A Journey Through PFL: Part 5
November 6, 2018
We’ve been following Stephanie, an employee at ShelterPoint and first-time mom, who has taken Paid Family Leave (PFL) to bond with her new baby. In this post, we check in with her towards the end of her leave.
If you’re just tuning in to our series, Stephanie has been revealing steps employees can take to get started with PFL for bonding, as well as how Paid Family Leave has benefited her and her family. Click here to start at the beginning of her story.
Coming home from the hospital, Stephanie and her husband began life with their new daughter, Olivia. As Stephanie describes it, “the first few weeks were insanity - feeding her every 2-3 hours, learning how to breastfeed, worrying if Olivia was gaining weight, and not sleeping well. Then there’s the parade of visitors coming through. It was a whirlwind.”
In Part 4 of Steph’s Story we learned that she had changed her plans on the amount of time she was planning to take all at once. Initially, she was planning to take 6 weeks of DBL time, then just 4 weeks of Paid Family Leave, leaving the remaining 4 weeks in day-long increments to use over the following months. Instead, she realized the benefits of having time to bond with her new baby and how important it was for her to spend all 8 weeks of PFL (which totaled 14 weeks of leave, including DBL) with her new daughter to strengthen their bond before going back to work and sending Olivia to daycare.
Stephanie went on, “The fog kind of lifted around week five. Those first six weeks are just about survival—keeping her alive, keeping me alive. And also, healing! You kind of forget in all the excitement that you just gave birth and your body really needs time to heal.” When the time came to submit her PFL paperwork and commit to a period of leave, Steph decided to take the full 8 weeks of PFL. Getting a little choked up, Stephanie explained that the mother-daughter bond was much stronger than she had anticipated. “I just realized once I go back to work, I’d never take another month off,” she said. “And Olivia was just so tiny, I just couldn’t picture leaving her when she was still so dependent on me.” This was her opportunity to take the extra time she would need, and thanks to Paid Family Leave, she was able to take it.
Being well prepared at work made it easier to make adjustments to her PFL time that she hadn’t anticipated she would want. Since Olivia came early, their team had already planned on Steph being on leave through August. “That went into making my decision as well. I never wanted to be an extra burden on my co-workers,” Steph explained. “Though I was still relieved when my boss who’s a mom of a 3-year old and a 6-year old, was so supportive and accommodating with my decision to take more time.”
So, what did Stephanie and Olivia do during those 8 weeks? “I learned how to be a Mom,” Steph said. “In that time I learned so much more about my daughter – like that she has one type of cry that just means she’s tired, and another cry for when she’s bored.” Stephanie explained to us that extra bonding time really gave her the opportunity to get to know Olivia. “Not to say I wouldn’t have learned those things without PFL, but Paid Family Leave gave me 8 extra weeks to be nothing but Olivia’s Mama. I was able to be 100% focused on her and her needs,” she said.
Stephanie reminded us that it’s important for dads to bond with baby, too. And, yes, both parents can claim PFL bonding leave at the same time, if they work for different employers. Even though Steph’s husband didn’t take NY Paid Family Leave, he did take some extra time off when Olivia was first born, and during Steph’s leave.
Steph added, “Not only did PFL give me the time to spend with her, but it gave our whole extended family extra time to get to know her. My parents visited a few times, my brother came to town, and even my best friend and her mom got the chance to come meet Olivia during my time off.” And, it wasn’t just Steph’s family. “We had a lot of really special days at the beach cabana with my Mother-in-law. I got to be there when Olivia had her first splash in the kiddie pool her Grandma got for her.”
Throughout baby’s first year there are a ton of “firsts,” and Stephanie expressed her gratitude for all the “firsts” she was able to be present for because of Paid Family Leave. Steph and her husband even took Olivia on her first plane ride up to Rochester where she got to meet her Great Grandparents, Aunts, and Cousins. “It’s a precious moment in my life that I’ll never forget,” Steph said.
Stephanie was glad to have been afforded the ability to take the full time off all at once. “Olivia’s a little bigger, and sturdier now, she’s thriving, and even holding her head up on her own. If I didn’t have Paid Family Leave, she would have been just six weeks old when she went to daycare.” Steph shares this piece of advice for soon-to-be parents: “Plan for the longest allowed time – even if you may not use it. Plan for it at work, and also financially ahead time. This way, when the time comes, you’ll have the flexibility to make the decision that’s best for you and your family.”
But now it’s time for yet another transition. SIGN-UP for updates to find out what happens when Stephanie heads back to work, and get her manager’s perspective from while she was out!
Until then, here’s some of Steph’s favorite pictures from her Paid Family Leave bonding time off!
PFL Tips for Taking Bonding Leave
When you’re ready to go on bonding leave, keep in mind that every family is a little different. You have the flexibility to take the time you need to bond with your child. It doesn’t all have to be taken at once, the way Stephanie took it. You can take some time up front, or in increments over time - whatever works best!
Keep these tips in mind for your time on bonding leave:
- Keep in mind that PFL is flexible. You can take some time now and save some for later, or you can take it all at once. You can take intermittent leave, too. For example, you could take every Monday while your partner takes every Friday, leaving you only three days per week to cover with daycare.
- Focus on the bonding! This is your time to discover your new child, so enjoy every moment!
- Consider joining a parenting group—especially if you’re a first-time parent. This can help you learn tips and tricks to being a better parent, while also offering support for the transition to parenthood.
- If you’re a ShelterPoint member you can check the status of your PFL claim online at: www.shelterpoint.com/claimportal
Are you a soon-to-be mom?
Get Paid Family Leave tips for any stage of your pregnancy journey with this downloadable guide here!
To read about the next step in Steph's journey, please click here for Part 6.
This blog post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal counsel. Please consult with an appropriate professional for legal and compliance advice. Any PFL information is as of the blog post’s date stamp; it is based on the applicable statutes and regulation, and may change as regulations evolve or NY State issues guidance regarding Paid Family Leave regulations. Have more questions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org