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A few weeks ago, I traveled to Minneapolis for a blogger tour of General Mills headquarters.

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For transparency’s sake, our travel expenses were reimbursed but I’m not being paid for this post or am I being otherwise sponsored by General Mills.

 

The Husband and Henry came, too, and when we arrived in Minneapolis, we joined fellow bloggers Emilie from Baby Loving Mama, Jenn from Fit Bottomed Girls (we walked a half marathon together in Central Park a few years ago!), and Kath from Kath Eats. I was excited to meet Emilie and see Jenn again, but the Husband and I were super excited to see our old friends Kath, her husband Matt, and their son Mazen.

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Henry and Mazen are only a few weeks apart. They were fast friends!

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General Mills manufacturers many, many products under a variety of brand names, but we were really there for the cereal.  Chex is one of my favorite cereals because most flavors are gluten-free, I can find it at any grocery store, and it’s super versatile (hello, Breaded Baked Tofu and Peppermint Bark Chex Mix).

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Now, as someone who believes in the power of a diet that is based on whole, natural, and unprocessed foods, I have some concerns with some of General Mills’ products (for example, the use of GMO ingredients and artificial coloring in children’s cereals).  General Mills was very open to discussing these issues, and I’m excited to share their feedback with you.  That being said, in the realm of what they do (manufacture processed foods), I feel like they’re making tremendous strides in transforming their cereals to be healthier options (using whole grains and reducing sugar, for example).  And while we all know that whole, unprocessed foods are the superior choice, I think it’s important to recognize that not everyone has regular access to such foods, whether due to their busy schedule, location, upbringing, or income. Whole grain fortified cereal is a really nutritious, accessible breakfast option for many people in our country, especially for families living in food deserts or on reduced incomes.  But I’d really like to save that discussion for my next post on General Mills!

 

Today, I’d like to focus on General Mills’ policies for working mothers and fathers and use it as a springboard for a larger discussion.

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Maternity and paternity benefits are something that have interested me for years.  Did you know that at least 178 countries guarantee some sort of paid maternity leave? And at least 50 countries provide paid leave for dads? (Source) I was outraged when I discovered that in America, there is no legal requirement to provide new mothers with paid leave after the birth of their child.  This is hard to believe, but America is one of four countries in the entire world that doesn’t require some sort of pay. The other countries with no mandated pay are Liberia, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea.

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In America, many mothers and fathers are guaranteed job protection under the Family Medical Leave Act.  The FMLA provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year and only applies to employees of all public agencies and to employees of private companies with at least 50 employees.  FMLA not only applies to birth mothers and fathers but also to parents who are adopting a child, people who are caring for an ill family member, and in various other circumstances. (Source) While FMLA requires that companies give employees unpaid leave, employees can use paid sick or vacation days for some or all of the FMLA period so they can still collect wages.

 

On the state level, California requires some paid family leave, as does Washington and New Jersey. Some states also allow mothers to use short-term disability to cover a portion of the parent’s salary while they are on leave; generally, short-term disability will cover a portion of your wages for a six week period. You may also be able to use private disability insurance. (Source)

 

The end result is that in America – the country that talks BIG TALK about ‘valuing families’ – many mothers can only take a few weeks off before they have to return to work.  A quarter of women return to work less than 8 weeks after giving birth, and 10% are back in four weeks or less. (Source).  Numerous studies illustrate that short maternity leaves can trigger maternal depression and stress – but seriously, did we need a study to tell us that? Nope – it’s common sense. I imagine that it’s hard to feel happy when you’re still recovering from a vaginal delivery or a c-section, aren’t sleeping regular hours, and feel a tremendous amount of financial pressure because you’ve already lost several weeks worth of wages. Short leaves can also sabotage breastfeeding efforts.  Women who have longer leaves are more likely to breastfeed. (Source)

 

I understand that the maternity and paternity leave issue is a very complicated one. Paid leave would cost the government and private companies a great deal of money.  And there many be some professional and economical consequences to extremely long maternity leaves. But our system seems so horribly broken.  As I said, we say we value families, but we don’t even give mothers three months of paid leave so they can focus on bonding with their newborns!

 

Back to General Mills….

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I was so excited to learn more about General Mills because I feel like it’s a company that is doing great things for their employees.  For example….

 

  • On average, General Mills gives employees 26 weeks of job-protected leave (10 more than required by FLMA).

 

  • The amount of paid leave varies by employee (and is based on how long they’ve been with General Mills), but Working Mother says the average at General Mills is two weeks of paid leave.  Not fabulous, but certainly much more than required.

 

  • Fathers at General Mills get two weeks of paid paternity leave.  AWESOME!  Dads need paid leave, too.

 

  • General Mills allows new parents to ‘phase back’ into work with a flexible schedule, reduced hours, or a work-from-home arrangement. 

 

  • General Mills offers adopting parents $10,000 in aid to help cover the costs associated with adoption.

 

Could General Mills do more?  Sure.  I love it when companies offer moms a fully paid leave.  But the company goes well beyond the minimum, and every mother that I spoke to at the company had nothing but positive things to say about their policies.

 

When moms come back to work, General Mills makes it easier to continue breastfeeding with ‘Mothers Rooms.’  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), employers are required to provide time and place (not a bathroom!) for nursing moms to pump for up to one year. But General Mills really goes above and beyond with their amazing Mothers Rooms.  I saw a Mothers Room in nearly every department. All moms have to do is ‘reserve’ the space for a certain block of time, and they have a peaceful, safe space to pump.

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I’ve written a lot about my experiences with exclusively pumping (and quitting), and I have to say – if I worked a traditional corporate job, I would’ve LOVED to have this space to pump.  To know that no one could hear my pump… that I had a fridge to store my milk… that I had a peaceful place to take a quick cat nap… Winking smile

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The coolest thing was that the room included a hospital-grade pump. All the moms have to do is bring their own tubes and shields.

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General Mills also has an on-site daycare, which I got to visit.  It was a very well-organized, fun place, and I imagine that the moms at General Mills love being able to pop downstairs to say hello or feed their children.

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As a brief side note…

 

I was also very, very excited to learn that General Mills is a supporter of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender rights. Benefits for same-sex parents are the same as heterosexual couples. General Mills CEO Ken Powell voiced the company’s opposition to a state constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between a man and woman (voters rejected the amendment, and same-sex marriage is now legal in the state).  And Ken Charles, the General Mills Vice President of Global Diversity and Inclusion, testified in front of the Senate in support of the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, which would protect GLBT employees.  In a blog post, Mr. Charles wrote:

 

“We value diversity. We value inclusion. We always have … and we always will.  We’re proud of our workplace, and we’re proud to be a leader for diversity and inclusion in our community…. We believe a diverse, inclusive culture produces a stronger, more engaged workforce – and strengthens innovation. Inclusive communities are more successful economically as well… Obviously, there are strongly held views on both sides. We acknowledge those views, including those on religious grounds. We respect and defend the right of others to disagree. But we truly value diversity and inclusion – and that makes our choice clear.”

 

I feel that support of GLBT rights are extremely important and closely related to family issues, and I was so happy to learn more about General Mills’ position on the topic.

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I want to say that the legal requirements, regulations, and realities surrounding issues like maternity and paternity leave are very complex.  I researched this post to the best of my ability, but I’m sure I’m leaving out some important elements to the discussion – and I’d be happy to hear your thoughts and experiences about the topic in the comments section.

 

My situation – an entirely self-employed household – is a little unusual, so maybe one day I’ll have to write a post on how I felt about juggling my ‘leave’ and work.  But in the meantime… let’s discuss the topics covered in this post!  What kind of maternity benefits did you get? Did your partner or husband get time off, too? What benefits would you love to see your company offer new parents?

{ 244 comments }

 

Leave a Comment

  • ASK June 4, 2013, 1:20 pm

    Hi Caitlin,

    Two questions – first, are you being sponsored by General Mills?

    Second, while General Mills appears to be making some (though, frankly, fairly minimal) effort with regard to the quality and nutrition value of their foods, they very clearly are not doing enough. This is demonstrated and documented in great detail in Michael Moss’ book (“Sugar Salt Fat” – which if you haven’t read, I highly suggest you do)! This link here gives you a small idea as to how manipulative a company like General Mills is:

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/02/26/172969363/how-the-food-industry-manipulates-taste-buds-with-salt-sugar-fat

    Reply
    • Caitlin June 4, 2013, 1:29 pm

      Thanks for this link! I’ll look into it for sure.

      Trip expenses were paid but I wasn’t compensated nor am I being sponsored by them – ill add this into the post as it isn’t clear. Hope that clarifies things!

      Reply
      • ASK June 4, 2013, 1:36 pm

        Thanks so much for clarifying! And I would be so interested to hear your thoughts on Moss’ book.

        Reply
        • Caitlin June 4, 2013, 1:38 pm

          Yes maybe I will check it out before writing the next post! Gotta make it through the Maze Runner series first :)

          Reply
    • Marcia June 4, 2013, 11:52 pm

      That book was VERY eye opening.

      Reply
  • Jasmine, bama + ry June 4, 2013, 1:25 pm

    WONDERFUL, important topic. Our paid maternity leave and complete lack of ANY paternity leave is something that I only became aware of when I began trying to have kids in 2009. It was the thing that cemented my hope to someday work out of my home, rather than face serious financial devastation at having 6-12 weeks off unpaid. I have no clue how low income families, for example, can afford to take leave when they aren’t being paid. And, how sad is it that so many fathers get barely any down time after the birth of their children? It’s a serious issue. Thank you so much for addressing it.

    Reply
  • Jen June 4, 2013, 1:26 pm

    I utilized the FLMA for a total of 9 weeks after my little guy was born. I was able to accrue enough sick/vacation time prior to my baby (over a 3 year period) that I could use to during those 9 weeks to get paid. My husband, however, was only able to take 3 days (paid) since he works for a very small company that really only functions while he’s there. Though he was able to leave early some days and be flexible when necessary to accomodate my needs.

    Could I have taken time unpaid? Sure, but the lack of a paycheck when you have a newborn is a scary thing. Plus, I’d be accruing debt while I was on leave without pay due to medical insurance and other expenses that are typically deducted from payroll.

    I do wish our country put more of a priority to paid maternity or paternity leave, but I am thankful to have been able to do what I did because there are plenty of people that aren’t so lucky.

    Maybe they could offer a standard ‘living wage’ for a post birth period, even if they didn’t match a persons exact it would be enough to cover daily expenses.

    Reply
  • Sarah June 4, 2013, 1:41 pm

    I’m not sure where you got your information, but Washington State does not require any paid family leave. Perhaps you intended to reference Washington DC?

    Reply
    • Caitlin June 4, 2013, 1:46 pm

      GOOD NEWS!

      “Several states have passed paid family leave laws. In 2004, California became the first state to guarantee paid family leave, followed by New Jersey in 2008. Washington State has also passed a paid family leave law, which should be implemented in the fall of 2015.”

      http://www.abetterbalance.org/web/ourissues/familyleave

      Reply
      • Sarah June 4, 2013, 2:01 pm

        That’s GREAT! Now I just have to hold off having a baby until then…

        Thank you for sharing that!!!

        Reply
        • Sarah June 4, 2013, 2:04 pm

          Oh never mind, this is only for big companies. I work at a place with less than 50 employees :/

          I believe I am eligible to (sign up and pay for) short term disability insurance that might cover my leave. Not great, but something to keep in mind for others in my position.

          Reply
          • Caitlin June 4, 2013, 2:06 pm

            Ugh. Too bad. But still – a step in a better direction.

  • Tanya June 4, 2013, 1:45 pm

    I quit my job when my first son was born and haven’t gone back (3 kids and 19 years later).

    So nice to read that General Mills supports the GLBT community gives all couples the same benefits.
    Makes me feel better about my youngest son’s Wheat Chex addiction :)

    Reply
  • Whitney June 4, 2013, 1:45 pm

    Thanks for sharing your perspective and experience on this important issue. I applaud General Mills for taking steps in the right direction re: inclusion and paid leave for both new mothers and fathers. One thing struck me, though: women get an average of two weeks of paid maternity leave depending on how long they’ve worked at the company (meaning some get less), but men automatically get two full weeks of paid paternity leave?! That strikes me as lopsided and a little sexist.

    Reply
    • Caitlin June 4, 2013, 1:46 pm

      Let me ask GM to weigh in – maybe I misunderstood their policy. I think the minimum for women may be two weeks paid. But let me check (otherwise – yeah – that would be weird).

      Reply
  • Angie June 4, 2013, 1:51 pm

    I had my first child when I was in the middle of law school and took one class the semester I had him (went back to class 2 weeks after he was born). It was an evening class, so my hubby arrived home from work I tossed him the baby and raced to get to class on time. Second child came along when I was not working outside the home. Since then I have deliberately worked at jobs (and been very lucky to find them) that offer me the flexibility to be around a lot for my children. My final 2 children came when I was working from home, and I was able to front-load things so that I could basically take 6 weeks for the 3rd child and 10 weeks for the 4th child pretty easy and still get paid. Plus, even when I was back to working, most days I was at home and able to take breaks to nurse the babies and give them some snuggles. My hubby was first at a government contractor and then working for the federal government when our children were born, and he has always had a very generous amount of annual leave. He was able to take some sick leave under FMLA when our last 2 children were born.

    I find myself incredibly lucky to have been able to be around for most of my children’s babyhoods, and I can’t imagine the pain of going back to an office job and putting a tiny baby in day care after just a few weeks to recover from childbirth. It is barbaric that the US does not mandate paid leave.

    Reply
  • Katie June 4, 2013, 1:53 pm

    Sing it sister! This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart and never fails to get me fired up (I even wrote a paper on FMLA for one of my graduate courses).

