How I Maximized My Maternity Leave
The Family Medical Leave Act allows parents to take 12 weeks off of work after having a baby. However, I've been able to stretch this time out longer within the limits of the law.
This planning began way before I knew if and when we would have a second child. I signed up for Short Term Disability which will help cover lost wages as you have to be signed up before getting pregnant to be able to use it towards time off with baby. I knew that saving up paid days off wouldn’t come so easy with a child in daycare who often got sick herself. My first year back to work left me with just a few paid days off at the end of the year. What happened, though, a few months before I had my youngest, was that the terms of my Short Term Disability changed to where they would only cover lost wages for two months right after birth. Originally I would have been able to start drawing on disability once my paid days off ran out. This was a huge blow and I started to worry since I wouldn’t be able to use this extra money in addition to the paid days I already had off. I knew I wanted to take my entire FMLA time again, to give my youngest the time off I had with my oldest, but I was literally in tears once I found out this wouldn’t be so. (In the end, since my daughter was nine days overdue, I got a tiny bit of extra money from Short Term Disability.)
Then I began freelance writing regularly. This was a godsend! I’ve saved every single penny I made writing, save for putting aside funds for taxes, and two months after giving birth, I’ve saved enough to cover two months’ worth of my teacher wages. I figured this out a long time ago, though – how much I’d be able to save up- and knew when planning for my leave with HR that once again I’d be able to afford to take off over four months.
You see, Olive is an early December baby. I planned to work up to the week before Thanksgiving. Again, I’d have all those holidays that didn’t count against FMLA and since she was born a month after my oldest, I actually don’t have to go back to work till a couple weeks AFTER Spring Break. Again, I was going to have to return on a Wednesday or Thursday, and again, HR granted me a couple extra days to be able to start fresh on a Monday.
Another aspect of FMLA/lost wages that I knew about this time versus my leave with my oldest, was that I was better prepared to pay my out of pocket insurance expenses. Because I hadn’t planned far enough ahead with my oldest as I wasn’t planning on taking off as much time, for a couple months I didn’t get paychecks, which meant that I had to pay out of pocket from my savings to cover my portion of my monthly insurance premium. This time, though, I was able to arrange with HR and payroll to spread out my non-paid days off so that for a few months I’ll get lower paychecks, yet there will be enough in there so that payroll can pull from those monies to cover insurance costs and I don’t have to worry one bit. HR was actually the one to recommend this to me, which I was grateful for.
As I’ve said, I feel very lucky that I get to take this much time off of work this school year. My coworkers were even pretty shocked when I told them that I’d be returning in late April. I feel like an expert at knowing how the system works and using it to my advantage–a system that works with my profession as a teacher and the time off already built into my profession. I just wish, overall, that this wasn’t a complicated game I had to figure out, and the US would catch up with the rest of the world so all working moms can be as lucky as me.
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