This Is What Maternity Leave In The US is Really Like

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Times Up: Day care

 

I can’t believe my daughter is going to be three months! Time has flown by! And I know everyone says that about their time with their kid, but seriously! It has FLOWN by! I remember thinking to myself, ” November can’t come any sooner”. At the time, it seemed so far away and now it’s here. The reason why I’m pointing this out is because, a week from today, I go back to work.

I will no longer be spending the majority of my day with her. I will no longer be the first person to witness any new milestones or developments. Instead, I’ll be at work, earning money in order to provide for our family.  We don’t have the luxury of being a single income home. Unlike its European counterparts, the US remains as the only country in the developed world to not have any mandate paid family leave. One is only guaranteed 12 weeks of job security and this only applies to the mother (and not the father), under the Family Medical Leave Act. The Family Medical Leave Act,  was signed 25 years ago by President Clinton. One of the provisions includes giving eligible workers 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a new child. Emphasis on “unpaid.” Thus, the new parents are forced to use their time such as vacation, sick and personal days in order to subsidized the fact that there won’t be any income coming in. In some cases you can use your time plus the 12 weeks of family leave. However, this all depends on the company you work for and their policies. I’ll admit, there are some generous companies in the US. But more likely than not, Maternity and Paternity Leave is seen as “a national entitlement”, a “dangerous move” for small businesses and a decision that should left up to the employer and not the government.

However, we all know what happens when decisions like this is left to the employers. According to the Washington Post, “40% of them don’t offer it at all”. As a result, mothers are forced to work late into their pregnancies and are going back earlier than anticipated. Such was the case for me. I was explained that I was only guaranteed my position for up to 12 weeks or at the discretion of my director (should I chose to stay out a bit longer). In addition, I had to use my time (sick, personal and vacation days) in order to see some money come in. From the beginning of my pregnancy, I knew that I would be working until I went into labor and that I would need a back up plan in order to subsidize my income. Which is why I purchased a disability policy from Aflac. I knew that I would not have enough time accumulated by August. Then there is the disability from the State of New York, which in my opinion is a joke. I say this because the amount that one is paid is barely enough to pay rent let alone be enough to live on for the next 12 weeks. Oh, let me not forgot to mention the lack of Paternity leave here as well.  Its non existent. My husband was only able to take off 5 days in order to be home with us. 

Here’s the break down of my maternity leave pay: I was paid two full checks and two smaller ones, that were less than $200 dollars (the last check being $38.88). Then there was the issue of how I would be using my time. I was told that I would have to use my time before I would even be awarded disability from the state ( and you can’t be paid disability and your regular paycheck at the same time cause it is consider “double dipping”. Which is utterly the most stupidest thing I’ve ever heard).  On top of that, they make it so hard for you to be approved or to even hand in paperwork. I felt that I was being treated as a “moocher” even though I’ve been working and have paid into the system so that when the time came for me to be on leave, I would be awarded the money that I was OWED. 

I attempted to have all of the paperwork ready so that when I had already given birth, they would be set to go and there wouldn’t be any lapse in pay. Boy, was I wrong.  I could not pre fill out any paperwork for my disability (provided by my job and the state), because they would not be accepted until after the fact. So I waited. I got the two full paychecks in two different months, which left me in a bind in the month of September. Once the disability was approved ( and after weeks of going back and forth between my job and the doctors office due to paperwork), I come to find out that my disability pay was not “half” of my normal pay check (as it states in its documents). No. It’s actually HALF of the half of your normal pay.

I was so frustrated! After all of the back and forth, the amount I would be receiving would be barely enough to get by. In addition, the disability paychecks were issued every two weeks for 8 weeks. So after 8 weeks, they stopped coming (my pay from them was $334). After the disability paychecks stopped, I was able to use whatever time I had left ( which wasn’t much). During this time, there was a lot of miscommunication and time being taking away from my child. All because I had to make sure that we were set and that I would be able to provide for her. Honestly, had I not purchased the disability policy from Aflac (a lump sum was given), we as a  family would be in a tighter bind than the one we are currently in. Only in the US, does a mother or father have to worry about money while on leave.

There were times I cried and felt so defeated. I longed to live in some European country, where I would be guaranteed my job for a year ( depending where in EU you live) and not worry about money because you would be paid enough to take care of your child. It boggles my mind, that the US is beyond backwards when it comes to this topic.

Then there were times where I told myself that I had to be “grateful” because at least I would be staying home with my child for 12 weeks with two full paychecks (which felt like a slap to the face because I shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting to spend time with my child). I have an acquaintance ( who was pregnant at the same time as me) and she was only given 6 weeks of maternity leave!!! The irony with that, is the fact that she’s an LPN! A person who works in the medical and she was only given 6 weeks with her baby. That to me, is awful.

Now that my time as a stay at home mom is coming to an end, I don’t know how to feel. I thought that I would be ready to be apart from her, but that’s not the case. We have already started the paperwork for Day Care. It honestly felt weird to be in one and going through the motions of setting everything up (I knew Day Cares had to have everything by the books, but my God, did we have a lot to sign. We still have to bring a notarized letter and copies of her vaccinations) My husband is visibly having a hard time with us leaving our daughter in a Day Care (before this day, I didn’t think much of it). Especially since her first day will be when she turns 3 months. But we don’t have the luxury of having me be a full time stay at home. On top of this, we had search for an affordable Day Care, because let me tell you, Day Cares are expensive! You’re looking at a whopping $300 a week. Not to mention that if your child is still an infant (or a toddler has not been potty trained), you’ll need to provide extra formula and diapers. What struck a cord with me, was the fact that the Day Care provider would be the ones to dictate when my child would be introduced solids. It may not be a big deal to some, but for me, in some way, I feel like I’m being substituted by another person. Deep down, I know that I won’t be substituted and that I will forever be her Mom, but the fact that I have to relinquish some of my duties to others is painful. 

I thought that this would be “easy” but now I’m not so sure. I don’t know how I’ll be or how I’ll feel a week from today. I just wish that it didn’t have to be like this. I feel like I just started to have this amazing bond with her and now it’s time for me to go. Hopefully I won’t cry or have a breakdown on my first day back. The silver lining in this, she’ll only be going to Day Care for three days that week due to me being off for the holidays ( Thanksgiving and Black Friday). So I’ll be home with her.

Because of this, I’ve decided to soak up as much time with her as possible. Today I skipped a shower because in a week,  I’ll only get her from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. and only in between chores, fixing dinner, gym and bedtime routines. I’ll only get her on weekends and holidays. I’ll only get during PTO and sick leave, when she has a fever or is sick. I’ll only get her in small increments. 

Why? Because here in America, we don’t actually get a maternity leave. Unlike the other 36 countries that allow working mothers to take 52 weeks leave — paid, we get a measly disability leave with some extra add-ons at best. Because here in America, land of the free, we’re forced to leave our babies long before either of us are physically and emotionally ready to be separated. Because here in America most of us have no other option.

 I’m sorry if this is all over the place, but I felt the need to speak about this issue. Hopefully by the time my daughter becomes a mom herself, things will be different. 

xoxo

Millennial and Pregnant

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