Baby on the Way? 5 tips for Maximizing Your Maternity or Paternity Leave

Show of hands – How many of you moms and dads have access to paid paternity or maternity leave?

I can’t actually see any of you but I’m guessing there aren’t many hands being raised.

Paternity and Maternity leave in the US sucks

It really does. There are so many studies, I think I was forwarded every single one by Dr. Moneymom, showing the benefits of a new mother and father being able to spend time with their baby. These benefits include physical health, mental health, and improved productivity.  Unfortunately for way too many people in this country they can’t afford to take the time off to stay at home with their new baby.

Trust me, after little Moneybaby was born I had no business coming into work the first few weeks anyway! I got lucky and was in a position where I could use a large chunk of my annual leave along with some sick leave days to spend 3 weeks at home on paid leave. Granted that then depleted my entire year’s worth of vacation leave and sick leave so there was certainly a trade off.

Dr. Moneymom was in the same position. Some personal and sick time saved up but after that, it was all unpaid leave. We decided to max out her allowed 16 weeks of unpaid leave because we knew the money could be made back later but the time with our new baby never could.

This unpaid leave forced us to start planning early

If and when we decide to have another Moneybaby we will have to make some hard decisions. Based on little Moneybaby’s desire to lick everything we probably won’t be able to save up as much sick leave as we used to. Our daycare also believes in this weird thing called giving their staff time off so they are closed 3 weeks per year. That is vacation time we are forced to split up to take care of Moneybaby.

I’m guessing many soon to be parents will find themselves in a similar situation as our own where they are forced to weigh the benefits of staying home with a reduction or loss of wages.

Here are some tips to help prepare ahead of time for and maximize your maternity or paternity leave.

Set a budget early

Budget out all of your incomes and expenses for the MAXIMUM expected time you and/or your spouse will be away from work. If you are currently planning on taking 4 weeks off then budget for 8. Will you be able to break even on one income? How much do you have saved to cover your expenses if both parents choose unpaid leave?

Even natural childbirth is a major medical process and we always hope for the best but we should also plan for the worst.

What if you end up on bed rest prior to the birth. What if the child is born earlier than expected? What if there are complications that do not allow you to return to work quickly?

Start saving now

And by now I mean as early as possible before your due date. There will be 1000 things to buy ahead of time (side note: you can check out my post on how to save money when expecting a new child) and these can quickly eat into your cash reserves.

Making major lifestyle changes, and this includes your financial lifestyle, can be difficult once your new little piggy bank breaker shows his or her wrinkly and probably oddly shaped head. Making changes now to your savings plan will make the transition easier once your baby arrives.

Discuss your leave plan with your work

Tell them you’re planning on taking X number of weeks off work for the birth and what options might you have for using a combination of sick/vacation/paid/unpaid/disability/maternity/paternity leave. My work was nice enough to allow me to dip into my bank of vacation days for the following year if needed and/or let me carry over additional days from the previous year. (Moneybaby’s due date was right at the end of the year).

It costs a whole lot more for a company to hire a new employee than to retain an existing one so they may be willing to give you some flexibility. Just be upfront with your plans and ask what they can do to help you. You may just be surprised by their answer.

Check your city and/or state’s leave laws

A few states (as of 2017 they were California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey) now offer partially paid maternity leave. Check with your company or Wikipedia to find out if you qualify for these programs.

If you live in the US move to Finland or literally any other developed country in the world (except Oman and Papua New Guinea)

Honestly, choose any one. They all offer some form of paid maternity leave from 12 weeks in Mexico to 40 weeks in the UK.

Conclusion

Unfortunately for many people, their options are pretty limited when it comes to their maternity or paternity leave options.  With a little planning and open discussion hopefully, we can all make the best of the options we have at hand.

What have been your experiences with taking leave from work to care for your new baby?  Do you see your workplace taking a more modern approach and offering paid leave?

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5 thoughts on “Baby on the Way? 5 tips for Maximizing Your Maternity or Paternity Leave

  1. Ms. Raggedly Rich says:

    I can’t imagine going back to work 3 months after having a baby : / I’m not 100% sure how many weeks you get in Canada (I really should know this), but I know that a friend took a year off after her son was born (not fully paid though). There’s a lot of temp job out there for year-long contracts that cover mat leaves… I hope other states follow the way of California! And eventually, adopt 40 weeks like in the UK.

    So many things to think about when expecting a baby. You can imagine, but it’s just unfathomable until it happens, I think.

    • Derek says:

      Totally agree. Unfortunately the mindset for many here is this is just the way it is and I have to go back to work after 6 weeks which a ton of people do. A lot of companies are now starting to offer more generous leave options but the growth has been slow and for hourly or lower income employees the options are virtually non existent.

  2. Jason@Debt Reckoning says:

    My wife and I made the decision she would stay home with our children until they were of age to be home alone, etc. That decision meant a lot of sacrifice, but we would not trade the experience for any amount of money or things.

    I raised by a single mother, so obviously I recognize staying home with little ones is not possible in all situations. However, if you can make it work, financially, I highly recommend it!

  3. Tim Kim @ Tub of Cash says:

    Agreed. Paternity/Maternity leave is pretty horrid here in the states. Especially paternity leave due to the general perception from the employer and one’s co-workers. It’s just the stigma here in the US. It’s getting better, but I think it’ll be a while before it gets any better. Thanks for sharing!

    • Derek says:

      Totally agree.

      Microsoft just upped their policies to 3 months for paternity leave! Hopefully as larger, established companies make these changes we’ll start to see an attitude shift in the country.

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