4 Working Moms Share the Reality of Maternity Leave in the US
Last month, we asked working parents to share their experiences with taking parental leave in the US. The responses, which came from people in occupations as diverse as librarian and banker, showed what most of us already know: the United States has a long way to go when it comes to leave for new parents. While top tech employers like Netflix and Microsoft might dangle months or even a year of paid leave, most working parents are left cobbling together disability, vacation time, and FMLA leave – if they’re lucky enough to qualify.
(Photo Credit: Mike Kline/Flickr)
Here, we present a few more stories from parents – in this case, working moms – about how they managed to take time off after building their families, and what sacrifices were involved.
Bette, office temp:
Type of work environment: Development office at a private elementary school
“I was working as a temp at a private school in the development department. I had been trying to get hired on as an employee for about a year, when they finally came out and told me they were waiting until I was ready to come back after having my baby. They didn’t say as much, but I knew it was because they didn’t want to have to pay me maternity leave. They also wanted to avoid paying the temp company the ‘finder’s fee.'”
Type of work environment: Media company
“Time and pay was decent. The company was kind enough to not count the time [my daughter] was in the NICU as maternity leave so that I didn’t miss out on actual time at home with her. But my supervisor was a dick and told me multiple times before I delivered that I wouldn’t come back, which made me afraid that my job wouldn’t be there for me when I returned. And then he made me cry on my first day back. …I did go back to work full-time and continued to do so, while going to grad school part-time and growing our family.”
Type of work environment: College
“I wanted to go back to work right away because I had a preemie in the hospital just down the road, and I wanted to take my small amount of saved vacation after my baby was home. They told me I couldn’t take any short-term disability leave if I returned to work. I ended up staying home and doing it the way they outlined. I had six weeks of driving to the hospital right next to work every day to visit for feeding times once every three hours and about three weeks with my baby at home before I had to return to work. It wasn’t their fault. This is FMLA, but it sucked.”
Anonymous, kindergarten teacher:
Type of work environment: Elementary school
“When I was teaching kindergarten, I had maternity leave scheduled for the first eight weeks of the school year because my (second) child was due at the end of August. He was born prematurely at the beginning of July and the superintendent called me a few weeks later to tell me he was relieved I’d be back in September because ‘the kids in the classroom need to adjust to a new routine and you already had the baby.’ The baby was in NICU and had to adjust to coming home, mind you. And my leave hadn’t started yet. I think people don’t know that having a preemie doesn’t mean you’re ready to bounce back to work sooner and that there are all sorts of other considerations that go with it.”
*Names have been changed or withheld to protect contributors.
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