I Wonder What My Cats' Food Will Taste Like

Yesterday I received some bad news. I don't know what illegal substance I was indulging in when I thought that it was either a state or federally mandated law that women on maternity leave receive full pay for six weeks (for a natural delivery) or eight weeks (for a c-section). My soon-to-be depleted checkbook knocked me upside my drunk-ass head when my HR rep informed me I'd be receiving only 60% of my pay for six weeks (unless my doctor writes otherwise on my short-term disability forms). Apparently, New York state mandates only $170 per week for people on short-term disability. My company purchased an "enhanced plan" (ha!) to pay the 60% of my salary...instead. No I won't even get both the paltry $170/week + 60% of my weekly salary. This was obviously information I did not expect when I created my plan for maternity leave.

This has to be wrong, I thought to myself as I returned to my office following the meeting. A few quickly circulated emails to friends with kids confirmed this fact. One friend's company pays 70%. Another's pays out maternity leave based on years of service: the longer you've been with the company, the more weeks of FULL pay you get. I don't even get one measly week at full pay.

Needless to say, I've sunk into panic mode. I was worried about how we were going to afford three weeks of zero money coming in from my end (I had planned on 8 weeks full salary for maternity leave, plus my three weeks of vacation time, leaving 3 weeks of unpaid time for a total of 14 weeks off after the birth of Beastie). Now our financial situation is significantly different, what with the pathetic policy of my company.

I immediately began some research and discovered that the good old US of A is second only to Papua New Guinea in providing women with the WORST maternity leave benefits in the world. The United States mandates companies provide zero weeks (ZERO WEEKS) for maternity leave. Individual state policies vary. If you live in Sweden, however, parents receive 18 months of fully paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. And fathers are encouraged to take a minimum of three of those months! Can you imagine that here? Or how about Bulgaria, where women get 45 days prior to the birth of their children, at 100% full pay, and then 2 years of paid leave, followed by an additional one year of unpaid leave, if requested.

In the States, our leadership is all gung-ho about "family values" and "protecting the family" and "family first," but when it comes time to helping parents try to do exactly that in this country, our government makes it impossible to do so.

Beastie is only going to be an infant for a few short months. We tried for so long and went through so much to have this baby, and now my plans for taking care of him/her have completely changed. I cannot imagine how I am going to juggle returning to work earlier than we planned, and taking care of an infant at the same time. I was counting on those 14 weeks to get Beastie into a schedule I can manage, because I'm going to be working at home four days a week when I return. And truthfully, I don't WANT to return to work earlier than we planned. Beastie is going to need me, and I want to be the one to provide for him/her, and not one of my relatives.

Things will work out. I know they will. But right now I'm seriously worried about our financial situation. How will we pay our bills on what essentially equates to one salary for most of the time I planned on being off?

Pass the kitty kibble. Luckily in a three-cat household, they're used to sharing.

15 Responses to “I Wonder What My Cats' Food Will Taste Like”

  1. # Anonymous Jenny aka the "math major"

    That all pretty much sucks when you were expecting more. Will it help if I get out the analytical side of me here?

    You thought you would be paid (full) for 11 out of 14 weeks. BUT
    If you take 60% of 8 weeks, that's kind of like getting paid for 4.8 weeks. Add your 3 weeks vacation and you're getting paid 7.8 out of the 14 weeks. It's a difference of 3.2 weeks - or about 1 1/2 paychecks.
    I don't know if it helps or hurts looking at it that way. All else fails, I know a fun way to do fundraisers (just can't post the name here) ;-)  

  2. # Blogger Christine

    That does suck. If Jenny's math is right though. And I'm going to say it is, mostly because math and I haven't been friends in years...maybe something is workable.

    Maybe they'll let you start integrating days working from home a bit earlier? When maybe someone can watch the wee beastie for a few hours, but since you would be there too, maybe it all wouldn't feel so bad?

    Rough all around. Bah for American policies on this one. If you know it comes down to the catfood, just lemme know, I'll send care packages. Kitty chow free!  

