The Worst Part of Becoming a New Mom
The absolute worst part of becoming a new mother two years ago was trying to deal with my time off from work -- supporting myself and my family financially and guaranteeing that I would have a job to return to.
I work for the University of Texas which is considered to have good benefits including "parental leave", which is legislated by the State of Texas and is (unpaid) leave intended for new parents who don't qualify for FMLA. Because I had not worked in my current job for 12 months before my daughter was born (though I had previously worked for them for five years), I did not qualify for FMLA. When I investigated the details of parental leave, I discovered that there was, in fact, no guarantee of job security. I also found that my short-term disability coverage that was touted as covering pregnancy with paying out 50% of one's salary only covered me for two weeks. And because I had to take an unpaid leave of absence, I and my new child would be without health insurance.
The ONLY reasons that I ended up having a job to return to, much less any income or health insurance at all, was because 1) I spent six months being doggedly persistent (which cost me hours upon hours of time on the clock that should have been spent on the work I was hired to do) and 2) because my immediate supervisor and her supervisors were fair and decent with me instead of following the letter of the law. If they had wanted to, they could have refused to have me return to work initially on a part-time basis so that I could get my health insurance back. If they had wanted to, they could have denied me an unpaid leave of absence. If they had wanted to, they could have not rehired me. Any of those scenarios would have left me is a disastrous situation.
Relying on states, employers, work culture, or individual bosses to institute paid leave for new parents DOES NOT WORK. There is no reason that the U.S. as a country should not have a national policy for paid parental leave. Nearly everyone else in the world does.
As a side note, when I was five months pregnant, I was on a business trip to Scandinavia. While in Finland, I learned that they have one year of paid maternity leave (not to mention free college education) for everyone. I honestly considered that maybe I should stay in Finland to have my baby and figure out how to re-establish my life there. In the end, I got back on the plane to take my chances with the U.S., gambling with my unborn child's, my family's, and my own future. How absurd and despicable to be in that position.