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!