Last week I was very excited to see Chief Justice Hecht interviewed by Justice Lehrmann at the Fort Worth Mahon Inn of Court. I was dressed in full suit regalia and left my kids at home to enjoy being a professional for the evening. When I got home, I was exhilarated by having witnessed such great legal minds. I sat down to tell my husband about it, but when I got up to go change out of my suit I felt a tug at the bottom of my pants as they peeled off the couch.
For eight years, I worked as a full-time litigation attorney at a medium sized law firm in downtown Fort Worth while raising my three small children. It felt like a disaster. Every day I felt like the obligations of my existence were busting at the seams as I tried unsuccessfully to balance the demands of being an attorney, a wife, and a mother. About two years ago, I left firm-life for what I thought would be a utopian existence of being a full-time mother and a part-time attorney. My image of paradise was almost immediately shattered by reality. Instead, I found myself juggling the demands of being a full-time mother and a part-time attorney.
Paid? Unpaid? 4 weeks? 12 weeks? 6 months? Will you be expected to do some work, or can you really just turn off your cell phone and ignore work email for your entire leave? Maternity leave policies can be as varied as the employers who offer them. No matter what your employer offers, actually taking maternity leave can be a challenge in and of itself. I have just completed my second maternity leave, and while each experience has been different, I hope that I can lend some insight to those of you preparing for leaves of your own.
There are very few laws that most of our clients can cite, but FMLA is one of them. Even if most people don’t know the details, they are typically well-aware that FMLA generally provides for medical leave from a job. Unfortunately, FMLA does not provide the sweeping coverage and benefits that the general public expects. With regard to FMLA, the “devil is in the details”, which is why most people, in my experience, are disappointed and even resentful when they discover that an employer is not subject to FMLA regulations or that their employer is not required to provide paid medical leave.
I attended a women’s event recently—just another luncheon for a good cause, but I made an incredible observation. The women who were most engaged in talking about their various charities and all of the non-profit work they managed to fit into their very busy professional lives, were women of the Baby Boomer generation. Either they had no children to begin with, or their children were away at college or had moved on to their own adult lives. Conversely, one young mother of two—or was it one mother of two young children?—noted that she simply did not have time to volunteer for non-profits; she would rather spend her precious “free” time with her children. To be sure, the “Gen X” or “Gen Y” discussion was quite different from that of my Baby Boomer peers.