By Vi Nguyen
Last year, I was blessed to become a first-time parent. In the wake of the madness that comes with trying to preparing for a child, I learned some lessons that may be useful to you as well.
1. Review Your Company’s Policy Regarding Maternity Leave
This policy will vary from company to company and I encourage you to talk to yoursupervising attorney or Human Resources as soon as possible. The FMLA allows employees to balance their work and family life by taking reasonable unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons. Under the FMLA, employers must allow their employees (both male and female) 12 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth or adoption of a child.
At this time, you can speak to your employer if your leave will be paid or unpaid. It is very important to figure out your finances ahead of time so you are not caught off guard with the news there is no paycheck being deposited into your account during your leave.
2. Discuss Work Expectations
Before and during my pregnancy, I was overseeing nearly 50 cases and still handling approximately 20 hearings a week. When I wasn’t in immigration court, I was in the office working on 20-30 motions and briefs and responses to USCIS a week. I naively believed that I could still continue to work on motions/briefs and responses during my maternity leave from home. Wrong!!! I quickly learned that being a new parent is wonderfully exhausting. When the baby slept, I slept! Fortunately, my supervising attorney knew better and we discussed what the work expectations should be – during my leave and after my leave.
Before leaving for maternity break, I left detailed notes regarding the status of the case and the actions that needed to get done while I was gone. If I had any hearings scheduled during my maternity leave, I made sure to assign the case to other attorney or file a Motion for Continuance. I simply explained that I was about to go on maternity leave and that I would be out of office for 8 weeks.
3. After Birth
My maternity leave was only for 6 weeks. Knowing that I had to return to work within 6 weeks, one of the things I did was search for a daycare center. This was not as easy as I thought. Many daycare centers have waiting lists (who knew?) and costs, hours and benefits vary from daycare center to daycare center. Between comparing costs and benefits and visiting each daycare center was very time-consuming. So plan ahead!
4. Returning to Work
Upon returning to work, I was bombarded with things to do. What to do first? Should I do the motion for change of venue first or do I pump first? Luckily, my managing attorney was very accommodating to my new parenting needs. We discussed the time I would need to pump at work and be away for doctor’s appointments. I found that by having an open line of communication with my employer, the transition back to work was much smoother than expected.
Lastly, properly scheduling your time is one of the most important things you can do. Before baby, I was working upwards of 60 hours a week at a very busy firm working with removal cases. After the baby was born, I was very conscience that I wouldn’t be able to easily attend court hearings and stay up all night preparing motions and reviewing files. I consciously made the decision to switch law firms. Now, I work at an immigration boutique firm that focuses in employment-based cases. My typical workweek about 40-45 hours a week. By working at a different firm that is more accommodating to my needs, I have been able to achieve a happy balance of work and motherhood.
Vi Nguyen Palacios is an attorney licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. She has completed her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Texas – Austin and she received her Doctor of Jurisprudence from Thurgood Marshall School of Law. Since 2008, she has represented immigrants before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR). She has also represented applicants for relief from deportation before various Immigration Courts in the United States. In addition to court representation, she has written successful motions, petitions, and briefs before the Immigration Court and Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). She is also licensed to practice in federal court and has filed numerous lawsuits in the Southern District of Texas. At this firm, Ms. Palacios handles all employment-based nonimmigrant petitions such as H-1B, O1, L1, TN, E-2s, as well as employment and family based permanent residency applications including PERM applications, I-140/I-130 immigrant petitions, Adjustment of Status applications, Naturalization, USCIS RFEs, DOL Audits, and Immigration Appeals.