As my son approaches his 2nd birthday at the end of this month, I find myself remembering my pregnancy, his birth, and my maternity leave. I am acutely aware of how fortunate I was during that time because my pregnancy was uncomplicated and his birth was a wonderful experience. I have known many people, friends and co-workers, who struggled in so many ways with their own pregnancies and childbirth.
I am a social worker and I love my job. After my son was born, the only thing that mattered to me was caring for him. I was out on maternity leave for 14 weeks, which sounds like a good period of time to care for a newborn. But I deeply struggled, emotionally and physically, to return to the workforce. And, most unfortunately, what drove me back to work was my inability to manage finances without a second income.
I am very lucky that I have a wonderful husband who is employed full time and I could take maternity leave. However, 8 of the 14 weeks were unpaid time. Only 2 weeks were paid at my full salary; I luckily had banked 2 weeks of PTO. The next 4 weeks were paid at 60% of my salary by the short term disability offered by my employer. And so, I felt irrevocably forced back to my job. Work that I truly enjoy and find very rewarding.
And what about my husband? He wanted to take time off from work to spend time with our son. So, after I went back to work, he stayed home. He used 3 weeks of vacation. Afterward, he was able to use sick time hours and go to work part time after I would get home at the end of the day. We were able to stretch it out until my son was 6 months old, when he started daycare.
For me personally and professionally, I believe that paid family leave is a basic right everyone should be entitled to, no matter their circumstance. We all need paid time off to address different medical issues, the birth or adoption of a child, parent, grandparent, and family care.
-By Sarah A., Plainville, CT