    I work at a University and have an 8 month old daughter. The University offered 8 weeks of paid leave and I was able to use accrued sick and vacation time to cover another 4 weeks. Plus there was a week in there while the University was closed for Holidays, so I got 13 AMAZING weeks home with my daughter. But it wasn’t even near long enough. I recognize that I am one of the lucky ones (and how sad is that!).

    There is so much that makes being a working mom challenging (but lets face it, being a mom is damn hard no matter what). But again I say, I am one of the lucky ones. I have an amazingly supportive partner, who does his fair share of the household and child care duties. My daughter is in a great daycare facility, with caring, fun, creative adults. We have lots of support from friends and family in there area. Again, this is not the case for so many women and families.

    I get so frustrated when I hear politicians (on both sides of the aisle) talk about supporting family and then not creating policies that support that. It seems that there are a lot of politicans that come from financial means and simply do not understand the impossible choices that so many are having to make. The fight to actually support families needs to cover so many topics, from paid family leave to safe, affordable child care options.

    I appreciate that you are always willing to talk about the hard topics!

    Reply
  • Sarah @ Yogi in Action June 4, 2013, 1:55 pm

    It’s posts like this that make me VERY happy to be in Canada. As your chart said- women get a full year, and up to 35 weeks can be shared with the father. It’s rare for someone to come back earlier than that first year (unless there are financial restraints since you are only making about 50% of your normal wage)

    Also, at my company, a lot of women have come back and work on flex schedules (so they work 3 days a week or whatever works for their family).

    It’s definitely a policy that I have taken for granted, as it’s always been the way it’s been done here in Canada. I hope that things continue to change down in the US- as it sounds very hard to start a family and balance everything right from the beginning.

    Reply
    • Leah June 4, 2013, 10:07 pm

      Yes we are so fortunate in Canada! I can’t believe the policies in the US, on top of our one year paid maternity leave, we also receive 100$/month, and all of the medical expenses are paid – there is no medical insurance “premium”.
      On top of all that, my province has an early years education center in every district. It offers free classes – mom and baby yoga, stroller fit, singing, play classes, moms groups, etc. I attend a weekly breast feeding support group that always has a public health nurse present. I must say I’m proud of how Canada really puts family first!!
      If I lived in the US I would definitely be pushing for change!

      Reply
      • Jamie June 5, 2013, 9:06 am

        Wow! I am jealous. The U.S. would rather spend money on defense than healthcare, education, or things like maternity benefits. I have seriously thought about moving to Canada before.

        Reply
  • Jess June 4, 2013, 1:56 pm

    My last company was small (less than 50 people) so FMLA did not apply. However, the maternity leave policy wasn’t that bad all things considered-8 weeks @ 80% pay + 4 weeks unpaid (and I used vacation to offset it). I went back to work after 12 weeks and survived. Now, I am pregnant with my second child and working at a much larger company and finding the benefits less than optimal. I will be forced to go on short term disability to receive 66% of my pay for 6 weeks and then take an additional 6 weeks unpaid. Something is better than nothing I guess but I’d love to see the US adopt some better policies.

    Reply
  • Tara June 4, 2013, 1:58 pm

    That’s so funny you were at GM! I live in St Paul and though I don’t work there, I do have several friends that do and I have only heard good things about working there from them (most have young families).

    My employer let’s you use 5 weeks of short-term disability that pays 100% if you’ve been employed over 5 years. Anyone under 5 years gets 70% of their salary for those 5 weeks. It makes me incredibly sad that the U.S. provides no standard of paid time off for new mothers (and dads). I was fortunate that we were able to save in advance before both of our children were born, so I could afford to take the 12 weeks through FMLA with 7 weeks being unpaid. I didn’t want to use my PTO, since I knew I’d need that for sick days and daycare closings once I returned to work. I know many families that couldn’t afford it and the mothers had to go back much sooner than they were ready for. Let’s be honest, even 12 weeks is too short. It’s so hard leaving a 12 week old with someone else.

    My employer also provides a nice, clean office with a mini fridge to pump in. I appreciate it, since smaller companies don’t have to do this and I’ve heard pumping horror stories from some moms that work in those places. I would love to see improvements in this area, but feel like it will be a long time before (if we ever) make strides in this area. I hope though!

    Reply
  • Tim Allen June 4, 2013, 2:03 pm

    I’m curious if GM extends these benefits to ALL of their workers, down to the food plant employees? Kind of a rhetorical question–you may not know. But I know some of these megacorps have fantastic benefits at HQ, but they don’t extend to the low-wage jobs on the line. Great post though; I’d like to see more of these benefits in the US.

    Reply
    • Caitlin June 4, 2013, 2:05 pm

      That is an EXCELLENT question and one that I didnt think to ask. I’ve asked GM to weigh in on some of these comments, so I’m sure they can provide us with more info.

      Reply
    • Sam June 4, 2013, 2:46 pm

      Great question. In some large companies like GM, some of their employees might also be union and therefore don’t receive the same benefits as the corporate employees. And the hourly line workers often times don’t get the same benefits as the salaried employees. It would an interesting fact to know.

      Reply
      • Irina June 4, 2013, 3:53 pm

        I was going to ask exactly the same question. The workplace amenities (on-site day care, pumping facilities, etc) are generally only offered at the headquarters. (I have some expereince with large food manufactureres) and not at the plan level. No daycare or places to pump there, at least not a few years back. The company benefits you describe are most likely offered to all salaried employees, but in food manufacturing many plants are unionized and then the benefits, etc. depend on union agreements. I am not an expert in this area at all, nor do I know the union percentage for General Mills. Those are all good questions to ask them. Also, what they offer at the corporate level is very standard for many large (national) companies in many industries (2 week paternity paid leave, adoption assistance, suport and benefits to the same-sex partner, etc) – and these are a bare minimum. Good for them for offering this, but they are not unique or pioneering here by a long shot.

        Reply
        • Steph June 4, 2013, 8:32 pm

          I work in manufacturing, and my company has both union and non-union facilities. I’ve found from speaking with legal and personnel that for the non-union facilities, the benefits are same for wage and salaried/corporate, but at the union plants, the benefits are set up through negotiations with the union. Probably, GM is similar.

          Reply
  • Christina June 4, 2013, 2:05 pm

    I am about to go out on maternity leave for my first child in the next few weeks. The company that I work for allows you (if you qualify) to take up to 6 months of leave for the birth of your child. However, none of this is guaranteed paid leave.

    I would also like to point out that you have to qualify for FMLA leave before your company is obligated to grant you FMLA leave. You must work for the company for at least one year and also meet a minimum hours worked requirement within that year.

    My company does grant me (because I qualify) 2 weeks of paid parental leave, which is above what they are required to give me. I will then be able to use my sick and vacation time to cover the last 10 weeks of my leave. I have not taken a vacation in 2 years in anticipation of this leave. I also have short term disability that will pay me about 5 weeks of my salary after I have my baby (this is also tax-free money that I will not have to claim as income).

    I will be returning to work after 12 weeks. My husband is taking 2 weeks off and they will be paid, but he has to use all of his personal and vacation time in order to stay on payroll. The main reason I will go back after 12 weeks and not take more time is because I would have to start paying the full cost of my benefits after 12 weeks.

    I am a huge women’s/family rights advocate. However, I also don’t think that the government should be responsible for paying my salary while I am out on leave. I also don’t know what I think about companies being mandated to pay salaries of people out on leave for months and months. Let’s be honest, they would find a way to pass this expense on to their customers and employees. I work in HR and I think it is really important for everyone to consider the benefits a company is offering before accepting employment with them. It is also a great idea to plan ahead as much as possible if you are planning a family (i.e. sign up for short-term disability, bank your vacation time, pad your savings account).

    Reply
    • Stacy K. June 4, 2013, 4:47 pm

      I have to agree with you Christina, but we are probably in the minority.

      I don’t believe it is the governments responsibility to cover an individuals salary while out on leave. I had a baby recently and do not qualify for FMLA due to working for a very small non-profit, but when I accepted the job 5 years ago, part of the benefits package was being able to take up to 3 months of leave for birth or adoption, which (partially) influenced my decision to accept the job. It worked out really great for my family I actually took 4 months off and used vacation, sick time and private disability, but for another staff member they quit after their 3 month leave. This was such a big hardship for our organization due to our size, the amount of money we invested in her while she was out on leave etc.

      I can see that happening a lot more often if companies are forced to provide paid leave, on top of paid benefits, people take advantage of the system and leave small and large companies out to dry.

      I support women’s and family rights, but we need to take responsibility for the choice we make to start a family. Sure we can make FMLA guidelines a bit stricter and require companies to provide time off and hold the job for that individual, but we should not have to pay for people to take time off. What about the people who choose to not have a family, or the people who can’t have babies and can’t afford adoption, or those individuals who have large families and are always taking time off?

      Reply
      • Stacy K. June 4, 2013, 4:50 pm

        Also I know people will argue that taking time off to care for your family is the most important, the extra stress can cause post partum depression and interfere with bonding, but why not save your own money before you have a baby (sure I know accidents happen) but much like you Caitlin who had to get maternity health insurance before you had your baby, you planned. My husband and I saved for two years before we started trying, because I was worried I would lose my job once I started my leave due to working for such a small company. So many people want financial support from others, but don’t take their own financial responsibility seriously.

        Reply
        • Ebernst June 4, 2013, 8:50 pm

          The real issue is that you had to save for 2 years because you were worried that you would lose your job once you started a family. Was you husband concerned about losing his job once you became pregnant or gave birth?

          We as woman shouldn’t have to worry about losing our jobs, delaying our careers, or maintaining a work/home balance once we have children. We shouldn’t have to spend years before we start families worrying about our future finances or the impact it will have on our careers. Unfortunately, this is the current reality we face.

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      • Tracy June 4, 2013, 7:02 pm

        I agree with the two of you. A year maternity leave? Seriously? Of course it would be nice, but it is not everyone else’s responsibility to deal with the consequences of you deciding to have a child. The loss in productivity while your employer is forced to hold your position for you, not to mention the fact that your co workers have to absorb your duties for a year is ridiculous and unfair. Most employers in this country are more than generous and motherhood should not entitle people to government support.

        Reply
        • Leslie June 4, 2013, 7:45 pm

          “Most employers in this country are more than generous” ?! That is a bit out of touch.

          Maternity leave is good for children, which is good for the rest of us – i.e. better future adults. Also, employee satisfaction goes a long way towards creating a better work environment for everyone – including those without children.

          I don’t have kids, but I am happy to pay taxes that support schools (and theoretical parental leave) because it creates a better society for all.

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          • Amanda June 5, 2013, 3:55 am

            One huge problem that no one seems to be considering, is that in many countries that offer large paid maternity leaves, women are less likely to possess high powered jobs. When it comes down to promotions, many bosses promote men over women because the men are less likely to leave for six months. When it comes to really important positions, having an employee leave for half a year is a huge issue. Many times these large maternity leaves actually hurt women.

          • Tracy June 5, 2013, 7:04 pm

            It is not out of touch. Benefits are recruiting tools, not entitlements. Companies should comply with the FMLA law of 12 weeks. Anything above and beyond that would be nice, yes, but should not be forced upon them by government. It is very expensive to have an employee out that long and it is not the employer’s responsibility to subsidize your decision for an entire year! Coworkers are usually okay with absorbing your duties for 12 weeks, but a year? That is not fair to anyone. I gladly pay my taxes to support schools, etc because I do believe that leads to a better society; however, I do not believe that we should be forced to subsidize your personal decision to have a child. If you decide to have a child, plan for it accordingly and if you are not financially able, then don’t do it. It’s personal responsibility.

        • tracey June 4, 2013, 9:20 pm

          Another Tracey chiming in and I have to agree with the first Tracy. I am a bleeding heart liberal myself, yet I don’t feel it is the government’s responsibility to support me or any other female if I decide to have a child. Having a child is a huge responsibility both emotionally and financially, and if you aren’t capable of both, perhaps you should re-consider if it’s the right time. I pay my taxes to support schools and the local infrastructure, my tax dollars shouldn’t also have to go towards funding lengthy stays at home with baby. Just my opinion.

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          • Beth June 5, 2013, 9:35 am

            I wanted to comment on countries with large maternity leave and women not holding as many high powered jobs. My sister lives and works and England where they provide a much longer maternity leave than the US, but she has told me she plans to go back after 6 or 8 weeks due to her job. She can’t afford to be out for the entire maternity leave if she wants to continue to “climb the corporate ladder” so to speak. It maybe nice to have a choice if you are not in the mind set to have a hire powered position, but if you are then you are can’t realistically take advantage of the longer leave.

          • Stacy June 8, 2013, 6:44 am

            Another Stacy agreeing with the other Stacy K., Christina, etc.

            I am a small business owner. While I try to treat my employees like family & be more than fair to them, I do not feel the government should mandate that I must pay an employee for maternity leave. Many business such as my own are struggling to stay afloat these days, and if we had to pay someone who was not at work AND pay someone to do their job on a temporary basis while they are done it just would not be feasible. While proposed laws like these sound great on the surface, they will absolutely kill small business. Many people would respond to this by saying, like healthcare laws, business like mine (with 10-12 employees) will be exempt from this law. In reality, the laws still hurt us because they make it a lot more challenging to “recruit” quality employees to your small business when they could go down the street to the place with 50+ employees and get paid leave. So basically small business still DO have to comply if we want to compete.

            As a few others mentioned, it is a personal decision to have a child and the responsibility should be on us to save and plan. I waited several years longer than I had hoped (in a “perfect world” to begin trying myself so that we could be in the position financially to support a child. I am on the payroll at my company, but when the time comes for my maternity leave I will NOT be paying myself, nor would I have expected it from any other company.

        • Leslie June 6, 2013, 12:08 pm

          I don’t think one considers ‘recruitment tools’ when being hired at Burger King. I continue to think this perspective is out of touch.

