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  • Questions to Ask HR About Maternity Leave

    Thanks to our friend Allyson Downey for sharing this piece with Nine Naturals! Allyson is the founder of weeSpring and the author of the book Here's the Plan, the pregnancy and parenting guide to professional life. 

    Treat your initial meeting with Human Resources with them as a fact-finding mission. Take notes throughout the conversation, and send an email afterward confirming your understanding of the policy. This is especially important since few companies have a comprehensive policy in writing. (Scroll down for a printable list!)

    How You Get Paid During Maternity Leave

    • What is the maximum amount of time away, including extended unpaid time, that the company allows? Do I have flexibility in how I use that time? (Can I use some toward working part-time weeks when you return?) Can I reserve some of my leave for later?
    • How much of my salary will I receive while I am out on leave?
    • Does my equity continue to vest while I’m on parental leave? (This is especially important if your equity represents a large portion of your compensation.)
    • If you are in a state that affords parental leave: Does that leave occur concurrently with any employer-sponsored leave, or is it sequential?
    • If you have incentive-based compensation, how does that work? Am I still eligible for my full bonus, or is it a pro-rata share? How will commissions be paid out while I am on leave?

    How Benefits Are Handled While on Maternity Leave

    • How is my health insurance paid for while I’m on leave? (If your leave is unpaid, you may have to mail in a check for your portion of your health insurance.) What about contributions to flexible spending accounts?
    • If you have life insurance or disability insurance through your company: How is my life insurance paid?
    • Do I accrue benefits while out on leave? (Ask about retirement fund contributions, vacation days or sick days, time toward a sabbatical, and any other benefits your employer may offer.)
    • What are the terms of my short-term disability coverage? What happens if I have medical complications and need to leave early? How much of my salary will I receive? Will this count as part of my maternity leave?
    The Nitty Gritty Logistics of Maternity Leave
    • What forms do I need to complete, and when? When is the FMLA form due? Is there a form for Short-Term Disability?
    • When do I need to finalize my departure and return to work dates? 
    • How do I add my child to my health insurance and make other open enrollment changes (like flexible spending account elections)? What is the deadline for doing this?
    • Do you offer a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account? How does that work?
    • How do I add my child as a beneficiary on my retirement account and employer-provided life insurance?
    Your Return to Work After Maternity Leave
    • Does the company allow teleworking or flex-time?
    • Are there mother’s rooms or other facilities for pumping moms? (Ask to see it; you can find a checklist of things to look for in the appendix.)
    • Are there any other benefits for new parents that I should be aware of?

    DOWNLOAD A PRINTABLE LIST

    Allyson Downey is an entrepreneur, writer, MBA, and parent who has built a career on the power of trusted advice. In 2013, she launched weeSpring, a Techstars-backed startup that helps new and expecting parents collect advice from their friends about what they need for their baby.  She is also the author of the book Here's the Plan, the pregnancy and parenting guide to your professional life. 

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  • Postpartum Fashion: Back to Work

    9 dresses that will get you psyched to end your maternity leave.

    Article & Photos courtesy of Well Rounded NY

    Heading back to work after a maternity leave can be difficult for many reasons. Not only is it an emotional transition, but with that new postpartum body, there’s also the struggle with what to wear. The last work-appropriate outfit you likely bought was when catering to a pregnant body, and despite the fact that you’ve since given birth, who goes back to their original shape in 12 weeks? With that said, here are a few back-to-work spring and summer dresses that will help you stay calm, cool, collected, and comfortable while stepping into your new role: working mom!

     

    Read more...

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  • Need to Know: heymama

    The ladies behind heymama give us 6 reasons to shop “mom-owned” businesses while pregnant.

    Article & Photos courtesy of Well Rounded NY

    We are truly amazed by how many moms and moms-to-be we meet that are simultaneously bringing up baby AND a small business (or sometimes, a big business). As entrepreneurial moms ourselves, there is nothing more motivating and inspiring than seeing other entrepreneurial moms that are hustling…and kicking ass. And now that heymama is here we know where to find them. The site’s become a regular read, and we’re slightly addicted to Hey Mama’s Instagram feed, with its heartfelt stories of enterprising moms around the world.

    We recently caught up with heymama founders Katya Libin (mom to Liliana, 4) and Amri Kibbler (mom to Mari, 4, and another little girl on the way!) and found out what inspires them, how they unwind, and what

    6 “mom-owned” businesses every pregnant gal should know about right now.

    Why do you think it’s so important to build your mom community as a new mom?
    Amri: It can be really scary and lonely to become a mom, there are so many things that you need answers to, things that only another mom can help you through. Just feeling like you’re not alone can make all the difference.

