Maternity leave is not a vacation.
At least that is the message I get from employer. We do not have a maternity leave policy for faculty. We have optional "guidelines." The idea is that in lieu of teaching, the new mother would do an equivalent time-consuming activity. Examples I was given included taking on the role of ABET coordinator, planning a major symposium, chairing a university wide committee. You can see how ridiculous these guidelines can be. Instead of recovering from child birth, the new mom gets to hop right into Service!
I am an officer in a national professional organization and a co-chair on a university wide committee that happens to be all women. I successfully advocated for those activities to replace my teaching. Then, I told my professional organization that I wouldn't do any service because I was on maternity leave. The other chairs on my committee gave me the time off. So I got a "real" maternity leave, but I had to manipulate the system. Even then, I had to consume all of my sick leave and half of my vacation to stay at home during this time to maintain my salary.
After having the baby, I went back to work half time 10 days after he was born. My in-laws stayed until daycare started, so the baby was being cared for quite well by family. Gradually, I came in for a few hours more, until I was full time in April. During maternity leave, I submitted two papers and I wrote no grants. My mind wasn't ready for grant writing because of the sleep-deprivation. I caught up on many little things and met with my students once in a while. Mostly, I just went in for coffee breaks with my girl-friends. I played a lot of Words with Friends, discovered Big Fish Games, and watched three seasons of Angel. Going back to work and also taking the time to relax staved off post-partum depression. I also took a lot of baths! I discovered Lush, and have been using bath bombs and bubble bars. It really helps my achy joints.
I do miss my maternity leave, but I'm thrilled to being back to Prof. JP.