Second-Time Mom Nails Why Maternity Leave Must Be Longer than 12 Weeks

Though 12 weeks is the standard maternity leave time many companies offer, it can feel more like 12 seconds. And some companies do not offer any paid maternity leave, which means those new moms feel a greater financial and emotional strain when they do go back to work, often well before the 12-week mark. But even if you do receive those 12 weeks, is that really enough time to feel ready to go back to work?

Some companies have a definitive answer to that question with a resounding: No. They’ve implemented policies that offer fully paid maternity leave that can be combined with short-term disability and sometimes vacation. For example, Caroline Kiesler, a human resources generalist and recruiter at VF Corporation could take 19 weeks off for her second child. Yes, you read that right.

VF Corporation offers eight weeks of paid parental leave to moms, dads and adoptive parents. Caroline took eight weeks for short-term disability when she had a C-section, the eight weeks of paid leave her company offered, then tacked on three weeks of vacation for a grand total of 19 weeks. She worked at a different company during her first pregnancy and only could take 12 weeks, some of which was either partially paid or unpaid.

“I was able to soak up every moment at home. The mental clarity I have at 19 weeks is night and day different from someone returning at 6, 8 or even 12 weeks. I am refreshed, energized and thrilled to jump back in with the support of my team,” the mom wrote in a LinkedIn post with a picture of her new cutie.

“My new normal looks a lot different with 2 kids but I am thankful to work somewhere that supports working parents through all phases of life.”

And that’s just the thing: Even though FMLA entitles moms to 12 weeks, the ideal amount of maternity leave is closer to 6 months. Every working mom is ready to go back to her job at different times, but more moms are ready later than 12 weeks than before it. Many babies are still waking up multiple times a night at 12 weeks, and therefore, moms are too. Brand-new moms are still very much adjusting to their new normal after a couple of months. A couple months more mean they’re better adjusted, and perhaps craving the stimulation their careers provide.

In sum, employers should work up to offering more than 12 weeks off if they want their employees to come back focused and excited. Working moms, no matter when they return, will always work it out, but why not set them up for success?