    Who’s a hey mama?
    Amri: Our members are entrepreneurs, businesswomen, stylists, content creators, bloggers, editors, writers and all kinds of creative women. When it comes to their style of parenting, it really runs the gamut: we have moms who are into attachment parenting, babywearing, home-schooling, breastfeeding, public schools, those that have nannies or rely on stay-at-home dads and more. We support anything that feels right to you has a mother. We are non-judgmental parents, and really want to create a support system for women that want to explore their passions and dreams outside of motherhood while being parents.

    How do you divide and conquer on the day to day?
    Amri: We both weigh in on pretty much everything. Katya takes the lead on the agency portion of heymama and I handle more of the editorial front.

     

    How does being moms influence your daily work?
    Amri: From a logistic perspective… it takes a lot of organizing. When you’re a mom, you have to look ahead and plan everything out. Once you get the hang of that, it’s much easier to fit everything in. From a creative perspective, my daughter inspires me all the time. I love doing crafts and cooking and have so much fun sharing these activities with Mari. Cooking is such a great way to teach skills like math as well as practice working together. They open up your creativity in away you many have forgotten. You can be silly and really explore your artistic side.

    When the workday’s over and the kids are finally asleep, how do you spend your “me” time?
    Amri: Uh, ok you got me! At the moment I really haven’t been making much “me time”! When Mari is asleep, it’s back to emails. I do try to squeeze in frequent manicures and some early morning Pilates once a week. That’s what happens when you start a business, get pregnant, and move all around the same time. Totally guilty, but I’m going to do some meditation tonight before bed now that you called me out. Katya has some really great positive affirmations she listens to!
    Katya: I love to go to the gym after a long day–it helps me destress and gives me “me time.” When not at the gym, NYC has no shortage of incredible restaurants to catch up with old friends. I’m also obsessed with Glam & Go, a membership service for blow outs.

     

    Give us 6 mom-owned businesses that every pregnant gal needs to know about.
    1. Tubby Todd. Their products are not only all-natural, but smell delicious. I bought them for Mari but have been using them myself while pregnant. The lotion is moisturizing and not sticky. The package in super cute and my daughter loves it.

    2. HATCH Collection. The best fashion-forward pieces for everyday! I’ve been living in the jumpsuits, dresses and sweaters. The pieces feel both like versatile basic but also unique, and transition from maternity to the rest of your busy life with baby.

    3. Mitera Collection. This collection of chic modern dresses each contains invisible zippers that make breast-feeding a snap. It’s really hard to find office, meeting, and event appropriate breastfeeding friendly outfits. These are so beautiful you’ll wear them way past the time you and your babe have finished breastfeeding.

    4. Natti Natti. The collection is designed by an artistic husband and wife duo that owned and operated an art gallery for five years in Chelsea. The modern yet whimsical Brooklyn meets Sweden line of organic baby blankets, pillows, and toddler bedding are made in small batches, are super soft, and very special.

    5. Kid and Coe. This site is a must for all families who love to travel! You can rent gorgeous family centric homes all around the globe. They come stocked with essentials like high chairs, cribs, and toys. It’s so much more comfortable to have a kitchen prep meals for little ones and a separate bedroom so you can get some rest.

    6. DockATot. is a multi-functional lounging, playing, resting, snuggling station for your baby. It’s a comfortable and safe place to set your new baby while you take care of mama and perfect if you practice co-sleeping.

    This article is by Jessica Pallay, courtesy of Well Rounded NY.  Conceived with love by former magazine editors Jessica Pallay and Kaity Velez, Well Rounded NY aims to be the singular pregnancy resource for city-savvy moms-to-be. Through reviews, profiles, expert Q&As, local guides and more, Well Rounded curates the New York City pregnancy and helps its readers come to terms – and term! – with pregnancy in the city.

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    • Leaving Maternity Leave

      Jump back into the working world with a little help from Baby Caravan.

      Article & Photo courtesy of Well Rounded NY

      The business of making a baby is about nothing if not preparedness. A birth plan? I’d made one. A hospital bag? Mine was packed a good month in advance of my due date. When my husband and I returned home with our two-day-old daughter, our apartment was filled with all manner of bottle systems and stroller contraptions and handkerchief-sized items of girlie clothing.

      For a while there, everything was more or less under control: the baby was still alive. Her older brother had given up his campaign to rename her “City Bus” and was all about the hugs and kisses. Just as my maternity leave was nearing its end, though, I had a new army of scenarios to fret about.

