Maternity Leave in the U.S.

Yesterday a friend of mine posted a link to this blog post on her business’s web site.  I can’t seem to stop reading different takes on this (because so many people are making such good points!) so I of course clicked and read.  I also happen to agree.

Then something hit me as I read.

I knew to be eligible for FMLA you need to be with your employer for at least 12 months.  That is why I had a 6 week maternity leave after E’s birth and not 12 weeks.  I didn’t qualify for FMLA because I was only there for about 9 months before I had him.

I had completely forgotten about the required hours worked in the last 52 weeks.  I guess that is because when I was thinking about that when I was pregnant last time I was working 25 hours a week and working that many hours will get you to the requirement.

I wasn’t really worried about it this time since I made the decision that if we had a second child I would not return to work. (Haha!  That sounds so much simpler than the whole decision actually was!)   In my mind I was thinking that of course if I were staying I would get 12 weeks this time since I’ve worked at my company for over 3 years.

Yeah, no I wouldn’t.

I still wouldn’t qualify for FMLA.

You see, when I went back to work after E was born I worked it out with my boss that I would go down to 15 hours a week, working only 3 days a week.  Now I’ve added some time in the last year by working some at home, but that still comes out to only about 17 hours a week at most.  Guess what?  17×52 does not add up to 1250 hours.

You know what?  This pisses me off.

6 weeks is NOT enough time for any maternity leave.  It is definitely not enough time when you are trying to exclusively breastfeed.

What makes it hard is that in some ways I feel like I don’t have much right to complain.  My boss was more than willing to work with me and accommodate a schedule that allowed me to have my mother watch my baby.  Which had to happen for me to continue to work because I would have spent my whole paycheck, probably more, to pay for childcare otherwise unless I went to working full time.  Still, it would have taken up a significant portion of it.

Also, I was able to pump.  In my office, not a bathroom stall, when I needed without any trouble.  No one EVER gave me a hard time about it.

I happen to live less than 10 minutes from work and have an hour lunch break.  I could nurse E up until 15-20 minutes before I needed to be at work, come home and nurse on my lunch break, and be home again less than 3 hours later.

Do you know how lucky I felt and still feel that I was able to do that?  I think of jobs I’ve had in the past and can’t imagine any of them being so accommodating for what I was trying to do.  That is why I feel like I don’t have any room to complain.

But it is ridiculous too.

My milk supply wasn’t fully established.  I still think that even though I was pumping in the morning and afternoon while I was at work (and for awhile when I was trying so hard to boost supply, twice in the morning) that my supply suffered because I went back to work too soon.  I don’t think it was the only factor in the slow weight gain problems E had between 2-6 months, but I can’t ignore that piece of the puzzle.

I was still in pain from breastfeeding when I went back to work.  Real pain.  Turns out I had some damage that gave me vasospasms.  That was hard enough to deal with but I would finish pumping and have to lay down at my desk and not cry out in pain for 5 minutes afterwards.

E was still so little I was getting up and going to the recliner multiple times at night because I hadn’t figured out/he wasn’t quite big enough to reliably latch on while lying in bed.

I spent most of December 2009 wondering how the hell I was going to manage going back to work at the end of the month.

Go back I did and we made it work.  I’m convinced the only reason it did at all is because of the aforementioned graciousness of my boss and his willingness to find a way to make it work for me.  But we still had those snags too.  I cannot fathom how anyone goes back full time after 6 weeks and makes it work.

I have to say that all the while I’m wondering how we are really going to get along without my paycheck and if we can really make it work with me staying home the one thing I keep thinking is “thank God I don’t have to deal with going back to work after 6 weeks!”


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