  3. # Blogger CAL

    Gee, you mean the "family values" chorus is nothing but empty rhetoric? Shocking!

    Yes, family values are important, but only when you're denying them to a particular group of people. Otherwise, BUSINESS values trump family values, which is why women don't get paid leave for childbirth, minimum-wage workers don't get raises, and tens of millions of people in this country don't have health insurance.

    But y'all go ahead and vote your Republican reps back into office this November. At least the institution of marriage will be safe for straight couples to continue to destroy with quickie marriages and even quicker divorces.  

  4. # Blogger Shannon

    Pretty awful, isn't it? I learned all about this doing my old work comp job and lecturing at HR Benefits seminars. I don't know if Washington State pays anything, just short term disability if you have it. And of course, if you are not even eligible for FMLA (have worked somewhere less than one year), you get nothing! Ta da! I believe California is the only state that pays maternity leave in full? I could be wrong about that.  

  5. # Blogger Dawn

    That does suck! Maybe you can eliminate some expenses that aren't essential. And while my husband claims that cable TV and high speed internet ARE essential, I beg to differ. I ended up living with my mother-in-law (that's called 'taking one for the team') for a few years so that we could afford to have one parent at home full time. But we only did that because we didn't own a house yet, so it was no big deal.

    Perhaps you could get into doing Pampered Chef or something like that? That way you could do events in the evening or on weekends and your husband could be with beastie?Or else maybe some other part time work (maybe something fun and casual) for a little bit of evening work?

    None of these are great options, it's really hard to find a good answer to these scenarios. Just try not to panic. Somehow, we all make it through.  

  6. # Blogger l

    That more than sucks. I'm shocked. I thought FMLA covered everyone - I didn't know about the one year of employment rule. I did already know, though, that many companies don't offer full pay when you're on maternity leave. Perhaps you could have a bake sale? I''ll take a few dozen of those peanut butter cookies. Can you go back to work earlier but part time? Dawn's right - you'll make it through.  

  7. # Blogger Thalia

    That sounds really stressful, Kristi, I am sorry. I hope you figure out how to do what's best for the three of you.  

  8. # Blogger Marie

    Your family won't let you starve! They'll keep your tummies full! What stinks is that you didn't have this factoid sooner so that you could have planned for it.

    Somehow we manage on some pretty meager earnings at our house. I bet you guys will manage too.

    ps -- I knew I liked Jenny!! Look at her go!  

  9. # Anonymous Veronica

    Um... yeah, unfortunately, this country isn't the best when it comes to maternity leave. I'm not sure why that was something that was never address legislatively, but it's also not surprising.

    Most of the standards for companies, until recently, have been based on the idea that we are supposedly working in a free market economy, and for that to happen, government intervention has to be minimal. I.e. can't mandate vacations or leaves of any kind.

    The idea behind it, of course, is that if you want to work -- and American work ethic is all about working -- then you do. And if you don't, you don't.

    More socialist countries -- like those in Europe -- have a different approach to business and their economies. Hence, why you can get not only four weeks vacation directed by government, but you also get maternity leave, and honeymoon leave (Spain!) and all sorts of other holidays and days off.

    Yep. Thank this country for being such a dominant capitalist force.

    Anyway... I do feel for you -- I had no idea that this would be new to you -- I thought that you had it all worked out with HR and knew exactly what you needed and for how long. I'm sorry it was such an ugly surprise.

    But, as they say in Latin America -- every baby is born with a loaf of bread under it's arm. You'll find a way.

    Good luck!  

  10. # Blogger Hopeful Mother

    Oh, that really sucks. It sucks that we have to worry about this at all. And so bizarre that every state has a different mandate. You would think we would have a federal one on this common issue.

    And what about people who need to travel to go through adoption procedures? They get the shaft too.

    Everyone has given good advice so far. It will work out, I promise. You and Rich may need to get creative, but you will find a way.

