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Maternity Leave Planning

I’m in my second trimester and planning my maternity leave. What did you do?

Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: I was so, so old by the time I got around to having children that I had already fulfilled many of my professional goals—teaching residents and fellows in several different medical schools and all of that. I had written papers, run various programs,  and been in many different practice arrangements. I knew that I wanted to stay home with my children and raise them myself.

This was an easy decision for me to make because I was no longer full of those burning, youthful, frustrated professional ambitions. I was in this sense really prepared for motherhood.

I was also in a privileged financial position as a doctor married to doctor. I was able to make pretty good money working a limited number of hours, so I felt I was using my mind professionally, serving the public, and contributing something to our household income.

I stayed home with each infant about a month. I thought I’d go crazy staring at the laundry and the dishes in the sink for 24 hours a day. I should have gone back to work the next week!  But I only worked 3 hours each day until my children went to school. Sometimes I hired an outside helper to stay at home with my offspring for a couple of hours while I ran to the office; sometimes my husband and I would just take shifts and I would work a few evenings and Saturday mornings.

I never worked full time until my children went away to college. I always wanted to be the one to put them on the yellow bus for school in the morning and chat with them when they got home right after school. From my children’s perspective, they always had an “at home Mom” because I was always there whenever they were at home. In between, I ran to the clinic and taught and fought for funding and played hospital politics–so I had the best of all worlds. This was the wisest decision I ever made as a parent.

Naturally, two full incomes is not the same as one income. Every family has to evaluate this math problem, and many families cannot even consider a solution that does not involve mother working full time. Hardship forces many women into full-time jobs. But I know that many women wish that they could be the one to kiss the boo boo, to see that loose tooth finally wriggled out, to hear all about it when the child bursts in the front door, to mind the brood during those long afternoons in the backyard. In my mind, these are the most precious experiences that life has to offer.

I want to support women who feel this way, but feel isolated in our job-and-money oriented culture, as if they were being disloyal to their professional ambitions or as if they were contemplating doom by reducing their potential family income by even a little. I can tell these women that I wouldn’t trade being home for my children for all the private schools, big new cars, and luxury vacations in the world.

Elizabeth Berger, MD, a mom of two, child psychiatrist, and author of Raising Kids with Character

The information on MommyMDGuides.com is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, and services of a physician. Always consult your physician or child care expert if you have any questions concerning your family's health. For severe or life-threatening conditions, seek immediate medical attention.