Maternity Leave Issues

I’ve had a few people ask me if I was planning on taking a few weeks off work before giving birth. That kind of surprised me as the thought had never crossed my mind. I’m planning on working right up until I go into labor.

Part of my reason for that is that I do not get any official “maternity leave” at my job. I can take FMLA leave (which in this country, guarantees you 12-weeks of job security, but not necessarily with pay) and I can use accumulated sick leave and/or vacation leave during this time so I’ll still be paid. I have a lot of sick leave accumulated, so I plan to use that first and foremost, trying to avoid dipping into vacation leave if at all possible.

The irony of this is that my husband gets 3 weeks of paternity leave. Yes… his job provides more leave dedicated to becoming a new parent to the father than my job gives to a person who actually has to go through the labor. It just strikes me as incredibly… unjust.

I’m glad he gets the leave, especially if we can successfully space it out over more than 3 weeks (allowing time for my mom to come hang out with me for the second week and my mother-in-law to come visit and possibly even have my dad come spend time here, but he’d probably cook Spam with pork and beans for me to eat or something gross like that.*)  I realize that most men don’t get any paternity leave, and those that do are often unsure or unwilling to actually use it. [Source]

Anyway, the issue of maternity leave in the US in pathetic. The US is one of only 4 countries in the world that doesn’t have a national law that requires paid time off. (The other countries are: Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland. [Source])

Histogram of countries by weeks paid maternity...
Histogram of countries by weeks paid maternity leave provided by law (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Graph of Maternity Leave in Americas
Graph of Maternity Leave in Americas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I took a Postpartum Survival class (perhaps I should post about that one too) and the instructor recommended a “babymoon” period.  Not the way most people think of a babymoon (a last-chance trip before the baby arrives).  No, this babymoon more closely mimics the idea of the word it is based upon – honeymoon. This is where the first week after the baby is born is just for mom, dad and baby.  Hopefully you’ve got the freezer/fridge stocked with meals, but you spend this first week as a new family unit feeling things out.  The mom and dad are in peace to figure out how to bathe or change or feed the infant without having others around saying, “This is the way we did it.”  It lets you create your own way.  I thought this was a really cool idea.  But if the dad doesn’t have any leave for this, it’s not really possible.

I also thought it was interesting that in other cultures (especially more primitive ones) the new parents/family are given that time, yet there is also an “it takes a village” mentality adopted where all the surrounding family and friends bring meals or take care of some tasks/chores… but relatively leave them alone to bond.

I did tell my boss that I thought after two weeks I would start checking and responding to emails and then work to add back my daily hours from there.  He stopped me and said, “I think you should take that time with your baby. You’ve got the leave, we’ll try to make it through. If not, people can wait.”  That was nice… however, the Type-A in me still feels nervous that taking too much time off will leave me with a mess to deal with when I return to work.  But right now I’m planning to take 6-8 weeks off full-time and then try to work part-time for a while longer.  Maximize my leave… while also delaying the need for childcare as much as possible. (Another topic I should write about!)

But you know what… it’s hard to make these plans when you’ve never done this.  You just have to guess that you’re doing the right thing for you, your family and the job.

*I love my dad. But yes, one time he did make Spam with pork and beans for my brother and me. I was appalled until he told me he would buy me a tank of gas if I just tried it. I was 16… I wanted the tank of gas, so I tried it. And did not enjoy it. That’s my one and only and first and last time to ever eat Spam.

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  1. (as always, insert my baby-less disclosure here haha)

    I think I’d work up until labor too. I’d much rather take the time once the baby is here to bond and adjust to the new lifestyle/responsibilities. Of course, this is provided the doc didn’t say I had to go on bed rest or anything. I am sure you will figure things out! Women have been birthing babies and families have raised them for centuries. I think we just tend to over analyze too much when we have the time to do so (ie the pregnancy term when all you can think about is what will you do). I have complete confidence in you as a mother! And it’s nice that hubs has leave. Silly that it’s better than yours! And I don’t know what to think about the US maternity leave vs rest of world… I’m just picturing paying more tax dollars for the people on welfare who will then also get maternity leave. I’m so optimistic I know…

    • The sad thing is that you’re probably right… we’d all probably end up paying more taxes so low-income and welfare recipients get more of that benefit than those of us paying out do!

    • Canadian chipping in here. Our year mat leave is based on EI (unemployment insurance), so you work to build up hours to get EI for mat leave. No welfare cases get EI mat leave. Our health care and education models are far superior to the US, and I’m very thankful for it (I have family that live in the states, so I am with both countries), and I can’t believe how terrible women are treated with regard to mat leave in the US.

  2. Take the time! Trust me, years from now you will not look back and say, “Oh I wish I worked a little durning my leave.” In fact, I think you may regret it if you do. I took the leave, but decided not to go back to work after when my time was up. Keep in mind that DH is a pilot and I was a flight attendant. We agreed that there needed to be one consistent parent in the house. I realize that not everyone can do that and I am not saying you should. I am just saying, if you get 6 weeks then take 6 weeks.

    You are so right about the laws. It is completely screwy and I would love to see it change. Interesting stats. Thanks for sharing.

    • That’s a good point… I agree, I doubt I would look back and say, “Remember when the baby was 2 weeks old? I should have checked my work email more then!” 🙂 And if I did say that… well, my job is NOT that important.

  3. I guess I had babymoons with all my kids except Brian. The idea is good but the reality of having that first baby at home with not a clue what to do with him was a bit daunting to me. I remember the first night I had decided not to breastfeed and Joe had to run out to the store for bottle nipples and a pacifier. Then I started to boil them to sterilize them and forgot and burned them all up, as well as the pan:( Had to send him out again. Lucky we decided to do this while Dan was still asleep rather than when he was screaming “feed me”LOL

  4. I wrote this really profound comment back on Friday and then when I hit submit my work computer killed it. 😦 so let me go with a short version:

    I love this option for taking time off of work and not feeling guilty about it…

    🙂 A friend of mine actually did something like this when he deployed and it was wonderful for his stress levels (as in, lack of) even when he returned. He was able to reconnect with his family without worrying about returning to the office sooner than he was ready. Just a thought. 🙂

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