That said, I’d like to help her be able to go back to her career eventually, either by negotiating well to get what she wants, or by exiting gracefully enough that she can do similar work elsewhere when she’s ready. 

I think she should go back and really use those two months of April and May to try to negotiate fairly for everyone involved. (It’s dumb that one measly hour would make such a difference to her boss, but no one responds well to what looks like unfair terms . . . If she wants to leave at 5PM, she should show him her plan for how she’d make up that hour of deliverable work.) Then if her terms aren’t met, it absolutely makes sense to everyone that she would choose to leave after her bonus is paid out. People do this all the time in finance regardless of parental status — they either wait to take another job until post-bonus payout, or they get their new employer to buy out that number for them. 

In a perfect world, I’d love to see her achieve a plan that works and be able to stay — or at least to stay long enough to assess from a more recovered vantage point. If she loved her job previously, my guess is that once she’s fully recovered and sleeping and feeling well and bonded with her baby, she’ll love it again. I hate to see her rob herself of the time and energy she’s already invested in this place.

Also, time at home with your baby is beyond precious — I get that — but she should assess the new patterns this shift could set up in her marriage. If she is handling most of the home stuff, she and her husband will get used to that and it will make returning to work a bigger pivot eventually.

She has all my support and empathy. This stuff shouldn’t have to be so hard. I’d like her to be able to make her decisions with a healthy body and rested mind and every bit of agency she’s earned.

Lauren.

Have you been a similar situation as “R.” ? What was your exit strategy? Are you currently contemplating leaving your job? Comment below with where you are in your journey, or any tips (or pitfalls) that readers can learn from.

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To contact Lauren about her private consulting and coaching services, email her at: Lauren@thefifthtrimester.com . You can find her book, here.