With more women working, maternity leave becomes an important planning issue when getting ready to welcome a new addition to the family.
Anyone with children knows that kids cost money. Having a new baby requires changes to your financial plan as well as to your lifestyle. When planning for the new addition to your family, it's important to consider maternity leave.
What are Your Maternity Leave Rights?
First of all, you should know your maternity leave rights. In most developed countries, paid maternity leave (and even paid paternity leave) is a Thing. The United States is not one of those countries.
However, you are protected if you want to take maternity leave in the United States. The Family and Medical Leave Act entitles you to leave for 12 workweeks in any 12-month period to take care of a newborn or adopted child within one year of birth or placement.
Just because you are entitled to 12 weeks of leave, without fear of losing your job doesn't mean that you are going to be able to take the time off. When I had my son, my company didn't offer paid leave. Because of our financial situation at the time, I could only afford to take four weeks of maternity leave. Many women only take off six weeks — half of the protected amount — for maternity.
Prepare for Maternity Leave
The first thing you need to do when preparing for maternity leave is to save up. If you have paid leave, this isn't such a big deal, since you will receive some portion of your income while you are staying home. Between the paid parental leave and savings his family had accumulated, Tom Drake was able to stay home from work for several months due to the generous policies offered in Canada.
With unpaid leave, the story changes. You will have to deal with the fact that you won't have money coming in, but your expenses are likely to remain the same — or even increase. Plan out how long you want to be home for your maternity leave, and begin saving up as soon as possible. Estimate how much you will need, and work on setting aside money each week to make it happen. Look for ways to cut back on your spending and perhaps even make more money as a household in order to build your cushion.
You also need to prepare for maternity leave at work. Make it a point to get ahead on your assignments, and, when possible, train the temp who will fill in for you. In some cases, depending on your responsibilities and the timing of your new arrival, you might need to consider some sort of weekly telecommuting arrangement, or a way to check in every couple of weeks. This can be difficult, because you are supposed to be on maternity leave. However, at the same time, many of us worry about falling behind in our jobs.
One of the tough issues faced by women in the workplace is the fact that, often, we are required to “prove” ourselves by keeping up with the pace, even when we are ostensibly on break. Many women worry that they might be behind after having a baby, and never quite be able to catch up. This is a very real fear, and one that you will need to confront as your maternity leave approaches.
I was fortunate in that I was a young cashier at the time of my son's birth. I didn't have pressing duties or projects. I wasn't climbing the corporate ladder. Today, a woman is likely to be older when she has her first baby, and to be well into her career. While it would be nice to think that career considerations won't come into play, the reality is that they do, and many women feel pressure to get back to work as quickly as possible in order to stay on the career track they want. Consider these realities in your own life as you prepare for maternity leave.
What are your maternity leave experiences? How did you prepare to welcome your family's new addition?
This post was prepared as part of the annual Women's Money Week.