          But, hey, agree to disagree :)

          Reply
          • Tracy June 6, 2013, 7:03 pm

            Ok :) I just don’t believe that having a child entitles one to be supported by everyone else. 12 weeks, yes. A year, absolutely ridiculous. Your life, your decision, your responsibility.

      • Jill June 5, 2013, 10:19 am

        I think this an elitist perspective. Choosing a job based on the benefits one company offers over another is a luxury that I would argue a minority of people are able to take advantage of. Most people are happy to have a job at all. As an attorney, I completely drained my savings account taking three months off to care for my son. In the US, not only do we not get paid maternity leave, but I had to give my company a check for my health benefits while I was on paid time off and I still had to pay my 800.00 a month student loan payment. It was tremendously difficult and I have the benefit of an education and a decent income. I cannot imagine what someone who just making ends meet would do. Should having a child and properly caring for that child in its first months of life be off limits to a person of lesser means?

        Reply
        • Caitlin June 5, 2013, 10:22 am

          I agree with Jill. The ability to save 3 months worth of income is something that is only feasible for a small percentage of the population.

          Reply
          • Susan June 9, 2013, 8:20 am

            Your husband has a small business. If he had a few vital employees that are critical to day to day operations, could he afford what you are advocating? Think about it.

          • Caitlin June 9, 2013, 10:19 am

            Question already answered :)

        • Rachel June 5, 2013, 10:53 am

          I agree with Jill. Sure it’s great if you are in the position to pick and choose your job based on the benefits package. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could interview for jobs, recieve multiple offers and then make a decision? I started a new job last year, sent out nearly 100 resumes, received calls for 5 measly interviews (and I have a masters degree and great experience) and was offered only 2 jobs, 1 of which didn’t pay enough leaving me with ONE option. One that I love, paid enough, and luckily was offered. Benefits were the last thing I was able to consider when I had been out of the country for the previous year and then upon returning, unemployed for 3 months. I was lucky to find a job when I did.

          Reply
          • Christina June 5, 2013, 1:57 pm

            I understand that not everyone has the luxury of finding and taking a job with good benefits. I also don’t believe you should have to be middle/upper middle class in order to have a child. However, why should it land on taxpayers and the government to fund parental leaves?

            I too have large monthly student loan payments. It took me 2 years after graduating college to land my first full-time job. My husband and I have worked very hard to put ourselves in a situation where we feel like we can provide for our children in the way we desire to.

        • AK June 6, 2013, 11:29 pm

          I’m a little late to the party here and I know this is going to be a lot off topic but I don’t think it’s fair to throw in that you can’t save money because of student loans. I come from a family that was well below the poverty line from the moment I was born. I wasn’t set up with college funds and savings. I worked my butt off, three jobs in high school (along with any babysitting job I could get + competition sports that I wanted to do), three jobs in undergrad + student research, and between 3-4 jobs in grad school + internships. The entire time I took 18-24 credits. Did it suck sometimes and did I have to skip out on some vacations, parties, and sleep? Yes! But, I came out with an immense amount of experience, a small amount of loans that I could pay off in a year, and I was still able to pay all my bills while saving up and enjoy my life all while still living below the poverty line as I came out of grad school right as the market crashed in 2008. I don’t feel like I missed out on my life for working that much, it’s the opposite actually. I feel like I was really living as I was really working towards exactly what I wanted. School beyond K-12 is a choice, a necessary one for sure in this day and age, but still a choice. Law school, med school, and grad school are all choices. I know so many people who didn’t go on beyond K-12 and make 2-3x’s as much as I do with three advanced degrees. I’m in a better financial position now and have a job I absolutely love at an amazing employer but I would have easily been able to “properly care” for a child and family as a “person of lesser means”. I am/was responsible for myself and live extremely consciously.

          All that off topic stuff being said, I cannot have children for medical reasons even though it’s what I want more than anything else in the world and I am always having to pick up slack and work extra hours to make up for all the women on maternity leave with no compensation for the work (which, frankly, is emotionally very painful when these women come in and complain constantly about being home alone with the baby or how hard it is; I don’t doubt for one second that it is, but it is hard to hear on the other side). I was actually told by my boss that I better make sure I don’t get married or become pregnant because the work would never get done otherwise and with everyone else taking off for maternity leave, they couldn’t afford another person out of the office. I fully support maternity (and paternity) leave and support for mothers, babies, children, and families but I don’t think it fully falls on government and company responsibility. I wanted an education, a house, a car, a cat, and a dog. I worked for it and paid for it. I want a family. I’m working for that too (adoption someday, hopefully). It’s a choice, just like deciding to start a family. It’s not “elitist” to think that people can save money. I KNOW times are tough, I’ve been living through that but most families can do it. I say “most” as I do know that there are many people who are worse off than I ever was and I am and have always been supremely thankful for everything I’ve ever had in my life.

          Reply
          • Susan June 9, 2013, 8:24 am

            Bravo!!!!

    • Marcia June 5, 2013, 12:30 am

      I have to disagree somewhat. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be responsible, but expecting everyone to save up for years before having children suggests that only the middle and upper classes should have children.

      I live in California. I am entitled to 22 weeks of maternity leave, 4 weeks before and 18 after. Ten weeks are covered by state disability at about 60%, which we pay into with taxes. The next six are paid family leave, about the same percentage, and men are eligible for these six weeks of pay too. Te important thing is that it’s paid for by taxes. It doesn’t come from the companies, nor does it come from general taxes. It’s simply disability taxes.

      I used six weeks of PFL with my first child and three with my second, and my husband used six weeks with the first. I’ve worked in Cali and paid SDI taxes for 16 years and my spouse for 18 years. So all in all, it works because we pay more than we use for the most part. It’s disability taxes too, so it’s the same bucket as illness and injury, and family leave can be used for things other than baby bonding.

      Reply
    • Megan June 5, 2013, 11:07 pm

      I’m glad I am not the only person who thinks it should not be the governments responsibility for pay your salary while out on maternity leave! I work at a hospital with a about 4000 employees. I knew I was going to be trying to get pregnant and started saving my PTO/sick leave as soon as I accepted my job. It took 3 months after I took my job to get pregnant. I also signed up for short term disability. I qualified for FMLA. I ended up choosing to come back after 11 weeks in order to keep a little PTO available if I needed it.

      I was able to continue breast feeding/pumping with no problems. Even without a designated pumping room. ;)

      I don’t think expecting Americans to have a teensy bit of responsibility for our own actions is offensive.

      Reply
      • Marissa C June 12, 2013, 12:35 am

        I used to be mightily pissed about the lack of maternity leave we have in the US (though my company offers excellent benefits)

        Then I realized the difference…tax rates. The money has to come from somewhere. My boss (Italian who worked in Germany and then in the US) said she was actually taxed more as a woman in Germany because she could get pregnant.

        So I don’t really know what the answer is.

        Reply
  • Rachel June 4, 2013, 2:06 pm

    Thanks so much for this informative post. It’s wonderful to hear that employers are moving towards offering better maternity/paternity benefits to new parents! I work for a mid-size university in Tennessee, where FMLA allows for up to 16 weeks – unpaid. My employer requires employees to take their sick and vacation leave first (paid) and then use FMLA time. My daughter was born in Septermber 2012, and I returned to work in early January. Thankfully, I saved some of my FMLA time as my daughter starting daycare in January meant that she was sick on and off for two months (and consequently, so was I!) and I ended up having to use my remaining FMLA time (we accumulate sick and vacation days each month). My husband had to use vacation time after our daughter was born and stayed home with us for about a week and a half.

    I’m still breastfeeding at 8.5 months, and I am SO thankful every day to have a private office where I can pump and very understanding coworkers. We also have a lactation room on campus for those employees (and students!) with no office and it looks nothing like the rooms at GM!

    Reply
  • Katie June 4, 2013, 2:20 pm

    Ahh, I hope you enjoyed the rest of your time in Minnesota! When I started reading blogs it was yours and Kath’s that I first found.

    Reply
  • Ashley O. @ The Vegetable Life June 4, 2013, 2:21 pm

    This is an issue that I am super passionate about seeing as how I have a 6 month old at home, and had to go back to work at 8.5 weeks post-partum. Working in RI, I got 80% pay through disability insurance for 6 weeks, the other 2.5 weeks was unpaid. We barely could get by with that, I would have had to go back to work IMMEDIATLY after giving birth if it was all unpaid. The whole U.S. system on maternity/paternity leave really upsets me because I feel it is causing me to have to make sacfrices in regards to the most important part of my life … my family. My husband was able to schedule his 1 week of paid vacation around the birth, aside from that he could not take any more time off without losing his job. In the end, it all worked out, but I would have loved the opportunity to spend more time focusing on our new family.

    As for my life at work now, there is a “lactation suite” which is great and it provides a comfy place to sit, a sink, a microwave, and fridge for pumping and working mama’s. All I have to do is reserve the room online and its mine for whatever amount of time I need. My bosses have been semi-understanding too…

    I am impressed with General Mills, yes they could improve their benefits even more… but compared to most US companies they seem ahead of the curve!

    Reply
  • Stephanie June 4, 2013, 2:23 pm

    I think paid maternity is a great idea, but it is also a benefit. I don’t think the government should mandate that a company pay for you to be off when you have children. It is your choice to have children, not your companies.

    My work has a 12 week maternity leave, which is wonderful, but I don’t think it should be required. Companies offer great benefits to attract great workers, not because they are forced to. Yes, it would not be fun to have 12 weeks (or however long) of no compensation, but you need to save up for that time during your pregnancy.

    Some smaller companies cannot afford it, just like Obamacare.

    Reply
    • Katheryn June 4, 2013, 5:20 pm

      I echo Stephanie’s sentiments. Paid maternity and paternity leave is a wonderful thing, and very important to families and society as a whole. However, I don’t think it’s the government’s responsibility and they shouldn’t force companies to pay for this. Luckily, more and more companies are coming to understand the importance and are doing it themselves. The benefit to living in a republic is that we can help make the changes by talking to our employers.

      Reply
    • Gabriela June 7, 2013, 12:43 pm

      How is it not in the government’s best interest to allow for it’s citizens to procreate?
      How is not in the government’s best interest to allow for parents to raise future contributing citizens of society?
      How is not in everyone’s interest to make the lives of those that chose to procreate a little bit easier?
      You do know that procreation IS necessary right? (without getting into the whole overpopulation issue).
      What if everyone chose not to have kids because it’s too much of a strain? We would have an increasingly aging society. Do you realize that the babies of today are the adults of tomorrow?

      Reply
  • Sunny June 4, 2013, 2:33 pm

    Yep, the leave policies are crazy.

    My first baby is due in September and I don’t have short term disability, so I’ll be taking 4 weeks of built-up (I’ve been here 3 years) paid leave (sick and vacation) and 4 weeks of unpaid leave, I intend to breastfeed but going back after 8 weeks is going to make it tricky.

    Reply
  • Hope June 4, 2013, 2:33 pm

    About Obamacare requiring a space and time for employees to pump…that is only required if your company has the miniumum amount of employees (I think 20). Small companies can be exempt. The company I work for wouldn’t have been required to provide it but I didn’t end up needing to pump.

    I got 8 weeks unpaid. I saved up my vacation time so that I could use that for 2 weeks. My husband was able to schedule a 3 week vacation after our son was born.

    Reply
  • Sara June 4, 2013, 2:35 pm

    Please! I beg you to do some research on how cereal is made and to quit spreading the notion that cereal is a “really nutritious” breakfast option (while linking to a website created by GM). The process of making cereal (called extrusion) renders the grains as toxic proteins with absolutely zero nutrition in them – hence why all cereals must be “fortified” with vitamins and minerals. Cereal also isn’t cheap to buy, although it’s super cheap for food manufacturers to produce. A bowl of real oatmeal is much cheaper and infinitely healthier…so for you to write that not all people can afford (or have time, or have access, etc) to eat real food is a line that seems like it was said to you during your day at GM. That’s great that GM offers such great benefits to working parents, but please don’t drink the kool-aid and spread the lies that any of the products they make are either “food” or “nutritious.”

    More about the cereal manufacturing process:
    http://www.consumerhealth.org/articles/display.cfm?ID=20011005222648

    Reply
    • Erin June 4, 2013, 6:46 pm

      Sara – Appreciate your perspective. Employee of General Mills and very proud of the cereals we make. Caitlin, I know you saw this video when you visited, but thought it would be helpful to share: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nu7wXA3XERA. Hope you enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look at how we make cereals like Cheerios.

      Reply
      • Sara June 5, 2013, 10:54 am

        Regardless of how proud you are of the cereals, it still doesn’t negate the fact that the process of making cereal (all cereals, organic or not) creates an unhealthy finished product loaded with added sugar and flavors. I appreciate that you are proud of your employer, but that doesn’t mean they make nutritious food.

        Reply
        • Heather June 5, 2013, 2:58 pm

          I have to agree with Sara, cereal is one of the worst things a parent could feed their child (or themselves.) Don’t take my word for it…take your blood sugar after eating cereal (any kind of cereal) and see how it spikes. That is not good for the body. Add in GMO corn, soy etc, artificial colors, and copious amounts of HFC’S and you have a recipe for disaster. The sad thing is that people actually believe that it’s healthy to feed kids that kind of stuff. You might as well give your kid a candy bar or something in the AM. And Erin, I’m sorry that you work for a company that thinks it’s ok to market Trix and the like as a whole-grain healthy option in the morning. Sorry, not buying it.

          Reply
        • Mary June 5, 2013, 7:36 pm

          I agree with you Sara. I actually think cereal is one of the most expensive breakfast options out there! I’m a poor starving grad student, and I never buy cereal due to the price (especially name brands, such as those made my GM).

          Depending on the grocery store, cereal is at LEAST $3-4 a box, if not more. Oatmeal is a great example of a cheaper, more nutritious food.

