Planning Your Maternity Leave

Planning for a new baby is often an exiting, and joyful time. However planning for maternity leave can be another story. As you may know, the United States is the only industrialized nation without a paid maternity leave system, except for Papa New Guinea and Oman. The care of newborn infants, the recovery of moms, and the importance of bonding in the early weeks postpartum falls heavily on the shoulders of families. Sometimes (12% in 2013 to be exact) employers provide paid maternity leave.  

Until the US passes a paid leave system at the national level, it’s up to the individual families to figure out how to make it work. Side note: Some individual states are making changes on this political front. California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island currently offer 4-12 weeks of paid leave, and New York State passed the Paid Family Leave act last year (woohoo!). New York will be leading the pack with paid leave, which begins it’s implantation in 2018!!!  

For families planning maternity and parental leaves, we thought it might be helpful to go over the common ways leave is covered, or in most cases, not covered. Below are examples of how families are making it work.  

  1. Company fundedSome companies fund maternity leave. Leave generally ranges from 4 weeks to 20 weeks depending on the company. Check out Fairygodboss to learn which companies offer the most paid leave.  

  2. Government funded: again, quite rare. Four states have passed paid family leave; California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York.  

  3. Self-funded: the most common form of maternity leave is the self funded one. This is where families save up to cover expenses for the desired time off from work to care for the new baby and for mom to heal. This is especially true for business owners and freelancers.  

  4. Disability: Disability insurance typically covers 6 weeks for a vaginal birth and 8 weeks for a C-section. For employees in New York State, you can learn about disability benefits here.  

  5. Accrual, or paid time off (PTO): Other options that have worked for some families include using accrual time and paid time off to cover the maternity leave. Some institutions allow employees to essentially “buy” time off by contributing a 1/3 of each paycheck toward accrued time off. This is strategic if you are trying to maintain benefits such as health insurance.  

When planning for your maternity leave, you’ll want to consider your monthly expenses. How much money do you need to save to pay your monthly bills? In addition to this amount, you’ll want to budget extra for any surprise expenses that come up, or for any professional services you might need while recovering from pregnancy and childbirth. Some services to consider are laundry services, house cleaners, delivered groceries, a postpartum doula or lactation consultant.  Other costs to consider are the initial childcare costs if/when you do plan to return to work.  

Some families can self-fund maternity leaves without a problem, while for many it can be a financial stretch. Saving each week during your pregnancy is one way to create the financial buffer needed. Other ideas are to ask for family and friends to contribute to your maternity leave fund. Utilizing hand-me-downs and second hand baby items is another excellent way to keep costs down, because let’s face it, babies use things for a matter of weeks. Before you know it, they are on to the next set of gear! 

Check out some additional ideas for creating your own maternity leave here.  

How did you structure you maternity leave? We’d love to hear your story. Tell us in the comments below! 

Jen Mayer