I was on Facebook earlier, wasting time as I usually do, and came across a post by a friend that said “America we have to do better,” with a picture attached. I clicked on the picture to enlarge it and this is what I saw:
Compared to other industrialized nations, we come in dead last for the number of mandated weeks of paid maternity leave for women. ZERO!!! Zero??? American women are not guaranteed any pay if they take time off to have a baby. Our friendly neighbor to the north, Canada, gives women almost an entire year of paid maternity leave. We are the leader of the free world (my friend T hates this phrase) and we don’t require that companies give women paid time off to bond with their newborns and make sure they are healthy enough to return to work. Without paid maternity leave, many women are faced with the difficult financial hardship of having to choose between their paycheck and their families.
Coming across this picture was timely because I recently started looking at my options for maternity leave with my job. I am allowed up to 12 weeks off, however, if I don’t have enough vacation or sick days, that time will be unpaid. And as a single parent I will not be able to afford unpaid leave for 12 weeks. I can combine it with short term disability, but that only allows 6 weeks of paid leave at not even my full salary. I’ve been investigating options such as buying supplemental disability insurance from that company with the annoying duck commercials. And of course, I can’t ask my human resource person at work because I can’t allude to the fact that I’m contemplating having a baby for fear of being treated unfairly at work or possibly even fired (even though its illegal we all know it happens). Luckily there’s the internet for all of my research needs.
Part of the reason why I have waited this long to have a child was due to financial security. I’ve worked hard putting myself through law school and starting a career – albeit one that doesn’t make me very happy – to have the financial security to be able to raise a family. I’ve put my fertility clock mentally on hold (I wish there was some way that I could have put it on hold physically) to build a career. And oddly enough, I recently read that the biggest “fertility buster” for a woman in her thirties is stress. And stress from what you might ask? Her career! Nature/life has a funny sense of humor sometimes…
Until I figure out this whole disability thing, I have decided to start what I call my “maternity leave fund”. It’s a separate savings account that I opened specifically to have money to pay my bills when I’m on maternity leave. I plan on having enough money to pay the bills for at least 12 weeks so I can stay home and enjoy the time of being a new mommy without adding the stress of financial hardship.
Another lesson that this process has taught me is that you need to plan. It’s definitely not something that you can do blind. I’m fortunate that I’m a really good planner. I can be spontaneous at times, but I function so much better when I plan. I like to be prepared and can be very stressed if I go into certain situations without a plan. This maternity leave fund will help ease the stress.
So for now, I guess I need to work on a plan to reduce any other stress that I have in my life. I don’t need any further road blocks with this process. So, where’s that yoga class???