          Reply
          • Erin June 7, 2013, 12:04 am

            Forums like this are great for discussion – helpful to hear the different perspectives. I do feed my kids cereal every day, and I know it’s one of the best choices we can make. In the busy morning, I need to know my kids will eat something I can feel good about that’s going to get them through their morning (I think we all agree breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day). When it comes to Big G cereals (my choice, of course, as I work for General Mills), I feel great knowing that my kids’ bowl of cereal provides at least 10 grams of whole grain per serving. With 95% of Americans not getting the recommended amount of whole grain in their diet AND Cereal being the number one source of whole grain, I wish more people would choose cereal (rather than some of the choices they are making). I am proud of my company for constantly working to make our cereals more nutritious. As far as price, it seems like at my local Target we typically pay around $3 a box for the Big G cereals we choose. Add in the cost of milk, it’s somewhere around 50 cents a serving – not bad for a choice packed with nutrients like vitamin D, calcium and iron, lower in calories and sugar than a lot of breakfast options….and our cereals do not have high fructose corn syrup. Even better, you should see the smile on my boys’ faces when they get to pour their own bowl in the morning…happiness.

  • Sam June 4, 2013, 2:43 pm

    I live in California, so I took a 6 week maternity disability and a 6 week paid family leave. These leaves pay for up to 65% of your salary (given that you pay into social security). When I returned to work, I pumped in my private office and my boss gave me an office refrigerator to store milk.

    The idea of paid leave for new parents is a tricky one. While a large company like GM might be able to afford these types of benefits to new parents, what about your small or medium size business? For example, as a small business owner, could your husband afford to pay the salary of a new parent for 12 weeks for the birth of a child?

    Reply
    • Caitlin June 4, 2013, 2:46 pm

      We have talked about this a lot! Could we afford 12 weeks paid? Maybe. But it would take a serious toll on our personal finances. Could we afford to do partial paid leave? definitely. It’s a price I would pay because as business owners, I feel like I have a responsibility to provide some sort of paid family leave on principle. We haven’t had to address this issue yet, but when the time comes, I know we will give our employee the most paid time we can afford.

      Reply
      • Sam June 4, 2013, 3:44 pm

        Thanks for your response. I know, it is such a hard thing to think out. My husband owns a small business and it would be very difficult to pay out leave for one employee. And if there are two, three, four employees that go out–well that would be impossible. Especially considering that a company likely has to bring in a temp or contractor and essentially you’d be paying 2 salaries at one time. That is why I have a hard time considering that it be a law as I don’t really want the government meddling in our business decisions.

        I suppose that is why the 50 employee policy is in effect. Still, it is a poor policy as the number of employees a company has does not necessarily equate to the net revenue the company brings in.

        Reply
      • Brittany June 5, 2013, 1:14 pm

        Isn’t it great that you are able to choose whether you could afford to pay some, all or none of an employee’s maternity/paternity leave? If it was mandated by government then it wouldn’t matter if it took a toll on your personal finances, you’d have to do it. And then what if you paid for 3 months of leave, then the person quit? That could be a devastating position for small companies.
        I tend to echo the sentiment that it isn’t the government’s responsibility to cover these expenses and am happy to see companies stepping up and offering more expansive coverage for maternity/paternity leave on their own, making them more competitive in the job market.
        I do love the real discussion this post has sparked and enjoy reading different perspectives!

        Reply
        • Caitlin June 5, 2013, 1:54 pm

          I love it too!

          It’s hard because this is definitely one of those circumstances where how you want it to be and how it works is so different. I’d love it if FLMA applied to all workers but as a small biz owner I can see how it would literally bankrupt some companies. That being said, I think other countries pay women with a combo of company and federal money, which woul be more realistic.

          Reply
    • Irina June 4, 2013, 4:08 pm

      Just a small clarification: I live in CA as well, and in CA you get short term disability only if you company and you contribute to SDI, not just Social Security, which is federal. I am thankful every day to be having my children in CA, where I get 6 weeks
      (8 for c-section) disability plus 6 weeks of CA family leave, all paid at some percentage of my salary. The SDI is also not taxable (I am almost certain that it is deducted after taxes) and CA family leave is not taxable for CA, which is awesome. The company I work for is very small, so there is no paid leave and FMLA obligations of any kind, and I have to pay for my own health care when I am not earning my paycheck, but at least they are nice enough to hold my place for me. I think that some sort of SDI is necessary nation-wide. As much as I feel for small businesses, there have to be some kind of requirement to at least not “fire” me or provide health care instead of it being completely up to the mercy of the business owners. We, women, as employees of the small businesses, contribute to the business’ profitability and overall well being, and it is fair to be getting some guarantees that our jobs are at least going to be there and our health is not terminated. I am Ok with the state paying me for my leave and not my company, since I contributed for years to SDI and only need it with my 2 kids (second due in a few weeks), but I would like a firmer guarantee on my employment.

      Reply
  • Rachel June 4, 2013, 2:49 pm

    Living in Canada, I’m always surprised to hear that people are excited for same-sex parental leave. Here, it’s just a given! I wasn’t working when I gave birth but my husband took 9 weeks fully paid leave (through his company) and could have taken 34 weeks (I believe) through our Canadian Employment Insurance, but that wouldn’t have been fully paid. He could take his leave any time during the first year, and took it when our daughter was 6 months. It was amazing to see him bond with her at a slightly older age than newborn. I loved that flexibility of the leave, that it didn’t have to be immediately after birth. We were able to have a lot more fun as a family during that time than if he had taken it while I was recovering from a c-section!

    Reply
    • Rebecca June 18, 2013, 9:19 pm

      I’m from Canada too, but my husband wasn’t able to take any time off – his employer (he is a teacher) offers zero top off or any paid time off, and because he is at the top of his salary a 55% EI payment would actually be closer to 25% of his income. I make no where near his salary, so its not like me going back would have made a difference.

      Reply
  • Erin June 4, 2013, 2:51 pm

    I got zero pay during my maternity leave. My job does let mothers take off up to one year (instead of the FMLA 12 weeks) while holding your job for you. My husband did not get any time off (he use vacation).
    My sister works for a (very) large investment bank and got 3 months full pay. Her husband did not get any paternity leave.
    Most doctors require you to be out for 6 weeks, so I feel that employers should at least pay mothers for that amount of time.
    I think this is a really important topic, thanks for the post!

    Reply
  • Amanda June 4, 2013, 3:09 pm

    Great post, this was really interesting! Most people don’t realize how bad rights are in America until they have a child and can’t afford to take leave! And this is really interesting to see General Mills being so family friendly :)

    Reply
  • Cristina June 4, 2013, 3:12 pm

    I will get 12 weeks at 100% of salary (California pays a portion through SDI, and my employer makes up the difference). My husband should get 6 weeks at 55% of salary through the state’s Paid Family Leave program, which I didn’t know existed until very recently! Although it’s obviously the responsibility of the individual to look into the benefits they are entitled to, I wish that the state advertised these benefits a bit more. I would love to see a benefit for childcare.

    Reply
  • Lyn June 4, 2013, 3:23 pm

    I work for a large publisher in NYC. I have not had a child yet, but certainly asked about marternity benefits before I accepted my position. Time Inc. provides 12 weeks of fully paid maternity leave, and I believe (memory fuzzy on this) 80% for 4 weeks after that. Then 60% for another 4. Additionally, I have unlimited paid sick days and 4 weeks vacation time to add on. Lastly, we also have a free daycare in our building that you can use up to twice a month for backup care or Holidays that your child may have off from school. They also help with at home care for dependants in emergency situations.

    I am very happy to have such a baby friendly office enviroment!

    Reply
  • Ashley June 4, 2013, 3:32 pm

    As a Government employee, I was very disappointed to find out that we don’t qualify for any paid leave (other than accrued sick/vacation leave). We are entitled to the 12 weeks unpaid FMLA. I don’t have kids yet, but it certainly doesn’t give me much incentive to continue there after I have kids. My husband is also allowed to take 12 weeks unpaid FMLA. Should you be entitled to paid maternity leave as a Government employee? It always comes back to what the taxpayer is willing to pay (myself included). I do think it’s interesting that larger companies (even Government contractors, that the Government indirectly funds) can offer paid maternity leave, but the Government civilians themselves aren’t entitled to the same care.

    Let’s be honest though, with us being furloughed in a month (and my husband being a Government employee equating a 20% across the board paycut), morale in general isn’t very high right now. Yes, I’m STILL thankful for my job. But, do you have to be happy with it to be thankful to have a job? That’s a tough question when you’re facing inevitable cuts. Personally, we’ve been financially planning for me to stay home after we have kids. So the difference in paid vs. unpaid maternity leave really just turns into us putting it off another 3 months to bank the difference.

    Reply
    • Tim Allen June 4, 2013, 4:29 pm

      I also was astonished that there is no maternity or paternity leave with a Federal position. You can use built-up time or FMLA. Since many positions require a high level of education, I know many PhD’s who had to use FMLA or LWOP because they hadn’t accured enough hours and enter the workforce later on. These, of course, are all choices made by the individual, but I wouldn’t mind having a little more taken out of my paycheck to cover this type of leave.

      Reply
    • Rachel June 4, 2013, 4:56 pm

      I was just speaking with a friend who is a federal employee, and I was surprised when she mentioned that there’s no paid leave (maternity or short-term disability) for federal employees. She said that it may be related to the generous sick leave policy that she accrued…? I know at my previous employer, we had 5 sick days and they did not roll over. She made it sound like that was not the case for a federal employee. Is that your experience? (P.S. This, of course, does not in any way make the furloughs easier. I’m sorry that is happening to you.)

      Reply
      • Beth June 5, 2013, 9:45 am

        I am a State employee and it is the same, no paid leave for FMLA. You can use your own sick and annual leave, but they do allow for leave sharing. Other employees from accross state agencies can donate leave to you for use while on FMLA. This was amazing for us since our son was born 6 weeks early and in the NICU for 3 weeks after. I had to use all my sick and annual leave right away and then other employees donated over 480 hours (12 weeks) so I did not have any unpaid leave. It’s not guaranteed pay, but at least it is an option.

        Reply
        • Ashley June 5, 2013, 11:16 am

          We DO have good paid sick leave, 13 days a year that can roll over, so there is the option to “save up” to be paid while you’re out when you have a child. My coworker saved up her sick time for 9 years and was able to use 12 weeks of sick time when she had a child. However, this also encouraged her to come to work when she had colds and other sicknesses which got other people sick. However, in order to take 12 weeks of paid sick leave, you’d have to not take a single sick day for 4.5 years. I had to take a week off in December because I had the flu that was going around and was highly contagious (caught from a sick coworker!). That’s 5 of my 13 days off a year there that I was required to stay home by the doctor. Sure, I could have pushed through and come in (and infected my entire office at the same time!) in order to save my sick leave. But that’s part of the issue I think. Plus, I felt like I was dying and couldn’t get off the couch anyway.

          They do allow leave transfer programs in our organization, but to be perfectly honest, the people that have used it here have had cancer and had to be out for long amounts of time for chemo (6 months plus). Personally, when the other people that have requested leave are people that are fighting for their lives, I would feel bad requesting a leave transfer for having a baby (unless I was on bedrest for an extended time or had a child in NICU or with other serious health problems that required me to be out longer than anticipated). I guess it just depends on the situation, but we don’t have that many women in our office that are of baby-making age. I’m sure it’s more common in offices with a younger demographic than mine.

          I’m trying to think if furloughs as just working a part-time job. :) It helps a little bit. Haha.

          Reply
  • Rebecca June 4, 2013, 3:44 pm

    I have no clue how much time my mom (and dad?) got off when I was born or whether it was paid or not, but I was an emergency C-section and was in the hospital for nearly three months after birth, during which time my parents could only afford/make it work to come see me on weekends.
    That was also 22 years ago, so policies have probably changed.

    I drove past the exit for GM a lot on my way to/from school in the Cities. And I was still at school a couple of weeks ago–wish I’d known you were in town! Not keeping up with my Twitter updates as much lately, oops. :)

    Reply
  • Verna June 4, 2013, 3:47 pm

    I don’t really think it’s the government or my employers responsibility to pay for my maternity leave. They didn’t decide to have a child, I did, therefore it should be my responsibility. You have 9 months (in most cases) to prepare for the expenses that come with birth and maternity leave. Sure it’d be nice for more companies to offer support but I don’t really think it’s there problem either.

    Reply
    • Kelsie June 5, 2013, 3:46 am

      It’s definitely is ‘there’ (their, for the record) problem. I think a lot of people have misconstrued views of what is owed. I am proudly child free and intend on staying that way for a long time to come, but attitudes like this are where the problem lies.

      If the government can afford half of the BS they pay for, and the US is supposed to be the top dog, I find it disgusting there aren’t laws in place to help families adjust after bringing a child into the world.

      I feel the fact that it’s never been available to people of all ages, educational backgrounds, races and employment statuses makes it harder for people such as yourself to accept that it most definitely should be a given.

      Reply
      • Cam June 6, 2013, 11:32 am

        “If the government can afford”… The government can not afford what it’s paying for right now. The United States is in a ridiculous amount of debt.

        Reply
      • Jackie June 6, 2013, 9:21 pm

        But why is it the governments responsibility? They are not requiring you to have a child so why should they be required to help support you?

        I wish that businesses do the right thing, but I don’t think it is the national governments responsibility to support new families after having children. It is the kcal communities’, families, and people who brought the child into the world responsibility to adjust to having a new child. I’d much rather see public classes that were free that helped prepare new families for children rather than the government paying for new children.

