Author Topic: Dear Abby: How do I ask for time off for the birth of my child?  (Read 2736 times)

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PSMKay

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From time to time the SMNetwork staff posts on behalf of members who wish to remain anonymous in order to protect their professinal reputation. This is one of those times.

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I am currently a stage manager for a small equity company. I am scheduled to stage manage three shows.  I finished one show, I start preproduction for the second show next week, and the third show starts in March. I am contracted for each show.

My wife is pregnant and she is due in April; right around the time we will be in tech/preview.  I wanted to ask for a day off to attend the birth, but still continue working on the show. We will have family members staying with us and helping out while I continue to work. I know babies will come when they are ready, but we're planning for this baby to come on our first 10 out of 12.

When should I let them know? I really like this company and want to work with them in the future, but I fear that they could replace me with someone else since I gave such advance notice. The cast is  large enough that I need to have an Equity ASM to be with me, so it is possible for that person to get bumped up the day I'm not there, but I'm not sure if this could happen.

Thank you

KMC

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Congratulations!!

I'll speak from my experience on the subject.  My wife just gave birth to our first child on Saturday evening, and I am managing an overseas project for my company.  I had relocated overseas specifically to manage this project and my wife came with me for the adventure and so that we wouldn't be living apart for a year +.  A few months into the project we got pregnant, and it became quickly apparent that the project would not be complete before the birth of our child.  This resulted in my relocating back to the US while the project is ongoing (my wife came home pretty soon after we learned we were pregnant, as we did not want to have the baby outside of the US).

My advice on a professional level would be to tell your employer as soon as possible.  They should be more than willing to work with you to accommodate (and if not, do you want to continue working for them?).  I'd strongly encourage you to go to them with a proposed solution (e.g.: I have a great ASM I can recommend for the show that would be more than capable of stepping up for the time that I'm out) as opposed to just a problem ("I need to miss time").  If you go to them with a solution already in place there's no motivation for them to replace you, and in fact this would only create more work on their part.

Also, it's important that you have a plan that has your ASM always fully in the loop and ready to step up.  While due dates are nice, babies are notoriously stubborn about respecting that schedule  ;).  Unless you're planning a c-section or induction on a specific date, you're unlikely to have the baby EXACTLY on its due date.

On a personal level, I'd strongly recommend you take off more than just the day of the birth if you're financially able.  Take the time to bond with your new child; they'll only be born once.  Work will always be there.  And if I can offer one final piece of unsolicited advice (and if you only take one thing away from this post, let this be it): when you're shopping for hospitals, be sure to check out the NICU and make sure it's a facility you'd be comfortable with your child in.  You probably won't need it, but if you do need it your baby's life will depend on it - make sure it's a good facility. 
Get action. Do things; be sane; donít fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action. -T. Roosevelt

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BayAreaSM

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I agree - you're going to need more time than just the day of the birth. That time really is precious, and you're going to want to be there. All SMs have such a strong work ethic - but this experience is going to top that real quick.

Keep in mind that isn't unheard of in AEA for a SM to just run rehearsal and have another SM call the show. And true, unless you're inducing or scheduling a c-section, that due date isn't set in stone. (I planned mine for the off season, but I spent one day walking around "too much" and ended up having my son a little over 2 weeks early.) If you're going naturally, assume that anything 37 weeks and forward is fair game for the baby to arrive.

Let your employer know now, and as KMC said, have a solution ready at the get go. You obviously care about this company - and you want to be there as much as you can. Hopefully they will see it the same way and things can work out well for both parties.

MatthewShiner

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Talk to your business rep.

There are laws in place (Family Leave) which will help you in this situation.

Work with your employer to find the right way to make it happen.

(In my case, we trained someone on the house staff to take over the moment I had to rush the hospital . . . in case it happened during the show)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

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PSMKay

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The original submitting member has responded with a follow up, again filtered through me. It follows.

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Thank you for your responses. There is nothing in the Equity contract regarding leave like this, and since they employ less than 50 employees, they have no legal obligation to do anything. Knowing this, I decided to tell them with 4+ months notice, and if they decide to go with someone else, so be it. I would rather walk away knowing I did the right thing and it wasn't  meant for me to work there anyway.

After telling the Production Manager he sat down with the other higher ups and they decided that they would give me leave with some pay, and the option to return to the show. My assistant will move up while I'm out.

In other industries (or countries for that matter)  this may not sound like much. But since I was under the assumption that I would either have leave but not pay or have no job, this was a much better outcome than expected. I am quite pleased.

I'm also lucky that once the show closes, it's not necessary for me to return to work so quickly, so I can spend the summer getting to know my baby :)

KMC

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I'm glad to hear this one worked out. Sounds like you're a valued member of the team and that this is a company worth working for in the future.
Get action. Do things; be sane; donít fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action. -T. Roosevelt

LexieTaylor

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Sounds like you have a great situation worked out!

Here's my unsolicited additional advice. :-)
When I was around 36/37 weeks pregnant I became very diligent about writing down EVERYTHING. I left the pile of lists on my desk in case one day I just wasn't able to show up. You will never be disappointed that you were over prepared for the "what if.."'s

Congratulations and best wishes for your birth and baby!

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