Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Maternity leave

My husband and I are expecting our second child (a girl!) at the end of May. We are very excited. I told my library director and immediate supervisor 2 weeks before our library closed for Christmas, when I had completely given up on my regular pants and had broken my maternity clothes out of the closet. So far, I've only heard supportive things from both of them.

I'm hoping to wait a few weeks before I officially request the amount of time I'm going to take for maternity leave, balancing the time I know I will need to do all the paperwork and learn all the ins and outs of benefits, etc. with the time needed to figure out what will be best for our family--financially, time-wise, and sanity-wise.

In the meantime, I'm going to get back up on my soapbox about U.S. family-friendly practices (or lack thereof). I do understand that a woman going out on maternity leave results in a gap in the employer's workforce. Still, I think that children are good for society as a whole and that it is also good for society when parents get to spend extended time raising their children. I don't think it's necessarily more important for a mother to stay home than a father, but if the couple chooses to breastfeed, it's a whole lot simpler! In any case, while I would argue for parental leave for either parent, there is the medical need for women have some time at home. Even for those women who would prefer to go back to work sooner rather than later, the childcare infrastructure in our country isn't great. It's really expensive for parents while still not being well-paying for most child-care workers. It's also not always easy to find.

I don't have a perfect solution to offer, but I do think it's an extension of our country prioritizing security (and all that money spent works so well, as this past Christmas shows) far above education--teachers and childcare workers are given lip-service, but not the pay to go with it. Sigh. If one of you has that perfect solution, please let your law-makers know, pronto!

I also want to take the chance to highlight Motherlode, which is the New York Times' parenting blog, run by Lisa Belkin. Ms. Belkin highlights issues such as this all the time (she recently featured a pair of posts about working w/ baby vs. quitting to be w/ baby), and the discussion gets quite vivid! She just had a post about maternity leave in the US, and touches on the topic with some regularity. If you are interested in this sort of thing (as well as a smorgasbord of other issues related to parenting), go visit!


Katharine said...

That's fantastic! Congratulations!

Libby said...

Thank you! We are excited.

Beth said...

First, let me say congratulations to you both! What fantastic news!

Second, you've hit one of my favorite nerves. I don't even have a kid yet and I'm all worried about childcare work/life balance issues, and I suspect that my concern might actually be part of the reason I've held off this long (my four year wedding anniversary is staring me in the face in May and Noel is going to be 40 next week--yikes!) We're in a situation (living in Central MD--one of the most expensive places in the country) where we really both need to work to give our family the kind of life we would want. We make roughly the same amount of money, so one of us staying home is not really an option. I think both of our employers MIGHT be ammenable to a part time schedule, but you never really know until you ask, and it probably actually makes more sense financially and career wise for Noel to go part time than me. Women in his office have done it, but who knows if they would let a man. sigh. I know this would all work out in the end, but it really does worry me.

And finally (and the end of my rant today) did you know there is no paid maternity leave for a federal employee? You can only use your earned leave. Yes, you can use sick leave for the time you actually have a doctor's note, but really, could the policy be anymore family unfriendly? Everytime the issue comes up in Congress though, people suggest that paid maternity/paternity leave would just be another way for greedy federal employees to rip off the government. Really? Like people would actually have a baby just to get 8 weeks off work? Sigh...

Libby said...

Beth--Whew, you echo a lot of my own sentiments and worries! We are currently lucky to be living in an area with a much lower cost of living than MD, but we hope to head home someday, and that definitely concerns us!

Like federal employees, NC state employees "get" to use their saved leave for up to 6 weeks of maternity leave--they can then take up to another 6 weeks unpaid (family and medical leave) w/ the proper paperwork. Anything different from that has to be worked out with your supervisor.

We've certainly been lucky in my current working arrangement--I work Sunday-Thursday 4PM-1 AM--but we aren't sure how much we can keep up the balancing act with two!

I will update once we make our decisions (and get them made official!). Thank you for your congratulations, too!

Beth said...

I am lucky that the federal government allows an employee to take up to 7 months of unpaid leave to care for a family member (babies count) so I could do that, IF I thought we could survive on one income, meet our mortgage and still eat! But really, the US needs more family friendly policies. Especially for people in our generation, who really care about work life balance.

Libby said...

I especially like your point about work-life balance, Beth! I think more and more people are interested in this above and beyond salary levels (provided they can pay the bills) and our country's infrastructure doesn't reflect that yet.