        Reply
        • Gabriela June 7, 2013, 12:52 pm

          I love that some people keep repeating that it’s not the government’s responsibility if you decide to have a child. What the heck? IT IS. The government is interested in making sure we are pumping out as many kids as we need to avoid the consequences of having an aging society.
          Why do you think there are some countries with decreasing populations that offer actual money for couples that decide to have kids?
          Overpopulation aside, people actually have to have kids. Is that all you think kids are for? shits and giggles? They are going to be adults one day, ya know?
          Sorry to break it to you but.. everyone eventually gets old and die.

          Reply
    • Anne June 7, 2013, 12:12 pm

      It’s a SOCIAL responsibility.

      Reply
  • Brandy June 4, 2013, 3:48 pm

    This is a huge issue for me. We tried for years and years to get pregnant and then turned to adoption. I was eligible for fmla, but all that my company gave was one week parental leave. When I used all of the vacation and sick time that they let me use, I had four weeks paid leave. Has I given birth, in the same situation I would have had eight weeks paid (they give birth mothers three weeks paid leave and allow them to use 100% of accrued sick time as opposed to the half that I got). Also I would have gotten six weeks short term disability pay. I was not happy about returning to work at four weeks, but there was nothing I could do about it, especially considering all the money we had spent on failed fertility treatments and then adopting.

    It should be a crime how this country treats new parents. To spout all the talk about family values, our government/companies sure don’t do anything to support it. There are some exceptions, but on the whole parents (and especially mothers) get a raw deal here.

    Reply
    • Kelsie June 5, 2013, 3:47 am

      Brandy, I’m so sorry to hear about your struggles as an adoptive parent. I dream one day of adopting and it’s sickening to hear that as an adoptive parent you’re treated so differently. In my opinion, you’re a hero.

      Reply
  • Suzy June 4, 2013, 3:48 pm

    My husband and I work together for the same small company here in North Carolina. We were in the unique situation where I am the first employee to be pregnant and need maternity leave. So me and my boss kind of just made it up, but since we are a small company I was limited as well.

    I got 1 week paid maternity leave (since I had only been there just over a year), and I used my vacation for the other week. I then took a unpaid week off. My husband also got a paid week off and used his vacation. He was able to work from home for a couple weeks. For 3 weeks I was able to work part time at home. At that point I could’ve kept working part time from home, but I wouldn’t have the help from my husband, so I went back to work at 6 weeks with the baby in day care. Kind of a bummer, but at the same time, I had the opportunity to be flexible and also have my husband work from home.

    As far as pumping, I don’t have the room at the moment. We work inside a building with lots of small oddly shaped offices with walls that don’t reach the ceilings. So I go upstairs to the nice bathroom. We are getting a new office soon and I will have place to pump there. It’ll be apart of a storage room, but I really don’t mind. Again, pros and cons of a small company!

    Reply
  • Emily June 4, 2013, 3:49 pm

    Such an important post! We’re still a year or so away from really considering starting a family, but this issue has been on my mind a lot lately. At the moment, my company does not offer any paid leave. However, I LOVE where I work and we have many other benefits that are great, so it’s really a downfall. We had about 3 new babies born this year and the mothers have had the luxury to bring their kids in when needed, rooms to pump or nurse, and flexible work from home set ups. However, they were all back to work within a month or so of birth!!

    I would hate to leave my company, but on the other hand, I couldn’t imagine dealing with such a life changing experience and instead of enjoying every moment, worrying about finances and work at the same time.

    Just for reference, my husbands company offers 2 weeks PAID leave for spouses/significant others. While I think that’s really great given what the minimum is, I find it a bit backwards in our situation that if we’re still at the same companies when we start our family, I will not be paid while I am the one giving birth.

    Thanks, as always, for bringing up an important discussion! <3

    Reply
  • Nicole June 4, 2013, 3:59 pm

    I agree with a previous comment that suggested that you should at least have paid time off for the 6 weeks (8 weeks for c-section) that doctors want you out of work for. To those who say that it’s not the government’s responsibility, I think that moms, dads, and babies would be much happier and healthier if paid time off is offered. Moms might be more inclined to breastfeed and would be offered time to fully recover before having to return to work. The amount of public health benefits, both physical and mental wellbeing, may defray the cost to the government/employer as productivity could be increased when a healthy/happy mom returns to work. It is absolutely absurd that nearly every other country has figured out a way to make this work but the US hasn’t!

    Reply
    • Tiffany Baker June 4, 2013, 6:26 pm

      “I think that moms, dads, and babies would be much healthier and happier if paid time off is offered”

      What? That is ridiculous! Why should your company pay you, while you’re not working, for YOUR choice to have kids? I’d probably be much healthier and happier if the company I worked for paid for my yearly two-week vacations and monthly massages. I want those things so I PAY for them. Just like children, if you want them then YOU pay for them, not your company, not the gov’t- YOU!

      Reply
      • Caitlin June 4, 2013, 6:32 pm

        You do realize that a nation filled with happy children and parents is a better nation for everyone, even those who choose to remain child free, right?

        Reply
        • Cassie June 5, 2013, 2:43 am

          Caitlin, there’s no getting around the fact that in this country, women who choose not to have children are mistreated. We are ridiculed by even our own friends and families. Depending on our jobs, we are frequently forced to work harder, longer, and take on more responsibilities, without an increase in salary/hourly wage, in order to pick up the slack from parents who call off because their kid is sick, leave early to go to their kids’ events, or go on leave after birth. (While white collar workers in big name companies may be replaced by temps while they’re out, blue collar workers are not afforded this luxury. Instead, co-workers often have to pick up the slack, or risk losing their jobs.)

          I agree that it would be nice if parents could take time off to care for their newborns, but pointing out the inequalities heaved upon women without children is perfectly valid. While parents might like to have flex time in order to bond with their children, the rest of us would also benefit from flex time (and/or extra time off for making up for parents), and happier child-free women would also benefit the greater good.

          To add my own piece, I was seriously injured in Spring 2012. I was in incredible pain, every moment of every day, for over 3 months. When I finally got some relief, I still had pain and nerve problems. Over a year later, I’m still dealing with it. Those first 3 months were the worst pain I have ever known, and it was inescapable. I was physically disabled, after becoming accustomed to running and working out almost daily. Understandably, I became depressed. I stopped socializing with my co-workers, both because I was depressed and because doing so was extremely painful.

          At one point, my boss recommended that I take short-term disability leave. But, it would be unpaid. I was seeing specialists every week, having all kinds of tests to figure out WTF was going on, and doing PT twice per week. And she wanted me to go home and sit on my ass for a month or two, and receive no pay while I was at it. I explained that it was not financially possible for me to do that. With my medical bills, it would be impossible for me to forgo any of my salary. And anyway, I was still able to do my job. I was just miserable and in pain while doing it. (I did not have contact with the public, though, so it’s not like it really mattered if I cried sometimes.) When I wouldn’t leave, she said, “If you don’t do it, your department heads can do it for you.” I contacted HR, learned this was not true, and did NOT take unpaid leave. It seemed that she was just trying to get rid of me because I wasn’t outgoing and silly anymore. Constant pain is a bummer like that.

          My point is that if you’re going to crusade in favor of parents and babies, you should take the time to recognize that there are many, many other people who are routinely treated like crap by their employers, in completely legal ways. Many of us did not make the choice to have a condition that could prompt leave, and it’s equally horrible to try and force us to make choices we can’t afford. Perhaps it’s even worse, since we didn’t get 9 months or more to prepare for it.

          Reply
          • Caitlin June 5, 2013, 6:10 am

            I am so sorry this happened to you. One of my close family members is disabled and unable to work, and to watch the system fail my family member has been horrifying. I hope your future is brighter. <3 thanks for sharing your story.

        • Karla June 5, 2013, 6:21 am

          Agreed! I live in Canada, where the government offers nearly a year of paid leave for new mothers. I work full-time, and I don’t plan on having kids (just a personal choice). I have NO issue in my tax money going towards programs like this, and I haven’t heard anyone else who does.

          Reply
          • MelanieF June 6, 2013, 10:19 am

            Canadian here as well! We never had kids but I really have no issue that some of my tax money is going toward programs like this. No one is complaning. I much rather have my tax money go to this than paying for the oh, the mind blowing expenses of people working for the goverment.

        • Carrie June 5, 2013, 6:55 pm

          You do realize a nation filled with happy adults, with and without children, is a better nation for everyone, right?

          I run a small business. 10 employees. I am very responsible with my personal finances – I make monthly payments to pay off my student loan, contribute monthly to a savings account to build up 20% down for my first home , and contribute as much as possible to my retirement account. I plan to save for my children’s college education when I have a child. I live responsibly and make sacrifices in order to be able to do these things – a new pair of shoes is a splurge.

          If I were required to offer 12 weeks PAID time off for maternity leave, I would need to hire a temp for those 12 weeks to cover the work. Thus, I would be paying DUAL salaries for 12 weeks. I would be forced to delay paying off my student loan, prolong saving for a home, and lessen my ability to save for retirement, be unable to save for my children’s college education.
          I would not be happy, I would be stressed. When I have my own children, how is this fair for MY family?

          If I were to not hire a temp, my other employees would have to make up for the missing work. How would this be fair to THEIR children and families?

          Of course I offer 12 weeks maternity leave, unpaid, job guaranteed upon return. This way, I am able to pay my temporary worker the salary that had previously gone to the woman on maternity leave.

          Reply
        • Gabriela June 7, 2013, 12:55 pm

          YES! And that we are all going to get old one day and these “kids” will be our doctors, our nurses, our dentists and that nice little boy at the store that helps you carry your groceries to your car because you are too old to do it yourself.

          Reply
      • Allison June 4, 2013, 6:52 pm

        Besides the fact that, in a decent society, we don’t like to see malnourished, unattended kids roaming the streets, it’s also worth noting that every other “developed” country does not offer paid maternity/paternity leave strictly out of the goodness of their hearts; on the contrary, supporting kids and families makes good economic sense.

        And, to bring this conversation back to “YOU,” please remember that if nothing else, people who are kids today will eventually be paying for your Social Security benefits.

        Reply
        • Shady June 4, 2013, 9:48 pm

          The same way this childfree Canadian is paying for the healthcare, education, safe roads and child benefit that parents and their children receive here? I’m all for paid mat/parental leave (as long as it’s been paid into like is done by Employment Insurance). I’m not for it at a cost of other social programs that make as much economic sense (i.e. the crack down on seasonal workers which includes fisherman, construction crews, and even school employees which is making it more and more difficult for hard working Canadians to get the support they need to get through the low times and pressures them to leave their families and homes behind in search of work).

          Reply
        • Leah June 4, 2013, 10:24 pm

          I have to chime in here too, its a benefit for society, its about putting family first, this builds responsible productive citizens.
          I am in a mommies fb group that has moms from the US and Canada, almost all of the US moms got zero benefit, and gave up breastfeeding long ago, and I can’t say I blame them with the pressures presented with a new baby and work! Canadian women do tend to breastfeed longer and this has a ton of health benefits – again saving money and increasing productivity in the long run.
          Its so short sited to think – I won’t use this so I won’t pay… it benefits the entire society!!! And just to clarify our paid leave in Canada is called “unemployment insurance” we pay into it monthly will working and when you bank so many payable weeks they can be used if you lose your job, but also for maternity/paternity leave. My employer tops this up by choice, so no employer is forced to pay for a maternity leave.

          Reply
        • Gabriela June 7, 2013, 12:59 pm

          Absolutely.
          With that same sentiment, one could argue: why does the government needs to fund meals at public schools? You decided to have a kid, you decided to send him to school, now YOU are responsible for feeding him. wtf?

          People forget that the government’s job to promote and encourage a civilized, healthy, productive society. That includes quality of life and procreation.

          Reply
      • Nina June 4, 2013, 11:25 pm

        I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you actually are paid while you’re on vacation.

        Reply
        • MelanieF June 6, 2013, 10:21 am

          I don’t think that having kids equals being on vacation! Far from that!!

          Reply
      • Amanda June 5, 2013, 4:30 pm

        I feel sorry for you :( What a terrible outlook and comparison.

        Reply
  • Lauren @ The Highlands Life June 4, 2013, 4:15 pm

    I took almost 14 weeks. 5 weeks where I was just paid at 75% of my usual paycheck and 9 weeks of regular pay because I had “banked” so many hours away each paycheck leading up to maternity leave. I’m a RN if that helps. I was working full time before my baby and went back ‘prn’ and won’t get any paid maternity leave next time which sucks.

    My husband is a worship pastor and gets two weeks paid paternity leave with each baby which was/is awesome!!

    Reply
  • Jen June 4, 2013, 4:28 pm

    I think its nice for companies to offer paid leave but it shouldnt be a given. Im all for people having babies but its a choice not a disease or medical condition you are born with that you cannot control. I will admit to feel bitter about all the extra work i put in so a mom or dad can leave to tend to a sick child on a daily basis. Obviously a new born is a huge experience and they need round the clock attention. Support for returning moms is also a great ideo but again should not be mandatory. I guess i have no clue where i am going with this other than to say i dont think it should be a given. Unless maybe i can get an extra week of vacay time too?:) we are way behind on european countries in that regard as well. America has some screwy issues in general that i dont see getting fixed anytime soon.

    Reply
  • Trudy June 4, 2013, 4:48 pm

    I think cereal is delicious. I almost never buy it because I can go through a box in a couple days, so it is definitely a treat for me!

    Question: Are you planning to get a job before Baby HTP 2? Or will you continue to be a SAHM? I don’t have kids yet, but I think when I do it would be nice to stay home the first few years at least. Not sure if it is feasible, though because I am the main bread winner!

    Reply
    • Caitlin June 4, 2013, 5:14 pm

      I have a job now :) I just work part time from home. Ill prob work less when baby number 2 comes.

