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The average human brain and body will do better with six months of leave. However, is your human brain and body being paid for that time away? And, even if so, is your employer (and are your colleagues) supportive of six months in a culture that, by law, has normalized 12 unpaid weeks as “enough?” These are big questions to consider, and I’d be irresponsible to share the basic research without also telling you to think about how these other bias-driven factors may make things hard all the same.
So, if the financial piece of the puzzle is okay for you, but you’re in a workplace where the thought of six months makes people do a weird thing with their face when you say it, I encourage you to do three things:
1) Read up and internalize all of the good data and research that backs up 6+ months so you can broadcast that message to any doubters and see it as a strength to push things toward what’s right and fair for all (this report from Brigid Schulte and team at New America is loaded with compelling evidence).
2) Talk about your future at your employer—projects that are on the horizon for after your leave, your long-term career growth—so that people see, obviously, that you’re committed to staying.
3) Insist that your partner also take some leave. I know you’re thinking, but if I have six months do they even need leave? Yes. Because if they don’t have it, the gap between their non leave and your humane six months could set you up for uneven co-parenting for the long haul. By six months, trust me, you will be really good at the baby stuff, and if your partner isn’t as well, you risk becoming the default primary parent, which makes going back to work (or just arm wrestling over who’s staying home when the daycare floods) much, much harder.