      Which is why I summoned Emily Crocker and Jennifer Mayer, two of Brooklyn’s finest doulas, to my doorstep some three months after the birth of my daughter. They’d come over to walk me through the rather fraught business of jumping back into the working world.

      Emily and Jen, along with doula London King, are co-founders of Baby Caravan, a band of six baby workers that focus on birth and postpartum doula’ing. To round out the continuum, the company has just launched its back-to-work program, which entails a mix of private sessions and group classes aimed at providing support for mothers returning to the grind. Clients typically receive one private session, a follow-up written plan, and phone, text and email support after they report to the office.

      “Women make up more than 50% of the workforce and are responsible for 100% of the baby making in this world, and yet we have no support when we go back to work. It’s utterly astounding,” says Emily, a postpartum doula and mother of two. “We have worked with and spoken to women in all types of fields including OB/GYNs, heads of PR of large advertising firms and small business owners—and they are all extremely anxious about leaving their babies at home.”

      Jen has been a birth doula for a decade, is a certified holistic health coach and is expecting her first baby this winter. “This program was inspired after I followed up with my clients a year or more after their births,” she says. “Many had amazing maternity leaves and really enjoyed that time with their little ones. Then they went back to work, and the rug was pulled out from beneath them. It’s something people don’t talk about—you’re supposed to ‘just pump and get on with it.’ But it’s a big deal. And it’s okay to feel ambivalent.”

      A few days before our visit, Emily and Jen emailed me an intake form with some lay-of-the-land questions. I was asked to share my childcare plans, the names of my family members and where I stood on the issues of exercise and take-out’s role at the family dinner table. I was also asked to rank in order of concern six aspects of returning to work, including sleep, my pumping plans and sharing duties with my husband.

      Once we were seated in my living room, Emily and Jen used my answers as jumping off points for what would become one of the fastest two and a half hour conversations in history. We talked about why I love my job, and why it’s important to me that my kids see their mother thriving out of the house. Then we moved on to the logistics and unpacked each aspect of my return to work, discussing my plans and nifty little ways to tweak them.

      “There’s no one size fits all answer, we can help moms make their decisions about pumping strategies or getting dinner on the table every night,” says Emily.

      I wasn’t too concerned about pumping, but preserving family dinner was preying on my mind. “It would be easy if I could just make pasta every night and never have to think about it,” I said. Emily and Jen actually thought that was a brilliant idea, and soon we were in agreement that I should put aside any Ottolenghi-esque ambitions and my household would eat the same quartet of super-easy meals Monday through Thursday. “We did that when I was a kid,” Emily said. “Taco Tuesday was everybody’s favorite.”

      Another thing I’d been worrying about—handling all the family-related emails that I can never seem to stay on top of —didn’t faze Emily and Jen. “That’s an important part of parenting,” said Jen. “I call it ‘kinkeeping.’ Women tend to do the bulk of it. If you’re the main kinkeeper, it’s important to remember all the work your partner does that makes your life easier.” Telling them about all the things my kids’ father takes care of made me feel grateful, and less overwhelmed. Emily had a practical suggestion. “Why don’t you allow yourself to forget about these things except when you’re pumping? That can be your time to deal with any kinkeeping.” This seemed eminently doable.

      When I voiced what might be my biggest concern—that I will sorely miss my children—Emily had these words: “You’ll see them for dinner, and that’s the sweetest part of the day. There’s so much less aggravation than when you’re on your own with the kids in the middle of the day.” My mind flashed to a particularly messy scene from the previous afternoon, and I smiled.

      A few days after our meeting, Jen and Emily emailed me my plan. It ticked off the things that I seem to have in good order, and offered a few suggestions for ways to make the trickier parts of my transition easier. They urged me to call another new mom at my office to chat about the mothers’ rooms before my first day back, and to set aside a couple nights a month for post-work drinks or a yoga class. They even gave me homework, asking me to come up with a list of dinner “musts” (e.g. Must get vegetables on the table more nights than not) and “must nots” (e.g. Must not serve bagels for dinner… twice in a row), aimed at helping me establish a low bar for what counts as success.

      Of course, there are limits to what Emily and Jen can do. Were they able to assure me that I’ll never get an emergency call informing me that my toddler had locked himself in the bathroom? Could they guarantee that every morning I’d wake up fresh-faced and my work dresses would emerge from the closet unrumpled? If only. But it felt bizarrely comforting to give voice to the stress that had been building up within, and remember why I’m so excited to top up my Metrocard.

