How long should my maternity leave be?

By Kaz Cooke
From the latest edition
of Babies & Toddlers

How long should my maternity leave be?

There is no definitive answer to this question – it’s a personal choice made by you, your partner and your child’s needs.

At some time in their life, most mothers mix part-time, casual or full-time work and being at home with their children. Men, too, either share that mix or restructure their work to be more flexible if they can. There are also lots of parents sharing custody, and many sole parents (most of whom are women). This chapter isn’t a blueprint for restructuring your life – it just presents options and ideas to help in making decisions.

The ‘which parent stays home when?’ conversation

  • Are you both offensively wealthy and never have to work at all, ever?
  • Who’s on contract? Who has a permanent, well-paid position with great benefits? Who earns more? Who wants to stay home more?
  • Can you do a year off work, or would it make more sense to sort of job-share, with one partner working at home three days a week?
  • Whose workplace is the more flexible and family-friendly?
  • Which workplace offers better prospects for the future?
  • Who needs to keep up the superannuation payments?
  • Who needs to ‘keep their hand in’, keep their name in the industry?
  • Which parent will inevitably take some sort of hit to their career because they’re a parent? (Hint: the answer should be ‘both’.)
  • Who wants to try some part-time study mixed with part-time childcare while the other one gets paid?
  • Have you had a go at it and decided that it’s the best thing you’ve ever done and, what’s more, you’re good at it? Or have you given it a red-hot go and decided you can do it three days a week max without going shrieky-crazy?
  • What cleaning, cooking and shopping requirements will be filled by which partner? Staying at home isn’t all fun and games: some of it is drudgery as well. All the drudgery shouldn’t be left to whoever’s unpaid, regardless of gender.

There’s much more on parents sharing responsibilities, work and leave in the book Babies & Toddlers: The Sequel to Up the Duff.