    Every workplace seems to be different, but they all seem to suck:

    My workplace will give up to 12 weeks of FMLA (unpaid). This is basically just "you will not be fired for taking FMLA". You have to be in the job for 2 years first.

    Then, before disability insurance can kick in, you must use sick leave first (paid at 100%). Anything left in that 12-week period is covered by Short-Term disability (55% of earnings up to 6 mos.)

    We can also purchase a Supplemental Disability policy that covers 70% of earnings (not sure on the time limit). I did this when we started TTC, thinking I didn't have all that much sick time saved up. Little did I know that I would be still paying for it now ($30/mo), not even sure if I will "get/need" to use it at all...

    I've kind of stopped worrying about how we'll pay for a baby if we get to that point... but I know it will work out somehow. There are plenty of luxuries we don't need as much as we might think we do.

    It will work out for you too, Kristi.  

  11. # Blogger annelynn

    Man, I'm sorry to hear this. I don't know enough about the politics of other countries to really comment, but I suspect that taxes are far higher in some of those nations, which allows them to have more money on hand to pay maternity/paternity leave. Given that, though - the taxes we pay in this state are outrageous. It makes no sense that we can't have some kind of realistic support for parents on leave with a new child. I just heard the other day that Pataki hosted an expensive salmon dinner for potential political supporters at his mansion - on OUR dime. That's the kind of thing that makes me insane. You, Kristi and Rich, can't have a reasonable amount of time in which to gather yourselves together as a new family, but our Richie Rich politicians do this kind of thing all the time. It's not just salmon dinners - it's so many more things in that same vein.
    /end rant.

    Things do have a way of working themselves out. I feel bad that you have this additional stress to deal with, though.

    Getting very excited for Beastie's arrival!  

  12. # Anonymous sher

    Oh that's awful!!! I have heard that maternity leave is much better in other countries. It doesn't surprise me because a lot of what our government says is just horse poo. A lot of PR, with little to back it up. I'm so sorry you have to worry about this at a time when you should be focusing on the joy of beastie's arrival.  

  13. # Blogger Kristi

    Jenny-Of course, with my math-addled brain, I never thought of it this way, and when you do the dreaded math, it doesn't seem as bad as I once thought. And thanks for taking the time to figure this out for me.

    Christine-You and me both! Math and I...we just don't see eye to eye. Rich and I came up with a number of ideas in the last two days, so I'm hoping one or some of them work out.

    Cal-Amen, sista. And me? Vote Republican? The heat must be getting to you down in TX.

    Shannon-It's appalling, isn't it? I've done a lot of research in the past two days, and it's mind-blowing what little value this country places on families, while pretending to do the opposite.

    Dawn-Yup, we've considered the same. There are plenty of things we can trim from our expenses. And funny you should mention Pampered Chef. My friend IRL "Jenny the Math Major" is a PC consultant. That's the "fundraiser" idea she mentioned above. I *heart* PC products!

    L-If worse comes to worse, yes, I'll return from maternity leave early. And the bake sale idea rocks. 15 dozen peanut butter cookies coming your way!

    Thalia-Thank you. Somehow, we'll figure it out.

    Marie-No kidding! I asked to sit down with our HR person over six weeks ago. Since I'm the first person in the US office ever to go on maternity leave, it took her that long to figure everything out, plus she was on vacation for two weeks. Grrrr...

    Veronica-I think the three of us are going to move in with you. Actually, make that the six of us. Then you can have all the Claudia time you've ever wanted!

    Hopeful mother- I'm sorry your company doesn't have good benefits either. But you're right-things will work themselves out.

    Annelyn-Exactly! Or how about W using our tax dollars to fly Air Force 1 all over the place campaigning for fellow Republicans. Ugh-makes me so mad.

    Sher-I know. Me too. Don't worry, though. I may be stressed out now, but I'm not letting it impact my excitement. Not one bit!  

  14. # Blogger Beagle

    You're right that this country is was behind in this sort of thing.  

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