Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Who Needs $, We Got Love!

As I waddle ever closer to the impending arrival of Bun, I am forced to initiate the process of requesting short-term disability. For those of you not lucky enough to live or work in a state where short-term disability is mandated by state law, I apologize in advance if my complaining makes me sound ungrateful.

As we all know, there is no federal or state law requiring maternity leave in the United States. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which Congress thought was a gift to women, passed in 1992, and provides some job protections for persons who must take time off for medical reasons; it does not include a salary replacement benefit. Because, really, when you have a new child, who needs money? Your home is now full of joy and love and piles of diapers. More dirty diapers than you could have ever possibly imagined (or even remembered if this is your second, or third, or eighth child.)

You can take comfort in knowing that after 10 weeks of bonding with your newborn you can return to the job that you left and resume getting paid. Your paycheck looks glorious, even after you notice that it is a bit smaller because you have to repay the medical deductions that you missed making because you weren't drawing a paycheck during the previous 10 weeks while you were home recovering, not sleeping, and caring for the future of our planet.

I am being overly dramatic - at least for my situation. In fact, I intend to take off almost 16 weeks of work, knowing that the majority of that will be unpaid. Mine is a two income family, and, if we needed to, we could maintain a nice lifestyle even on one salary. But consider the situation of a single parent who makes an hourly wage; or even a two income family not as fortunate as my own. Ten weeks without pay could be considered an eternity and not an option.

Also, since I work in New York my employer is required to provide 50% of my salary after one week of being "disabled" for up to 26 weeks through short-term disability (STD) insurance. I won't even go off on the tangent of how labor and delivery is considered a disability (is parenthood an 18-year short-term condition or something?). With a vaginal delivery, STD covers 6 weeks. Well, five weeks of partial pay after the one week waiting period. During that one week you either don't get paid or use sick leave/paid-time off (PTO)/vacation. A double-edged sword because yay! you get income, but you don't have any PTO when you return to work. Who needs PTO when you have a newborn with a barely developed immune system in day care?

Love is all we need people. A little love from Congress in recognizing the importance of requiring employers to provide paid maternity and paternity leave...

6 comments:

themommykelly said...

So many other countries have spectacular benefits for new parents. Here it's not quite as easy... even more complicated than I imagined, though. Wow.

Isabel said...

Great post...and something that more Americans should be thinking about this voting season.

Wenderina said...

I know I joke about wanting maternity leave, even though I don't have a kid (I still like the idea of 16 weeks out of the office), but you make it sound a little less appealing.

KiKi said...

Amen!
I returned to work just 8 weeks after my leave started, for financial reasons. Lucky for me, my mom was able to take care of Zeze for that period of time, otherwise I would've gone ape$t.

Smirking Cat said...

Considering both parents have been working for plenty of years, the offerings in this country are deplorable regarding child care, leave, etc. It's not exactly a new concept!

Tiffany said...

Since our state does not offer maternity leave disability I used a mix of my vacation time and sick time. Now I have 3 days left to use the rest of the year - unless I get comp time which is very rare since we are not a busy law office.