      Reply
  • Brigid June 4, 2013, 4:53 pm

    I’m in California and work for an employer with more than 50 employees. We get four months of 60% of our salary through disability insurance. I opted for an additional 20% in coverage (it was cheap — only $20 a month). The first part of my leave will include whatever PTO I still have at that point, so I’ll get 100% briefly and then 80% for the rest. I am probably going to take 12 weeks off to get time with the baby and establish breastfeeding, but I’m still fairly new here, so I don’t want to be gone too long. My husband is actually taking the baby’s first year off. He is an actor, so he doesn’t get any leave, but we already basically live on my salary alone, so it shouldn’t be a problem. It seems like the best solution for our family, and he’s so excited to stay at home, and I honestly don’t have any interest in not returning to work.

    As for breastfeeding/pumping, I have no idea what the policies are, but I have a private office and a fridge literally right outside my door, so I will pump at my desk. I frankly don’t plan to ask anyone’s permission, unless they bring it up first.

    Reply
  • Sara June 4, 2013, 4:53 pm

    I work for the state of NC as a teacher (so I’m not concerned about money, right? NC teachers are among the lowest paid educators..) and I took 12 weeks through FMLA. It runs out today, and I am so sad to have to return for three days in order to collect my June paycheck… Even though my paycheck is divided into 12 months, and nobody has to work the last three weeks in June. There are so many hoops to jump through, and in the end I only got paid for the leave days I saved up!

    Reply
  • Hope June 4, 2013, 4:55 pm

    Paid maternity leave is something I am very passionate about, and I was so glad to read a little something here today, because it isn’t discussed as much as it should be!

    Thankfully, I work for a state university, so I was able to use FMLA to spend 3 months with my little one, but I was forced to deplete my sick and vacation leave to do so. So many women aren’t afforded even that luxury, however. I wrote my first letter to the president to voice my opinion that, as a/the leading developed country, we should join the rest of the world in instituting a paid maternity leave. What a perfect addition to the Affordable Care Act!

    Reply
  • cathy June 4, 2013, 4:56 pm

    I got 6 weeks maternity leave with both my kids because I had C sections. We only get 4 if it’s vaginal and we don’t get paid for it at all. I’m in Florida and work for a small family owned company.

    Reply
  • Mandi | No Apathy Allowed June 4, 2013, 4:57 pm

    The issue of family policy and leave is actually a topic I’m writing my PhD on, specifically on it’s impact on women’s health and employment levels. In the countries like Germany (where I live) and Norway, it’s not necessarily viewed as the government “meddling into everyone’s business” — it’s rather understood as a societal priority to take care of women and families. Although I’m American, I just can’t imagine trying to juggle motherhood and my career in the US system.

    Reply
  • Kim June 4, 2013, 5:12 pm

    I’d love to read more about your self-employed maternity ‘leave’ since it’s coming up for me soon!

    Reply
  • Katie P. June 4, 2013, 5:15 pm

    I work for a non-profit business group with only two employees. We had no maternity policy (I’m the first woman to work here) and when I found out that companies with less than 50 employees were not subject fo FMLA it really had me sweating! Luckily my boss is great and said I could take up to 12 weeks if I wanted to, however none of it was paid unless I wanted to use my vacation time. Luckilly I have a great mother-in-law who came down a few times so I could work a few days over my leave and get paid a little bit, but taking that long totally unpaid really put a dent in our finances.

    Reply
  • Rachel June 4, 2013, 5:16 pm

    I worked at a different Fortune 500 company in the Cities when I had my son. We had no official maternity leave, but we used FMLA as our de facto policy. I used 5 days sick leave and had 5 weeks of Short-Term Disability at 60%. I took the full 12 weeks off and offset the loss of income with savings.

    My husband took two weeks off unpaid. It was the best decision; it completely helped with bonding and he plans to do it again with our next kid.

    All of this took some significant planning, of course. I remember when I was doing the math for this, one of the male Directors came up to me and said, “Can you believe that Our Company doesn’t have a paid paternity leave policy?” I remember thinking, What is he talking about? We don’t even have a *MA*ternity Leave Policy, of course we don’t have a paternity policy. Sigh… I realized, it is probably because there weren’t enough child-bearing age women in leadership positions to take a stand on it.

    GM does have a fantastic reputation for both challenging, rewarding work and supporting family. Thanks for the article.

    Reply
  • Lindsay @ Trial By Sapphire June 4, 2013, 5:22 pm

    I love that General Mills supports LGBT rights. So amazing! Thanks for sharing about your experience and opening up the floor to discuss maternity/paternity leave. Have you seen Michael Moore’s “Sicko”? There is a segment about parental leave. When foreigners are told how little paid time off the average American receives after the birth of a child, they are shocked.

    Reply
  • Brynne June 4, 2013, 5:31 pm

    I work for a German company and we get 16 weeks paid leave plus we can do short term disability. Additionally, we can phase back into our work part-time when we come back. Father’s get 2 weeks paternity leave and we have GLBT rights as well. Amazing place to work!

    Reply
  • Charity June 4, 2013, 5:32 pm

    I just finished my mat leave voluntairly early. I live in Canada and we get 50 weeks paid mat leave at 55% of our wages. Which actually worked out to about 400$ less every two weeks so 800% less a month for me.
    I was very glad to have the time off that I did as I had very bad post partum. Not just baby blues. I could not imagine having to be sleep deprived, taking care of a baby, trying to take care of the household, going through postpartum and having to work ontop of it all. It would be way to much. I JUST started feeling like a mom when Alexander turned 7 months. I returned back to work when he was 9.5 months. I was very glad to have this time off however financially it was difficult. We made it by because I breast fed and that we have amazing friends who threw us a diaper party and we had enough diapers to last until he was 9.5 months old! (amazing friends)
    I came back to work for the extra money because we wanted more money for the summer. Hubby could have taken the last 2 months however he chose to stay at work because I was returning so we could have extra money so him going on 55% of our wages would defeat that purpose.
    One thing I wish one of our work places offered is day care or subsudizing child care for us. Even if they did it for the first year after returning to work. For us it would be 600$ a month. We are very lucky that my husband can work 7am-330 and I can work 5pm-130am so one of us can be home with him at all times and not need child care. Not everyone can do that.

    Reply
    • Charity June 4, 2013, 6:49 pm

      800$ less a month not 800% lol that’d be insane!

      Reply
  • Lindsey June 4, 2013, 5:39 pm

    Living in Canada I feel really lucky to get maternity leave benefits. We get 55% of our salary to a max of $40,000 a year. So basically the max you’d get is 55% of $40k, still pretty decent. And we get that for a year. There is some requirements around how long you have to work to receive that payment before going on leave.
    Some companies will top up your pay to 80% plus but that is rare.
    I will take a full year leave in Nov and get the max amount which will be a change financially but still doable for sure.
    We can split leave since the year off is broken into maternity and parental leave. I do not know the exact months of each but basically I could take x number of months for maternity and then my husband could take x number as parental if we decided to.

    Reply
    • Megan June 5, 2013, 11:42 pm

      I don’t see how that seems ideal? I got 100% pay for 11 weeks using the vacation and sick time I had saved for 15 months. I could not have afforded to stay home for 11 weeks if I only made 55%?

      Reply
      • MelanieF June 6, 2013, 10:23 am

        Better 55% than none, which seems to be what most american woman get!

        Reply
  • Elin June 4, 2013, 5:39 pm

    I live in Sweden, and although I don’t have any children yet, I’m grateful to know that I will have access to great parental leave options. Here, the father gets two weeks paid leave directly after the birth (as well as the mother), which I think is really great. The parents can basically split the parental leave as they want, and it is common for the father to stay home with the child for half a year or so after the mother returns to work (the parents have seven years I think to use their leave so they can also use it to lengthen their vacation time with the children).
    Ultimately, I think it’s a matter of family rights, not only the father’s right to paternity leave, or the children’s right to access to their parents, but also women’s rights to spend time with their child without fear of losing their job or not having the means to stay at home with their child. I know that taxes are higher because of it, but this is one of those things that I think is so worth it to the community. I believe this is a social issue, since a lot of the women that can and want to stay at home with their children have to quit their job to do so if they don’t have paid parental leave. Which in turn makes a re-entry into the workforce so much harder, even if they would like to start working again after some time. And this breeds more gender inequality since it is the mother who will most often want to stay at home with the child because of breastfeeding and such. I probably would. I hope this doesn’t sound disrespectful, but I find it really strange that a developed country like the US has such poor parental leave rights. But it’s good that it is moving in the right direction!

    Reply
    • Sarahf June 5, 2013, 2:28 am

      I’m from England, but I live in Japan, and I feel similarly. Having lived in a country where women have pretty good maternity rights, living in one where it’s generally assumed women will become a SAHM (if they didn’t already stop working when they got married, where I live that’s the norm) is quite a shock, especially when there is a huge problem with the declining population. I know a few women in Japan who didn’t have children because their company didn’t offer maternity leave and they couldn’t afford not to work, or simply liked their job and wanted to continue in it. It’s a pretty interesting subject, and so interesting to hear different views on it.

      Reply
  • Heidi June 4, 2013, 6:05 pm

    I ended up leaving my job because there were a. no benefits (they would have held my job for me but that’s it) and b. the PTO policies and benefits are so unfamily friendly at my previous job that it wasn’t worth it to me. There was short term disability which would have covered 6 weeks (or 8 weeks for a cesarean birth) but I opted out when I took the job because I took such a drastic pay cut for the convenience of not commuting to DC anymore.

    I do commend GM for being a bit of a leader in the world of parental rights and benefits, I definitely think that the US has a long ways to go and that this is a conversation that should be more prevalent in the mainstream. It is sad though, that the companies that seem to making headway in this front are the larger companies and it’s the smaller businesses (such as the one i worked for) who aren’t giving their employees benefits they deserve because it’s just too costly. If the government had a policy for this (perhaps to subsidize for smaller businesses?) perhaps it would ease the cost burden on businesses.

    Thanks for posting and sharing with us!

    Reply
  • AJ June 4, 2013, 6:07 pm

    I live in Australia and I did not realise how lucky we are. I am pregnant currently and with my workplace I will get 6 months paid maternity leave, that is 6 months of full pay. My husband gets 3 weeks. We are also paid a ‘baby bonus’ of $5000 when the child is born, to help with costs (this comes from the government. I was always jealous of countries like France and the Netherlands etc that have fantastic maternity options but I did not realise it was so terrible in the US.

    Reply
    • Amanda June 5, 2013, 4:18 pm

      Getting paid to have children is unbelievable to me, as a U.S. Mama. What family values in your country!

      Reply
      • Nina June 6, 2013, 9:55 pm

        Don’t parents get a tax break here for having dependents? That’s definitely a financial benefit.

        Reply
    • Claire June 6, 2013, 4:44 am

      Yeah, another Aussie so thankful of our fantastic social policies. I got 14 week maternity leave at full pay. I took it at half pay to string it out to 28 weeks, then with holiday and long service leave was in the fortunate position to have half pay for about 13 months in total. I don’t agree that maternity leave results in less career opportunities for women. In Australia it is completely illegal to consider a woman’s childbearing in making employment decisions. Also, working parents are entitled to request part time work. Lack of paid maternity leave along with virtually no free public healthcare (it cost me $0 to have my three babies in our excellent public health system) in the US never ceases to amaze me.

      Reply
  • Katherine June 4, 2013, 6:22 pm

    I’m a doctor in Texas in my residency and currently on maternity leave so this post definitely interests me. My son is 4 weeks old and I have to go back when he is 8 weeks old. Four of my weeks were paid thanks to saved vacation and sick days and the other 4 weeks are unpaid. It’s pretty tough not having a paycheck for 4 weeks, but we were expecting it and saved. The issue for me is that since I’m still in training as a resident physician I cannot miss anymore days because I have to complete 33 of 36 months to be board certified. So I’m definitely praying I don’t get pregnant again next year or I will have to extend my training without pay. As for the men in my program there is no paternity leave at all. They are lucky if they are able to save up some of their vacation time and use it. In the hospital we do have lactation/pumping rooms with hospital grade pumps as part of the hospital wanting to appear more breast-feeding friendly. Overall I’d say I have it pretty good, but it sure is going to be tough to leave him at daycare that first day (and I’m sure my first 30 hour shift on call will be even worse…).

    Reply
  • Shelly June 4, 2013, 6:25 pm

    I work for General Mills and was lucky to be part of Caitlin’s visit here :-), and I can tell you the company offers family-friendly programs and resources for all employees. The company works hard to create an inclusive workplace where all employees can thrive and contribute their best to the business. This commitment includes supporting working parents with family friendly programs, benefits and resources. We have robust work-life-balance offerings available to employees at all locations, as well as unique programs tailored specifically for our headquarters and plant locations. The specific programs and benefits may differ, but the commitment to creating an inclusive culture remains the same.

    Reply
    • CM June 4, 2013, 8:13 pm

      Would you be able to give a more specific answer? I think people were curious about whether, e.g., factory workers have access to daycare centers where they can pop in and see their children. That seems like such a great benefit!

      I’ve worked both on a factory floor and in a factory office, and there are usually inequities related to social class. When I was on the floor, we had to use a dingy old lunchroom and weren’t allowed to use the plush office-employee lunchroom, put our food in the employee fridge, etc.

      I get that there are union issues that complicate some of these things, but could you give more concrete information about non-HQ employees? Factory employees?What are some examples of the robust work-life offerings available to them? Thanks! (I’m gluten-free and love Chex, btw, and I appreciate your willingness to substantively engage with your customers through blogs!)

      Reply
  • Charity June 4, 2013, 6:47 pm

    I’m just curious in the US do you guys pay into an employement insurance program? We do here in Canada and that is what pays our wages while out on maternity. So technically it is something we pay into, then when we go on our leave we get paid by the EI system so it is technically not coming out of our employers pocket or the governement pocket.

    Reply
  • Kathleen June 4, 2013, 7:30 pm

    I was shock to learn that you don’t have a paid maternity leave in the US ! I’m from Quebec, a province of Canada and since the government adopted a new plan for paid maternity, paternity and parental leave in 2006, a baby boom has been happening ! So it does make a difference in the choice of having babies !

