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Erin Hayes's picture

I blog to help share my story so others who have been through it know they aren't alone and to educate those who haven't been through it.  This is a topic that not only affects caregivers but parents, children and entire families.  I think it's important for everyone to understand how interconnected all of these issues are and how we need to work together to accomplish change.

I have been asked to write about another topic by Caring Across Generations.  Although, I’m a few days late.

By the way, to explain….  Caring Across Generations brings together the aging community, people disabilities, those who work in the field and the families involved.  Caring Across Generations is currently working with a group called MomsRising.  MomsRising has a blog where people can “talk politics, policy and parenting.”

Because of the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act being introduced on Thursday, October 3rd, MomsRishing decided to have a blog carnival to get people to write about the topic.

Ester from Caring Across Generations asked me to write again and here I am!

Honestly, I think it’s wonderful that so many groups are working together on these issues…   Most of the topics regarding the aging, disabled and parenting are very intertwined and I never realized it until my husband was injured.

Rewind to July 2007…  I was 41 weeks and ready to pop and I couldn’t work another day.

I was waddling and uncomfortable and quite frankly, sick of hearing everyone at work say “You haven’t had that baby yet?”


So, I went on leave a week before I actually had the kid…

My work had maternity leave.  But in reality, it was short term disability.   Wait, what??

Yes, I had to go on short term disability leave.  Oh, after I used my vacation time.  So, at the ripe old age of 28, I had my first (and only) child and got 10 weeks off.  Some were full (four weeks) and the rest was 60% pay (6 weeks).

Fast forward 6 months…  December 21st, 2007, my husband jumped into the snow and never stood up again.

And I found myself needing to leave work to be with him.

I had no vacation left.

I had no short term disability left.

I had nothing… but I didn’t go to work.  My husband and child needed me.  how could I go to work????

THANKFULLY, I had an option.  The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 allowed me to be with him.  That law required my employer to keep my position and let me have 12 weeks of leave during any 12-month period to attend to the serious health condition of my spouse.

But wait…  there was a catch…  my maternity leave also fell into that…  so because I had taken 6 weeks already to be with my new daughter, I only had 6 weeks of time under this provision.  If he had been injured a year after our daughter was born, no problem.  The full 12 weeks were mine!  But alas, he chose 6 months past her birthday.

I know…  silly quad can’t schedule anything right!

Oh, by the way, the leave was unpaid.   UNPAID.  My husband was in the hospital, racking up the medical bills, using his remaining and about to go onto short term disability (60% pay) before hitting long term disability (40% pay), and I could only get 6 weeks of UNPAID leave from my job to be with him.

Our life had drastically changed.  I was suddenly making life saving decisions for my husband, caring for our 6 month old alone AND NOT GETTING PAID FOR THE JOB I WAS GOING TO GO BACK TO ONCE THINGS WERE ALL OK.  Oh, but our bills were still coming and GROWING.

Yea….  Long story short, we were screwed.

And of course, I was too much in shock to even deal with it.  I couldn’t.  The shock of learning that I wouldn’t be able to go to rehab with my husband, who desperately needed me, and would have to go back to work, while our daughter went back to daycare, while he was miles and miles away, KILLED ME.  It killed him!

How could I do that to him???  How could I do that to our daughter??? But I had to…  we needed the money.

Because we needed the money, I had to take away the support that he needed….  I had to take away the support that I needed!  I had to separate our family…

And then something amazing happened…

My coworkers stepped in and helped me out.  They gave me their vacation days.  Policy at work is that anyone could roll over extra vacation days to the next year.  Since it was the end of the year, instead of rolling them over, many of my coworkers gave me their extra days.

They gave me so much that I had 12 weeks of FULL PAY so I could be with my husband.

I had 12 weeks of full pay, full benefits and no worry about losing my job or my paycheck.

I had 12 weeks to travel with my husband and infant daughter and my mom to Atlanta and go through rehab AS A FAMILY.

I had 12 weeks to figure out how to live this new life with my husband and our daughter.

I had 12 weeks of time to not have to worry about how we were going to pay our bills…

I had 12 weeks of breathing room.

Now, trust me when I say, 12 weeks isn’t enough in a situation like ours.  It’s not BUT it was a wonderful start.  And 12 weeks of PAID leave allowed us to focus on what was important.  Our family.  Rehab.  Living.  Getting better; healthier, stronger, ready to tackle the world.

Having that leave allowed me to focus on my husband and then go back to work and focus JUST on my work.  Which I did.

Photo credit: Lauren Bodwell Photography.

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