      Baby Caravan’s back-to-work program costs $300 and includes the one 2 hour private session, a follow-up written plan, and phone, text and email support after a mom reports to the office. Additional hours are available.

      This article is by Laura Mechling, courtesy of Well Rounded NY.  Conceived with love by former magazine editors Jessica Pallay and Kaity Velez, Well Rounded NY aims to be the singular pregnancy resource for city-savvy moms-to-be. Through reviews, profiles, expert Q&As, local guides and more, Well Rounded curates the New York City pregnancy and helps its readers come to terms – and term! – with pregnancy in the city.

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    • Finding the Right Shade of Grey

      Article & Photo courtesy of Well Rounded NY

      5 post-baby work options you might not have thought of.

      It’s often the second or third question on any early awkward mommy date: “So, are you going back?” i.e.: Are you worth investing in? Or are you going to disappear the second that the clock strikes 12 weeks?

      That question doesn’t have to be as intimidatingly black and white as it may seem–mommies are, after all, officially recognized as the world’s most resourceful species. There are many work gradients in between “all” (head back to work and relish the quiet at your desk–there’s a lot to be said for that), and “nothing” (100% mommy all the time, don’t miss a smile…or a tantrum–which there’s a lot to be said for too.)

      Be creative and inventive. A few of the modern evolutions of working mommy life might not be so readily apparent but are absolutely worth pursuing. Here are five.

      Your first line of defense:

      1) Extend your maternity leave. Postpone reality–and any major decision-making–past 12 weeks. The world looks very different at four or five months than it does at three months. (For one thing, you may actually be getting some sleep.)
      How to plan: Ask for the most time possible upfront. A mother who calls to ask to return a few weeks early starts off post-baby work life on a much better foot than one who calls begging for more time at the last moment. Once you’ve verified your company’s official maternity leave policy, explore other options. Can you extend it with sick, personal or vacation days? If it’s financially feasible on your end, is unpaid leave an option? Plan for the most, and cut back later.

      2) Ease back in. Many mothers find the return to work less daunting if they can re-enter at least somewhat gradually. At a minimum, try to come back on a Wednesday or Thursday so that the weekend with your baby doesn’t feel quite so far away. Or arrange to work two or three days a week for the last month of your maternity leave.
      How to plan: Schedule your return date accordingly, and talk to HR or your boss about a part-time ramp-up period (either at a decreased percentage of pay or by spreading out your remaining days of maternity leave).

      3) Find flexibility at your current job. This is the easiest place to seek a flexible arrangement of some sort. You have goodwill and knowledge built up, and the cost of replacing you is much higher than the cost of letting you work an 80% schedule or at home on Tuesdays. In other words, you’re Beyoncé and the rose-scented candles in your dressing room are yours for the asking.
      How to plan: No one will know you want those roses if you don’t ask. Most mothers who have been through it recommend asking during your maternity leave, once you have a sense of what you want, but before you return to work. Others highlight making sure that you proactively schedule a trial period or regular check-ins with your boss from the get-go to ensure that the arrangement is working on both sides.

      Other options:

      4) Look for a new job with an element of flexibility. You work at Bank of Overachievers with long hours and lots of face time, and you just don’t see the flexibility thing happening. The stories of Fridays from home and job-sharing from your friends at Bank of Highly Rational People are just too tempting. It’s time to find something else that suits you a bit more now that you’re a mom.
      How to plan: Be wary of the grass being greener on the other side. Your friends may only have those great arrangements because of the goodwill that they built up, and you will be putting in plenty of face time at any new place at the start, regardless of the culture. Head back to your old job and give the whole thing a bit of rational thought from your desk. If it still seems to make sense, MomCorps or MayBrooks can be great resources–these companies help connect moms with jobs that have some flexibility. It’s much easier to interview for something that’s clearly understood to be flexible upfront than it is to ask for flexibility when you’re accepting a job offer.

      5) Freelance, consult or take on project work. This is the holy grail for many mothers. Work when you want to. Make it to that morning music class, and head downtown for a meeting in the afternoon. Work at night after bedtime. Don’t accept any projects in August so you can lie on the beach with your baby and rub Butt Paste on sandy diaper rashes. Stay just engaged enough in the workforce that fully on-ramping when Tinkerbell heads off to kindergarten isn’t an issue. There are some downsides, however, that any mother excited to whip out her MacBook at the local Starbucks should be well aware of. Half of the job of any freelancer is looking for the next job. This becomes less of an issue over time as you develop a stream of recurring clients, but networking to find clients early on is time-consuming, and often not at the best times for a new mom (industry happy hours at 5pm anyone?).
      How to plan: Again, the devil you know–would your old company be interested in using you in a project-based or consulting capacity? If you’ve been in a client service business, is there an opportunity to work directly for some former clients? (And–a shameless plug–consider Prokanga, which does the time-consuming networking for you, and helps connect qualified mothers with project work.)