    If you’re curious about our maternity, paternity and parental leave, go see this website for all the details : http://www.rqap.gouv.qc.ca/travailleur_salarie/choix_en.asp
    The paid leave are offer to both wage earner and self-employed worked.

    We have a very good option plan where the mother and the father have the opportunity to take a paid leave to take care of the baby. The parental leave is flexible and can be shared by the two parents or all taken by one.

    Reply
    • MelanieF June 6, 2013, 10:33 am

      Quebec here as well! But, I am not a mom, put I am proud to say that we have a really good maternity leave plan! I have seen a babyboom as well.

      Reply
  • AJ June 4, 2013, 7:54 pm

    Oh I am really surprised at a few of the comments here! I totally agree with commenter Mandi and it is the same thing here in Australia “it’s not necessarily viewed as the government “meddling into everyone’s business” — it’s rather understood as a societal priority to take care of women and families”. I’m sorry to say this but this type of attitude is really what is holding the US back on a lot of fronts eg gun control and universal health care. Obviously countries like Australia don’t have all the answers and we have our own problems but it is just mind boggling to me that you have to face these sorts of issues! It is no coincidence that Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand and Canada have been named the happiest nations in 2013!!

    Reply
    • J June 5, 2013, 4:49 pm

      I like this comment. Good points!

      Reply
  • marie June 4, 2013, 8:20 pm

    aren’t mazen and henry like 3 months, not weeks apart??

    Reply
  • Ebernst June 4, 2013, 8:27 pm

    This is such an important issue! I’m still years away from having kids (hello single life!), but I have several pregnant co-workers and was shocked to learn about the limited maternity and paternity benefits provided by my company and required by the government. Like many others, my company offers 6 weeks of short term disability at 66% pay for woman and no leave or pay for men. When I started working for my company 2 years ago, things like maternity leave weren’t on the forefront of my mind (even now they really aren’t) and I’m not sure if in my field (engineering/science) you would find a company which would provide better benefits.

    Recently, I read Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” and it really drives home the point how inequality in the workplace prevents these issues from coming to light. After reading her book and listening to her talks, it seems difficult for these issue to be addressed without an increase in woman leaders in both our workplaces and government.

    Reply
  • Kim June 4, 2013, 8:32 pm

    I was fired from my job as an orthodontic assistant during my 8 week maternity leave this past December.
    Because the practice employed less than 50 staff members, I had no protection under the FMLA. In fact, pregnant employees were often reminded that we were “lucky” to have such a generous (unpaid) maternity leave extended to us.
    My maternity leave commenced earlier than anticipated due to pregnancy complications and when my daughter was five weeks old I was expected to return to work full-time.
    At five weeks postpartum, I was not cleared to drive (let alone work) and I was being treated for PPD. Upon informing my employer that I would return PT (as we agreed upon before I left) as soon as I was released from my doctor’s care, I was “released from all responsibilities effective immediately.” This after nearly six years as a loyal and devoted employee…
    My husband, on the other hand, was told to take as much time as he needed following our daughter’s birth and was able to roll over unused paid vacation and sick time. I think he was home for nearly three weeks (immeasurably helpful, as I was in the throes of severe PPD). He works for a large pharmaceutical company (which has headquarters in the UK, which explains their flexibility toward family leave).
    Sorry for the lengthy comment, but I felt moved to share our experience with this issue.

    Reply
  • Bronwyn June 4, 2013, 8:33 pm

    I live in New Zealand where the government give you 14 weeks paid maternity leave (partial salary rate and its capped) and then you have the option to take one year of unpaid leave. As a teacher we are also given an extra 6 weeks of full pay in a lump sum upon the birth of the child. Now I realise how lucky we are. I am currently into my year of unpaid leave and my school have hired another teacher to cover my classes for the year till I return (she is a first year teacher and happy to have the opportunity and experience to get into a role during a tough job market). Personally I don’t know how mum’s in the USA do it – I was in no state to return to work after 6 weeks and financially we would have really struggled to take a full year of leave without pay. I think its sad that we look at having children on such an individual level – yes its my decision to have a child but surely by supporting mums and dads in the initial stages of raising a child only good things can come from it. At the end of the day the whole community pays when families break down. New Zealand has was founded as a bit of a ‘social laboratory’ and there has always been a strong culture of government support for things such as free education/healthcare etc so for many the idea of no support for maternity/paternity leave would be quite foreign to most of us. We’re also lucky to have government funded support through groups like Plunket with home visits by nurses for the first 3 months, followed up with free clinics etc till your child goes to school. I think I would have lost it if I didn’t have the support of my Plunket nurse and the weekly visits for the first 6 weeks….

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  • Britt June 4, 2013, 8:45 pm

    Paid maternity leave doesn’t just appear out of thin air – it’s paid through by higher taxes. If women want a higher tax rate, to justify and subsidize maternity leave for others, then that’s their country and/or state’s choice. Also, Sweden is comparable to the size of New Jersey, so it’s not really a weighted comparison.

    Working women have a very hard choice today; and, in this economy, it’s not very much a choice for many families. That being said, it’s all about choices. Maternity leave does not equal blissful mothers, financially secure families, or perfect children. We can very much argue that the mommy wars about feeding, sleeping, etc. are irrelevant because, in the end, we will always do what is best for our own family. Thus, a government mandated leave is certainly not a one size fits all solution for every family.

    It’s interesting to see these food corporations working through bloggers now; certainly, providing for one’s family is essential and women should have to opportunity to do that through whatever opportunities presented. That being said, why do we need to hear about a corporations political (and social – maternity leave) policies? Is this how they feel they will draw in long term customers? Shouldn’t it be irrelevant to us, as Cheerio consumers, how a corporation pays their employees for maternity leave? Grab a box of Honey Nuts or not – if consumers make the choice, eventually the produce will face away or grow popular.

    Again, it’s all about what choice a woman wants to make for her family. Interesting discussion.

    Reply
    • Caitlin June 4, 2013, 9:07 pm

      They didn’t ask me to blog about this topic – I presented the idea to them because I thought it would make an interesting post. :)

      Reply
      • Britt June 5, 2013, 2:17 pm

        Good to know! A very well thought out post.

        Reply
    • Irina June 5, 2013, 12:24 am

      I will gladly pay higher taxes to have a government subsidized maternity leave that is longer than it is currently in CA. I gladly pay into SDI, which is providing some financial support for my leave and the leave of other women in CA. Essentially, the choice you are referring to is between leaving your very young baby to go back to work and quitting the work force (and losing the income) if you want to be with said baby… pretty impossible choice. I do not know how this can be argued away….

      Reply
    • Marcia June 5, 2013, 12:40 am

      Well, personally, I prefer to put my money where my mouth is.

      If I can buy veggies at a local farm, or eggs from happy chickens, I will.
      If I can shop at Costco, that pays its employees a living wage, vs Walmart, I will.
      If I can buy a tshirt made in the us without child labor, I will.

      Same goes for Cheerios. Except they are probably in bed with Monsanto.

      Reply
    • Megan June 5, 2013, 11:48 pm

      Maternity leave does not equal blissful mothers, financially secure families, or perfect children. We can very much argue that the mommy wars about feeding, sleeping, etc. are irrelevant because, in the end, we will always do what is best for our own family. Thus, a government mandated leave is certainly not a one size fits all solution for every family.

      100% agreeeeeeee!!!!

      Reply
  • Marie-Santé June 4, 2013, 9:02 pm

    That was a great article and I’m pretty sure folks from General Mills will use the awesome comments from your readers as a way to improve their nice policies :)

    Reply
  • Christie June 4, 2013, 9:20 pm

    The older I get, the more I feel like we’re doing it wrong the the USA. I know that more benefits for citizens would equal higher taxes but I’d be okay with that, I think.

    I didn’t get any paid leave. I did get FMLA which I had to share with my husband since we work at the same company. In total, I took 10 weeks after the baby was born and about 6 were paid (using accrued leave). My husband took 5 weeks all unpaid. So we lived off 1 paycheck for those 2.5 months. At least my company has profit sharing. We got that during my leave so that was how we made it on only 1 check for so long.

    Reply
  • jen June 4, 2013, 9:22 pm

    i am a teacher teaching in one of the few districts in my state that do not offer ANY paid maternity leave. in fact, i am causing quite a stir bc i am taking more than 12 weeks off. i would be dropped off all insurance benefits but thank goodness im on my husband’s plan. let me tell you. i was completely shocked to learn that there was no paid leave! i had never heard of a teaching position that didnt offer it before. i wish our country understood the value of the family.

    Reply
    • Morgan June 5, 2013, 9:57 pm

      I am a teacher in NC and have not heard of any schools offering paid maternity leave. I do not get any paid leave and my sick days do NOT carry over, so the most I can get paid for maternity is 10 sick days…

      Reply
  • Betsy June 4, 2013, 10:21 pm

    Interesting post. Both my dad and my sister work at GM at those headquarters in Golden Valley, MN. General Mills seems like such a great place to work-I’ve visited my dad there the past 15 years and I love the facility. Also have Caribou, D’Amico and Sons, work out facility, hair salon, doctor’s office and gas station all in their headquarters.

    And while I know cereal is not always the healthy option-very proud to be from MN and to have family work at General Mills. They do a lot of volunteering in the community and have good work/life balance.

    Reply
    • Betsy June 4, 2013, 10:25 pm

      Also- GM owns Larabar- always gone to the company store and gotten to try the new flavors ahead of time.

      Reply
  • Kate June 4, 2013, 10:31 pm

    I was given the standard option of 12 weeks of FMLA, with 2 weeks full pay, 4 weeks half pay, and the rest was supplemented by vacation I had accrued.

    People don’t take into consideration what happens when your child isn’t born healthy. My daughter was born with a heart defect and required open heart surgery. My husband and I both have college degrees, make above an average salary, and saved to make sure we could spend the maximum time allowed (12 weeks) without losing my job. I was then forced to return to work at only 8 weeks so I could save up 4 weeks of my FMLA in order to be there when my daughter had her open heart surgery. Imagine having to chose to be with your child when they are first born, or when they are recovering from a surgery that required 5 nights in the ICU- such an awful position to be in. Many parents of children with special medical needs have to leave their employment, even if they don’t want to, because corporate America does not provide enough flexible work options for college educated mothers who do not want to be in the rat race. My options right now are extremely limited due to needing to spend time taking my daughter to therapy sessions and various doctors’ appointments; however I would love to be able to remain employed to a) bring income in for my family and b) use my brain/my college degree in order to fulfill myself from a cognitive standpoint.

    Reply
    • Caitlin June 5, 2013, 6:12 am

      I am so sorry about your daughter. Hugs <3

      Reply
  • Natasha June 4, 2013, 11:28 pm

    Great post! I had 12 weeks paid leave when my partner and I had our daughter 2 years ago. She had one week unpaid leave. Even if I would have used her eggs (we used mine) for IVF She can’t be considered a parent and thus was entitled to no leave. We live in rural Louisiana.

    Reply
  • Emily June 5, 2013, 3:40 am

    RE: the economic and business cost of maternity leave.

    There are two sides to this argument really. Some people talk about the straight up cost, but other people emphasise the economic benefits of such policies. Countries that have better maternity and family policies have higher rates of female engagement in the workforce. So in America, there may be many women who have to go back to work too soon after having their babies, but a higher proportion of American women also choose not to go back to work for years, or else never (or do, but find it very difficult after such a long break).

    Countries with better maternity rights have more women go back to work. This means that for the cost of a temporary absence you gain human capital and productivity, which has economic benefits. Individual companies also benefit from higher productivity and happier staff.

    In places like Sweden this was pursued as a deliberate policy post-war because of a worker shortage. Obviously these issues are hotly debated, and their effect of different economies debated too, but I think its important that maternity leave is not just looked at as an economic cost.

    Here in the UK, a study this week suggested that if more women worked we could boost GDP by 10%: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22766643

    Reply
  • Emily June 5, 2013, 3:48 am

    Not strictly related, but I thought Finland’s approach to babies might be of interest too: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22751415

    Reply
  • CR in MD June 5, 2013, 6:27 am

    I work for a HUGE University/health system that is touted for its wonderful benefits, so I was surprised to learn that they only offer job protection under FMLA. My personal experience went like this: I had a surprise pregnancy. I did use all 12 weeks of FMLA leave, of which one month was paid, from saved vacation and sick time. Found out I was pregnant just weeks after open enrollment, so I didn’t have short-term disability insurance (which would’ve paid something like 66% of my salary. So two months was unpaid, but it was never an option for me to go back earlier than 12 weeks. We made it work. It made my sick to even have to go back that early. My ex-husband was self-employed, with no one working for him, so there was no option there. We came home from the hospital, he was back at work the following morning.

    All that being said, I have no bitterness toward my company or the govt. I do wish we had different policies, but it is what it is. Or rather, it was what it was for us. In the absence of those different policies, it is up to each of us to be as creative as possible, and sometimes sacrifice for what we believe to be best for our families. That looks different for everyone.

    Reply
  • ultimate reset meal plan June 5, 2013, 6:32 am

    Its quite astonishing that you don’t have a paid maternity leave in the US .

    Reply
  • K June 5, 2013, 6:38 am

    Like Bronwyn above, I too am from New Zealand and am currently about two thirds of the way through my maternity leave.

    As it stands in New Zealand the parental leave policies are as follows:

    Employees with less than six months of service are entitled to up to fourteen weeks of leave paid for by the Government at approx. $485 gross per week. Your employer is legally required to hold your position open for you.

    Employees with over twelve months service are entitled to the same fourteen weeks of paid leave and a further 38 weeks of unpaid leave but must return to work before baby’s first birthday. Both the paid and unpaid leave can be split between mum and dad but is capped at 52 weeks.

