I admit I was wrong in extending my leave, but I needed the time to settle down with my child. I was not ready to get back to work and would have done a mess of a job if I did
When I came to know that I was pregnant with my first son, I was so happy that I danced with joy. Nine months seemed like an eternity and then on Gandhi Jayanthi out he popped! I had developed some complications during the course of my pregnancy and was wondering how long I would take to get back to work. The company that I worked for had six months maternity leave. I thought to myself, well let’s see how it goes and if I need more leave I’ll ask for an extension.
Six months passed like a second! One minute I was in the hospital holding my son, and the next at home managing him. I needed more time. I wasn’t ready to go back to work. I wondered what my boss would say, but I was determined. I can’t handle everything. I was hoping to settle down quickly and that didn’t seem like happening any time soon.
So I called my boss and told him how I needed two more months to be able to fully recuperate from my pregnancy complications. After listening to me rant for half an hour, he agreed. I was overjoyed. I felt that I won a major battle.Those two months felt like bliss. Having a kid and being able to manage home and office is absolutely impossible. I was able to take care of the child and also manage the household, but I felt that the child needed more time from me as a mother. So I asked for leave again and told them that I need more time. My boss agreed again.
Hence, it went on like that for another two more months. Everyone in the company was aware about my leave. But, I didn’t give them any joining date as I was feeling very reluctant to go back to work. Like this one-and-a-half years passed. I figured that if there was any time that I should take advantage of the fact that I’m a woman, it should be now.When I returned, some were surprised to see me, while others didn’t seem to care much. Most were curious as to why I extended my maternity leave from six months to one-and-a-half years. My reason was simple: My son needed me and there was no way I was letting my work come in between that.
My boss didn’t seem unhappy but I couldn’t make out if he was angry with me. But, hey all leaves were taken with his consent! The company’s HR department called me and said that since the company policy was to offer only six months of maternity leave for women, I would get paid only for those six months. The rest of the team it would be marked as leave without pay. I didn’t have a problem with that. It seemed the right thing.
But yes it did bother me that people were commenting behind my back about my extended leave. I could hear whispers down the corridor or inside the cafeteria where they talked about me. I admit I was wrong in extending, but I needed the time to settle down with my child. I was not ready to get back to work and would have done a mess of a job if I did.
Now that I am back at work and I look back at those months, I know I could have handled this situation more professionally. I should have told them about my plans (or lack of them) early on and given them adequate notice. My team was really unhappy with me with the way I handled the whole issue and it created a lot of disturbance for everybody. I wish somebody would have told me about how to handle such a situation. Today I make sure that other women don’t suffer the same fate, I talk to them about this experience and share my learning with them.
The writer is an executive manager working with a multi-national company