By Silviya Zustiak, PhD
Whether you are planning to start a family or are already exploring par- enthood, it's helpful to familiarize yourself with the resources available to you at the NIH Bethesda Campus. A great place to start is the NIH Parent Resource Packet. There you will find a wealth of information ranging from maternity leave to childcare and parent support groups.
After perusing the Parent Resource Packet, discussing your options with your supervisor is a good next step. You should notify him or her at least 30 days in advance about any planned maternity leave (even though it may be obvious!). You could also discuss a flexible work schedule or alterna- tive work hours if your research allows. Many parents find it convenient to arrive at work as early as 6 am and leave in the early afternoon to spend more time with their children at home. Another option to consider is teleworking whenever possible. However, it is important to be aware that teleworkers should NOT be caring for family members (read "your child") while they are working from home, so make sure to resist the temptation.
A resource not mentioned in the NIH Parent Resource Packet, but one that is worth your time, is the free CPR training. That stands for cardio- pulmonary resuscitation. The course features infant CPR, a must for every new parent. Another useful resource is the Parenting LISTSERVE, where you can connect to other NIH parents sharing information on a variety of topics such as nannies, pediatric dentists, or neighborhood playgrounds. In the event that you need it, the Employee Assistance Program on campus offers a professional and confidential consultation on personal or work- related concerns (if for example your pregnancy has an effect on your relationship with your advisor).
Once maternity leave is over, there will be new challenges for you in the lab---apart from ongoing protocol troubleshooting. If you are not sure how to combine breastfeeding with work, do not despair, you will find plenty of support at NIH. The Nursing Mothers Program offers free breastfeeding classes, advice from certified lactation consultants, and designated lactation rooms equipped with medical-grade pumps where you can not only pump but also meet a lively community of other nursing mothers.
Once you've returned to work, you will need a safe and reliable place for your baby. If you are con- sidering NIH Child Care, which is a convenient and affordable option, you should put your baby on the wait-list the moment you know you are pregnant or even BEFORE (adding your name to the list is free of charge). The demand for the limited number of spots is high and a typical wait-time can be a year or more.
All of the above resources are summarized below. You should be aware that if you have an IRTA/ CRTA or Visiting Fellow award, you are entitled to 8 weeks of paid maternity leave but do not qualify for the Child Care Subsidy Program. However, if you are a Research or Clinical Fellow, the length of maternity leave will depend upon leave accrual, and Research/Clinical Fellows are eligible for the Child Care Subsidy Program. If you need more time or flexibility, you should discuss it directly with your supervisor.
Summary of NIH resources for parents:
- NIH Parent Resource Packet: http://does.ors.od.nih.gov/pdf/parentresourcepacket.pdf
- NIH Child Care Program: http://doh.ors.od.nih.gov
- NIH Parenting Listserv: http://does.ors.od.nih.gov/childcare/LISTSERV@LIST.NIH.GOV
- NIH Child and Dependent Care Resource & Referral: http://does.ors.od.nih.gov/childcare
- NIH Employee Assistance Program: http://dohs.ors.od.nih.gov/eap/
- Medical and Family Friendly Leave: http://www1.od.nih.gov/oma/manualchap-ters/person/2300-630-5/
- Nursing Mothers Program & Services: http://dohs.ors.od.nih.gov/lactation.htm
- Alternative Work Schedules & Teleworking: http://telework.od.nih.gov
- CPR Training: http://dohs.ors.od.nih.gov/cpr_training.htm