Maternity Leave: Let’s Not Take Leave of Our Senses
Some moms will do anything to have paid time off with their bundle of joy
When Jennifer Warren Baker, a mother of three from Purcellville, Virginia, learned she was pregnant with her fourth child, she knew money would be tight with an unplanned baby at home. As a self-employed piano teacher, she also knew she would not have any paid leave right after her baby was born.
So she did what thousands of other women have been doing these days to help cover costs. She turned to crowdfunding — in her case, gofundme.com — to help support her maternity leave costs.
“I thought it was worth a shot,” she told LifeZette. With donations from clients, friends, and family members, she was able to spend seven-and-a-half weeks with her baby full time and not feel pressed to work.
Warren Baker made $4,100 total. Her husband plowed snow to make extra money, and they got all of the baby’s supplies handed down or through donations.
“We breastfeed, which is free,” she said. “Even so, it was not possible to save. Not everyone is in a position to save.”
“Women should feel no shame in asking for support,” she added. “There is always a better way than abortion.”
The Family Medical Leave Act ensures women can take off up to 12 weeks off without losing their jobs, but not everyone is eligible for it. Unless employers pay for maternity leave, many working mothers are faced with a span of time when they will have no income as they acclimate to life at home with a new baby.
Monica Froese, a blogger from Buffalo, New York, took a 15-week leave after getting pregnant unexpectedly and having her child. Her leave was partially paid by her employer; she sold household and personal items online to supplement her income.
"While I personally would probably not crowdfund for maternity leave, no one has to contribute to it! If you don't want to, then don't," she said.
"I can't imagine asking people — strangers or friends — to give us money so I could stay home after having a baby, even though I know it's so important for the mother and baby to bond," Jennifer Johnson (not her real last name) of Ansonia, Connecticut, told LifeZette.
Johnson put things more bluntly: If someone can't figure out how to financially cover the cost of having a baby and staying home for several weeks, that person may not be equipped to handle the costs of having a child altogether, she said.
Johnson added, "But it's up to the parent to figure out how to do that — not rely on their employer or government or public funding site — to do that."
Funding a Family
Kristy Howard, a mother of two from Manassas, Virginia, received eight weeks of paid maternity leave after having her children, and is against women who turn to the Internet to fund their personal lives. She and her husband worked opposite shifts — his sometimes up to 16 hours long — in order to keep money coming in.
"Asking friends to fund you while you stay home is tacky," she told LifeZette.
She suggested families budget wisely on groceries, drive a cheaper car, and use generic products instead of brand name items. "Whatever you can do to save a dollar — you make it happen," she said.
Many women save money years before conceiving to allow one spouse to be home with the child. Some secure a temporary disability policy to keep money coming in. Other mothers can be a great source of perfectly good and usable hand-me-downs.
Christine Hoffman, a mother from Princeton, New Jersey, told LifeZette she tacked her accrued vacation time on the job to the end of her leave to extend it.
Tammy Pruett, a mom from Pawley's Island, South Carolina, told LifeZette that coupons and money-saving websites help to save money — and many send free products if you request them.
"Make sure you have contacted your HR people and have absolutely every detail covered with your health insurance," Brooke Sample, a mother from Woodbridge, New Jersey, told LifeZette. "You'd be surprised what you forget — like how soon you officially declare a leave, how soon you have to add your new child to your insurance, and more."
Also, you may want to halt subscription services — especially those you may not use at all — while on leave, Sample added.
Going to Extremes?
Karyn Gunnet-Shoval, who coaches people on maternity leave matters, said women need to think about why maternity leave is important to them. Is it about spending more time with the baby? Giving your body a chance to acclimate? Wanting to get your feet on the ground as a new parent? Or is it that they don't want to return to work but are forced to for financial reasons?
"Recognizing what these things are for oneself may more easily help drive the motivation to save money," she told LifeZette. When you identify strongly with a particular passion or value, saving money for that aspect may be easier than just saving money for the general notion of maternity leave.
She suggests couples write their values about maternity leave on index cards, then carry those around as a reminder of the importance of following through with saving money.
"The closer a reason is to your heart, the easier it may be to save for," she said.