      The most important thing to remember: there is no right answer. ‘Leaning in’ isn’t for everyone…and neither is ‘reclining’. Explore a few options, and find what works for you. Then tune out the peanut gallery.

      This article is by Jamie Cheney courtesy of Well Rounded NY.  Conceived with love by former magazine editors Jessica Pallay and Kaity Velez, Well Rounded NY aims to be the singular pregnancy resource for city-savvy moms-to-be. Through reviews, profiles, expert Q&As, local guides and more, Well Rounded curates the New York City pregnancy and helps its readers come to terms – and term! – with pregnancy in the city.

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    • Work From Home Parenting Tips

      Article courtesy of Well Rounded NY

      6 of our favorite enterprising mamas give us their sage advice on working from home. Working from home when baby arrives may sound like the dream (and it may be), but between feedings, diaper changes, figuring out nap schedules and just straight-up parenting, it takes time to ease into a steady balance of working and mom’ing.

      Check out these insider secrets from 6 of our favorite work-from-home mamas:

      Nicole Gonzalez (founder of Lillies & Leon): Working from home is no easy task. It’s so easy to get distracted with life. Babies, dishes, lunch time… while I can’t say I have found the perfect balance (it’s a myth people! 😉 I have found that setting aside specific time frames as well as having a “workspace” helps. We live in a small NYC apartment so creating an office is not an option. When the weather is nice I pop Lucas in his stroller and by the time we get to Starbucks (the extra two block walk to the one with outdoor seating is totally worth it!) he’s snoozing. I can get about 2 solid hours of work done and drink a latte in peace. When the weather isn’t great or it’s just one of those days where getting out of the house isn’t an option, I always try to set my laptop up at the dining room table or our small parsons desk – basically anywhere but the couch. I find it makes a huge difference in how productive I am during those short bursts of work time.

      Jahje Ives (founder of Baby Jives): You have to decide what you are willing to give up both in your business and your personal life in order to achieve balance. Right now while my kids are young I am not willing to give up more than a few hours during the day with them because I started my business so I could stay home with them and experience this part of their life. So I have help a few hours a day when I can work without the distraction of kids and then I switch back into mom until I can work again after they go to sleep. It’s not an ideal schedule but it’s the one I choose right now and I know it won’t last forever.

      Fleur Louise (co-founder of The Artful Bachelorette): I’m a Mama to two boys: Clark 2.5 years and August 6 months. I run The Artful Bachelorette from my ‘home office’ AKA: bed, bath and kitchen. I try and get all of my urgent work done between 7am-2pm while my eldest is at daycare. Trying to be organized and getting shit done while you have help is key. In the morning I usually do some cooking, cleaning, breast feeding with my little one, emailing, calls and most enjoyably eating, mostly all at once. It is all about multitasking.

      Lindsay Meyer-Harley (founder of Darling Clementine): It’s not easy, but can be done. You’ve gotta be willing to work in short spurts, 10 minutes here, an hour there. You’ve got to get in the mentality of having a lot of projects open at once, that you work on here and there as you are able to, otherwise you’re in for a stressful day.

      Raluca State (founder of Raluca State PR and What Would Gwyneth Do): Don’t try to multitask the personal and the professional. When it’s time to work, make sure your kids are out of the house or have childcare that can keep them occupied. When it’s time to mom, shut down the computer and close the office door (try your best to get an office door, if you can). Both areas will suffer if you’re trying to juggle them all at once. Don’t work in pajamas. You will be far more productive if you treat

      Junia Montano (content manager & submissions editor at 100 Layer Cake): When I returned from maternity leave, I eased my way back into full time work, from my home office. The first couple of months were actually doable, because your baby sleeps for huge chunks at a time. Sadly, that fooled me into thinking that I had this all under control and could keep working full time from home indefinitely. After about 3 months, nap time became more of a game to see when she’d actually take them.

      This article is by Kaity Velez courtesy of Well Rounded NY.  Conceived with love by former magazine editors Jessica Pallay and Kaity Velez, Well Rounded NY aims to be the singular pregnancy resource for city-savvy moms-to-be. Through reviews, profiles, expert Q&As, local guides and more, Well Rounded curates the New York City pregnancy and helps its readers come to terms – and term! – with pregnancy in the city.

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