I recently left my job at 31 weeks pregnant. Leading up to this decision, I probably searched Google, mom blogs, baby blogs, and a variety of other resources at least 38,597 times. Examples of said searches include: “Is it smart to change jobs while pregnant?” “Am I being ridiculous to change jobs while pregnant?” “Should I try to hang in there until after maternity leave?” “What are the implications of a job change this late in my pregnancy?” “Will I bankrupt my family?” “Will the world stop spinning?”
I had questions. So. Many. Questions. And, no one on the interwebs could answer them. I would find either outdated insurance information or a bunch of fluff from people I deemed independently wealthy who didn’t have a financial concern in the world. Example: “My heart was set on it, so we made it work and just paid the hospital in cash!” How nice for you, but not my reality.
I had to make the scary decision to go with my gut. So, I took a very scary leap: I left my job and started a new one. Full disclosure: I started a new, old job, returning to my prior firm. I waddled back in on my first day eight months pregnant and hoped for the best. In my case, I’ve only hit a few minor snags, and yes, my situation is unique in that I went back to an employer with whom I was familiar, but the concerns and risks are the same whether you are looking for a new job or returning to a new, old job.
Therefore, if you end up in my shoes, pregnant and either wanting a career change, needing a career change, or considering a career change, here are three things to consider before taking the leap:
- Consider your “why.”
The “why” is the biggest component of leaving your current job. Why do you want to leave? Are you unhappy? Has a better opportunity come along? Do you work miserable hours and want a better situation for yourself before welcoming your new tiny nugget into the world? All reasons are valid.
But, why now? Will this opportunity be available to you after maternity leave? Are you OK with waiting if you have to? Will you encounter any hardship if you take the leap now versus later? What is the impact of that hardship on your family and new baby? Going through this list of questions could put a stop to the search pretty quickly or encourage you to keep going.
My concern, at first, was that I was making a purely emotional decision. (Looking back, I made the absolute best decision for myself and my family, but those pregnancy hormones can be confusing.) I also knew what I wanted to do but had to wait for approval to see if returning to my prior position was even a viable option. (THANK YOU, GUYS. I’M NEVER LEAVING AGAIN.)
In my case, I had switched jobs shortly before finding out I was pregnant. The new job was not a fit for me, which became very clear, very fast. I remember sitting on the couch telling my husband that I would rather take an hourly, seasonal job to get me to maternity leave than stay in my position. (Like, why wouldn’t I want to work at Target and get a discount during Christmas season? My husband quickly pointed out that would cause me to bring home zero paychecks because I’d spend it all even with a discount.) I remember telling my husband that no amount of money or fringe benefits could make me want to stay even one more day in my current position, and that’s when it clicked: my “why” was about my mental health and where I saw my career heading. In my eyes there were zero benefits to staying a single extra day where I was, and I wanted to go now. I had the opportunity now. Luckily, my husband went along with my decision and supported me, and together we decided that, as soon as we did our due diligence (see items 2 and 3 below), if it worked, I could make the leap.
- Figure out your insurance basics.
The insurance was the scary part for me. I had insurance through my employer with a low deductible. I had already paid my OB financial agreement and met my deductible for 2019. I also had my three-year-old on my insurance plan. She is a very expensive three-year-old from a medical standpoint.
So, time to get to work.
If you find yourself in step 2, these are the insurance considerations that turned out to be crucial:
- Is there another health insurance plan you can switch to? I knew my daughter could be covered under my husband’s insurance. What I didn’t know is whether I could be covered. Spoiler alert: even after the Affordable Care Act, some employer-sponsored plans still consider pregnancy a pre-existing condition. You need to know how the plan you’re moving to handles this.
- Is pregnancy a pre-existing condition on the new plan? This question kept me in a sweat for a solid week. Lucky for us, pregnancy was not considered a pre-existing condition under the new plan, and I was able to get coverage under my husband’s plan.
- If the pregnancy is considered a pre-existing condition, what are your options? During the week I had to wait to see if the pregnancy was considered a pre-existing condition, I researched other options in the event of a worst-case scenario. What would I do if I could not get coverage under my husband’s plan? I found two options. First, I found that I could enroll in the marketplace for a special enrollment plan due to loss of coverage. Problem was, my OB was not an in-network provider for the plans for which I was eligible. Yikes. Changing jobs my third trimester was one thing, but switching doctors so late in the game was another. Second, I could enroll in COBRA, which is a continuation of coverage from my employer-sponsored plan. COBRA would have set me back a cool $1600 or more per month, to be paid at the beginning of the month. Could I scrape that together while also paying medical bills, daycare, a mortgage, and still eat? Questionable.Although I didn’t get this far, a colleague of mine shared that he and his wife actually negotiated a cash price with the hospital and OB when their son was born, which ended up being a relatively reasonable amount considering the cost of childbirth in the United States. This would, of course, be provider dependent, and I may not have been so lucky. I knew at the end of the day, for my family’s situation, that I was at the mercy of the HR department of my husband’s firm. It would decide whether this could realistically work for us.Thankfully, it did.
Still, one thing that caught us by surprise was the cost of some of the medications we use, especially my daughter’s medication for asthma. One of her medications, the one she absolutely, positively cannot go without, is about $200 more per month on my husband’s plan. Not ideal, but definitely could have been worse, and while the cost increase would not have changed my decision, I wish I would have also looked at pharmacy benefits just so I didn’t let out my shock on the pharmacy technician at CVS. He handled me and my above-referenced hormones like a champ.
3. Figure out maternity leave.
The last scary step into the unknown was maternity leave. This is where I felt very, very lucky. Since I was returning to my prior employer, they never even batted an eye and worked with me from the get-go. Have I mentioned how grateful I am for them? How bad I feel for leaving in the first place? These people are my work family; they are my home; and time and time again, they show me how much I’m loved and cared for. And for an employer, that is just so hard to find. This also goes back to my “why.”
But enough of the mush. Maternity leave is a huge component of switching jobs late in pregnancy. Had I gone anywhere else, these are the things I would want to know:
- Will I have maternity leave?
- Will maternity leave be paid or unpaid?
- If maternity leave is unpaid, can I afford it?
- If I can’t afford it, are there any workable, creative solutions to lessen the impact?
- Is my job secure while I’m on leave?
- If I have to leave earlier than expected, will the employer work with me?
- What if complications arise and I cannot return when I plan to? How is that handled?
- What policies are in place to protect my position?
While the United States does indeed have the Family Medical Leave Act, FMLA only applies to certain employees and typically requires an employee to work for a full year prior to being eligible. This fact can be very scary when you’re pregnant and thinking about changing jobs.
Still, if you find yourself in this position, know you are not alone. It also worth noting, which is easy for me to say now, that most situations are temporary and will work out. And, as always, if you need someone to hear you out, you can find me over at Alamo City Moms!