March 31, 2016 New York passed a bill giving paid leave to new parents. Like most workplace regulations, this law does not take affect immediately and when it does begin (in 2018) it will be gradually introduced, not taking it’s full affect until 2021. At this time new parents will be able to leave the workplace for up to 12 weeks at 2/3 of their pay to care for their newborn or newly adopted child. And it’s about time!!!
I hope that by time my kids are having kids they will enjoy paid time off with them before rushing back to work. I believe that the current workplace expectations of new parents will have changed greatly by then, and this bill is certainly a step in the right direction. But it’s important to record how things are currently, so that future generations can ensure our society never puts such high priority on business over family again.
When I had Lucille I had an 8 week maternity leave and was fortunate to be able to collect New York State disability. I say fortunate enough because not all employees collect disability, such as my friends that work in the public schools. They don’t pay into disability, and it’s up to their individual school’s contract to determine how their time off is monetized. Some have fared better than me, some have gotten nothing.
I’ve been paying into disability since the week of my 16th birthday, when I got my first paycheck. These 8 weeks were the first and only time I ever collected from disability. I collected the maximum weekly amount, $170, which was a big pay cut for me. The pay cut stunk, but what was worse was that it was only 8 weeks. (And had I not had a c-section, it would have only been 6 weeks.) That’s less than 2 months! For me to recover from major surgery while getting adjusted to motherhood. Lucille had to start going to a babysitter before she was even 2 months old. Babies haven’t even had their first round of vaccinations yet at this age, is it really wise to force them to go outside their home and surround them with new people and germs in a new environment 5 days a week?
Some people reading this may wonder why my husband and I didn’t do a better job saving up money so I could take some unpaid time for the sake of my daughter and my own recovering body. I gladly would have. You may have heard of the family medical leave act, which allows employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for their child (or other sick family member) and guarantees them job security. A great law, which unfortunately does not apply to anyone working for a company with less than 50 employees. Both my husband and I work for such companies.
Back to work at 8 weeks postpartum was very difficult for my body. For starters, some of the manual labor I did was too much for someone who’s abdomen had recently been cut open. And even more difficult was trying to pump so I could continue to breastfeed. But that was my own personal struggle, due to my personal job description and the dynamics of the company I worked for. I will write more about it soon in another post. But I don’t feel like going on about it now.
By the time I had Lennon I was working from home on a commission basis. I’m truthfully not sure how disability and time off is supposed to work in such a situation. When Lennon came over 3 weeks early I had not yet figured out a plan for others to help me while I recovered… so I didn’t get time off. I was placing orders and writing copy while in the hospital. Nobody ever said anything to me in regards to taking time off to heal and take care of my son.
This recovery was even more difficult. Not only did I still have work responsibilities, but I had 2 kids to care for! If I’m being completely honest, my body is still recovering from the c-section I had in July. I think the lifestyle I lived the weeks following my surgery, continuing to work, taking care of both kids while my husband worked his job, has made the pain of this surgery stretch out for months and months.
And I know that I have had it better than many in terms of maternity leave. I’m not telling my stories because they’re the worst case scenario, I’m documenting them because they are mine. I know other’s have had it worse. I’ve known women who have come back to work just 2 weeks after having a baby because they couldn’t afford to take any more time. I’ve known people who didn’t have a job to return to once they took their 6 weeks. And it’s not fair, to them, to their partner, to a generation that is being raised with such little priority placed on their upbringing as opposed to the importance of business.
And this is why I’m saying THANK YOU to New York State, for passing a bill that gives us the most generous paid maternity leave in the country!! (Our country still being the least generous of civilized countries around the world, but hey, let’s not focus on that today!) I am so excited that when we decide it’s time for Baby #3, Peter is going to be able to spend several weeks home with us. This will be so beneficial to all of us. For my recovery, for our older children who will want to continue to play and go fun places while I’m not supposed to be driving, to our baby who can have a stronger bond with his or her Daddy right from the start and for Peter. Peter should be able to take a break and just enjoy the gifts we’ve been given. I believe family is the most important thing in our lives. We work as a means of supporting our family and should not be the priority at such a precious time for our family. But in the past, it has been. Because if work wasn’t the priority, we would not have had jobs to go back to.
I truly can’t put into words how excited I am toall be able to spend weeks together where we only have to worry about each other, not customers and bosses and hitting bonuses. Just our simple, happy family!
(As a disclaimer I should mention, Peter and I are fortunate and have very kind and understanding bosses. Legally, these bosses were not required to give us time off, paid or unpaid, due to the birth of a child. Peter’s boss did give him 3 paid days each time, which was very generous and very appreciated! We never asked for more unpaid time. Had we asked for a few more weeks to spend time with our new babies, they may have agreed. But as it was not the norm and not our legal right, neither Peter nor I ever felt comfortable asking.)
To read more about the bill passed by New York State last week, click here!