    Parental Leave for fathers with six months of service is one week unpaid or paid using vacation time or sick leave (NZ employees receive four weeks of vacation and five days of sick pay annually) and with twelve months service it becomes two weeks of leave.

    Parental Leave can be commenced up to six weeks before EDD or earlier on the advice of your midwife or OB and pregnant women are also entitled to up to ten days of unpaid leave prior to birth for pregnancy related reasons.

    FWIW I don’t necessarily think that maternity leave should be paid for a full year, it’s us to up as adults to ensure that we can afford to maintain our lifestyle and to make good financial decisions. I do however think that there should be provision for new parents to take a reasonable amount of unpaid leave upon the arrival of a new baby / young child. Hell, we’ve been doing it in NZ for a long time now and the sky hasn’t fallen in, nor has the economy collapsed or any business gone bust as a result of unpaid parental leave!

    I think that fair parental leave policies benefit everybody in the long run, I’d also be willing to bet that a new mother returning to work at just four or six weeks post partum probably isn’t terrible productive even if she is at work!

    Reply
  • Jamie June 5, 2013, 9:01 am

    My daughter is 19 weeks old and I took 13 weeks off- all unpaid. Fortunately I usually get a pretty decent year end bonus so I was able to save that and stretch it to cover my time off. By the end of it we were very strapped though and are still playing catch up. I didn’t even qualify for FMLA because even though there are more than 50 employees in my company, there are only 9 in my office. I work in CO and everyone else works in CA.

    Reply
  • Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy June 5, 2013, 9:14 am

    Those statistics are so surprising! I’m getting kind of tired of people saying that “America is the best place to live,” because really, it’s not. Are we really living the American dream? I think that our country needs to prioritize. I don’t have any kids yet, but it makes me sad that most moms and dads have to rush back to work immediately after having a baby. That cannot be good for mental or physical health!

    Reply
  • Mary June 5, 2013, 9:37 am

    I work for a county health department in Florida. Although we don’t receive any paid maternity leave, we are obviously covered by FMLA for the first 12 weeks. One nice benefit, however, is that my employers are trying to “practice what they preach”, so as a way to support breastfeeding, new mothers are allowed to bring their baby to work for the first six months – as long as the supervisor agrees and it doesn’t hinder productivity too much. Even after the six months are up and the baby is no longer at the office, pumping is still encouraged. Breastfeeding mothers are given breaks to pump and are provided with a room to do so.

    I don’t have any children yet, but it is nice to know that I am guaranteed at least six months with my future babies full time. I know that my supervisor will approve bringing the baby to work. She recently said to me, “Mary, get started having those babies, so you can bring them in here!”

    Reply
  • katie June 5, 2013, 9:44 am

    Interesting article from NPR on how the benefits in Germany may not help women who want to work and have a family.

    http://www.npr.org/2013/05/07/180610371/germanys-paradox-family-friendly-benefits-but-few-kids

    I’m torn on the issue, but thankful I can receive 12 weeks off, even if unpaid, and return to my job.

    Reply
    • Amanda June 5, 2013, 2:09 pm

      I’m currently living in Germany, and a major trend is women having children when they’re still in college. I live in a college town, and despite Germany’s low birth rate–it is crawling with babies here. They are given incentives (ie. free child care) to have children while in university, and many view it as “the best time” to have kids.

      Reply
  • Kattrina June 5, 2013, 9:47 am

    I work for a small non-profit (17 employees), but we have a great maternity policy (which was a result of a few women lawyers getting pregnant and negotiating better maternity leave). We get a week of paid maternity for every year you’ve worked with the organization up to 4 weeks. I had worked for 5 years when I got pregnant, so I got 4 weeks of paid leave. My work also pays for short term disability so I got 6 weeks of 67% of my salary (which was almost my full salary because taxes weren’t taken out). I then used sick and vacation time. I could have taken as much time off as I wanted (some employees have taken 4-5 months) but I had an important conference to present at (that I did not want to pass up) so I returned to work three months after giving birth. I only ended up using about 2 weeks of vacation time, so that was nice.

    I was also allowed to “ease” into my return by working part time if necessary (which I didn’t) or work a flexible schedule. I currently work from home two days a week, which has been a huge blessing (my regular commute is about 1.5 hours each way). Some employees work part time for a few months too (I couldn’t really afford this). My job is also super flexible when it comes to having to care for my son – if he’s sick I can work from home or use sick time and they never give me any grief (i.e. last week I had off for Memorial Day, went to work on Tuesday, worked from home on Wed, took a sick day on Thursday because my son was sick and had to go to the doctor, and worked from home on Friday – I only went to the office once).

    The trade-off is my salary is super low – as most small non-profits don’t pay big bucks. Most days I am relieved to have such a great work environment and such flexibility, but sometimes when bill paying time comes I really wish I could have a slightly larger salary. So, there are always trade-offs!

    Reply
  • Kara June 5, 2013, 10:20 am

    Thank you for covering such a hot button issue so thoroughly, Caitlin! I’m 25 weeks pregnant with my second child and know all too well how unbalanced the family/work dynamic is in the US.

    With my first pregnancy, I was denied short term disability (still no reason given why) and thus had to take all 8 weeks (c-section) unpaid. I had a few weeks of PTO accrued, but the balance was unpaid. Stressful does not even begin to describe that time period.

    This time around (same company), I have short term disability which ‘technically’ guarantees mom’s 6 or 8 weeks (dependent upon type of delivery) paid maternity leave, at 60%. The fine print indicates that the first two weeks are to be taken at the expense of the employee. I have to use my PTO – per HR, I cannot take the time unpaid if I have PTO accrued. So, in reality I’m guaranteed 4-6 weeks paid maternity leave.

    My husband is taking only 1 day PTO when our baby comes; his company is small and offers no parental leave nor FMLA. He’s new and it’s been made clear by superiors that taking large amounts of time off isn’t appreciated.

    We feel blessed to have short term disability this time around and that my job is protected by FMLA, but the entire situation makes me angry and sad for all parents. Interestingly, my sister-in-law is a tenured professor at a large teaching hospital in town – they offer NO maternity leave benefits, not even short term disability. The entire system is mind blowing!

    Reply
  • Melanie June 5, 2013, 10:53 am

    Hi Caitlin!! So glad up are discussing this important topic today! Shocking to see how the USA is compared to other countries for materinity leave length and pay!

    I was on maternity leave earlier this year and per FMLA I had 12 weeks of protected leave during which my job was considered safe. 6 weeks of that was short term disability. I was given one extra week since I had a C-section. Then my company only provides 4 weeks of paid maternity leave – so I actually had the last week of leave unpaid.

    A friend of mine works for DC gov’t and the allow 16 weeks of leave!

    26 weeks of GM is fantastic!

    Oh I was also able to use a pumping room here at work that I reserved so was able to pump in private throughout the day – I also used the hospital grade pump and just used my own kit so I did not have to carry my Pump N Style to work each day. We also have a lactation consultant on staff that manages the lactation program.

    Henry is so cute! My son’s name is Henry too! He’s almost 7 months :-)

    Reply
  • Melanie June 5, 2013, 10:54 am

    Oooops meant to say “26 weeks at GM is fantastic!”

    Reply
  • Melanie June 5, 2013, 10:55 am

    Also somewhat sad that part of maternity leave is labeled “short-term disability”

    I wasn’t disabled – I was taking care of my son!

    Reply
  • Sarah June 5, 2013, 11:46 am

    First off, I am horrified by the lack of support some of the above comments reflect. Paid family leave should be a fundamental right for all – the same as healthcare, public education, etc.

    I am lucky to have a fantastic work life balance, although I do echo that I work in a non-profit setting, which means that my salary is lower than the national average for my profession. My organization allows for four weeks of fully paid maternity leave – I accrued an additional three weeks of paid time. I then had the option of taking up to seven additional weeks unpaid – for a total of 14 weeks (12 weeks total if you have a vaginal birth). I chose to ease back into work after 10 full weeks off, I telecommuted and then came into the office a couple days a week. My choice to go back to work was strictly a financial decision – I would have welcomed the extra time off with my son. Although I was undiagnosed, I know that I teetered on post-partum depression, so it was an extremely difficult time for me. I also experienced some post-delivery complications and a hospital inquired infection that made my maternity leave less focused on my baby and more on getting myself back together.

    I think it is so sad that we live in a country that prides itself in being number one – and yet – we have so many broken systems in place. I do think we have fundamental rights, choosing to have a family – or not choosing to have a family – is one of them. Our workplaces need to be supportive of all decisions.

    Reply
  • Jo June 5, 2013, 1:17 pm

    This maternity leave situation in the US has always baffled me, as a European. While my country has tons of problems of all sorts, maternity leave is not one. I don’t understand why it’s never in those awesome graphics, because it’s pretty cool: Romania offers either 2 years paid maternity leave with an average pay (which would be miserly in the US but we’re not talking about that) OR 1 year at 85% of the mother’s salary before going into leave(which can of course be very satisfying). It’s also possible for the father to take the two years or one year, and the mother to go on with her career, if that’s a better choice for the family.

    I guess it comes down to labour market fluidity and competitiveness and all that bla-bla from my Macroeconomics course, but truly, it’s kind of a feminist issue. Women often don’t even have the option of going back to work, because childcare is SO expensive, so they exit the labour market. It’s a way of keeping women ‘barefoot and pregnant’. It’s Romney’s dumb remarks about women wanting to leave work early to cook dinner.

    Reply
  • Christina June 5, 2013, 1:46 pm

    If men could physically give birth maternity leave and/paternity leave would not even been an issue of debate.

    Reply
    • Amanda June 5, 2013, 4:08 pm

      Agree. Wholeheartedly agree with this. When there are more women making decisions for the public and in the legislature than men, maybe something will change. Let’s hope something happens sooner than that though. I see planning for a family in this country as the American dream now, not just owning a home anymore!

      Reply
  • d June 5, 2013, 1:56 pm

    GM bothers me because of the whole “whole grain” thing…they even put it on lucky charms, etc….it makes me shake my head because it only continues the cycle of Americans (and more) that erroneously think that is “real” food.
    Just like the cheerios commercials that say “will lower your cholesterol”…again, ugh.

    i’m not knocking cereal. I am an imperfect eater for sure, and I’ll eat stuff that is processed (like GM cereals and other products ) but at least I’m aware that its not not not real food. Its processed. Lower your cholesterol? Eat an apple and rolled oats. Want whole grain goodness? Then eat some Ezekiel bread, beans, or something. Whole foods (or at least “whole-ier”. ha.

    Reply
  • Bitch on a Diet June 5, 2013, 2:01 pm

    I am really outraged at the lack of maternity benefits in this country. We claim to be so progressive but are seriously lacking in some key elements. I hope that the conversation continues to escalate and that our members of congress will actually do something about it.

    Reply
  • Jen June 5, 2013, 2:09 pm

    Great article and great timing for me! I just started back to work this week after 9 weeks of maternity leave! It went by so fast :( I wanted to take more time but couldn’t afford to take any more time as it would be unpaid.

    I am so impressed by Genearl Mills – they seem to go above and beyond to make moms comfortable. Having pumped at work for 2.5 days now I realize it’s going to be a challenge, time-wise and space-wise! I have a cubby so I’ve been using empty offices here and there. The assigned pumping area is a few bldgs over and not convenient to get to throughout the day. And a day care on site??? Awesome. I would LOVE that.

    I was sad to learn that my husband didn’t get any paternity leave either. He took a week off (including my induction/delievery days) using a few days of vacation and then unpaid days. He only gets 5 days of paid vaction a year anyway. I was devastated he had to leave me

    And, Caitlin, I have to revisit your pumping posts now that I’m almost exclusively pumping. It is nice to have help with night feedings and not being so tied to my son every few hrs but I feel so much pressure to keep up supply every day for day care! Kudos to you for pumping as long as you did. It is NOT easy!

    Reply
  • ErikaMC June 5, 2013, 2:10 pm

    I think unpaid maternity leave is a joke! I also hated that I had to use my vacation/sick time off before FMLA would even kick in.

    We do have a Mother’s Room but my employer makes you clock out while you are pumping. I don’t think this is right but I don’t know where to find the information to fight him on it. I came back to work after 12 weeks and pumped twice a day for a year! At 15 minutes each time – that was a 1/2 an hour of my vacation time that I had to use to pump! If somebody knows that this is wrong and can tell me how to fight this please share.

    Reply
    • Megan June 6, 2013, 12:00 am

      I agree that that has to be wrong but I am not sure where to look? Probably Le Leche League?

      Reply
  • Dottie June 5, 2013, 2:37 pm

    This is a little off topic, but I’ve been meaning to ask you a question. I’m 24 weeks pregnant and would love to find a work from home job, but most of what I’ve found in my search are bogus (MLM or something similar). How did you find a real job you could work from home, and do you have any advice on trying to find something like that? I’m in Arizona so it may not be exactly the same, but I was hoping you might be able to point me in the right direction…

    Reply
    • Caitlin June 5, 2013, 7:22 pm

      I wish I had resources to point you towards but I don’t. All o my gigs are writing Jobs thy can about from my previous work experiences. Congrats on your pregnancy!

      Reply
  • Jelena@FabLifePhD June 5, 2013, 3:48 pm

    This is something what I really don’t understand in the US .
    Even in poor country like Serbia, where I am originating from, maternity leave is 1 year and you get 70% of the salary from the social security system. If you try to fire someone during pregnacy, during maternity leave or 1 year after the leave, you have pay huge fine that will probably shut down your company. Family can decide to leave father at home instead of mom, if it works for them that way.
    Here in Germany you can get 1 year maternity leave too, also with 70% incomes from social security money. If you decide to take extra 2 years, they will not pay you, but they are obliged to give you your old job back. Two of my lab techs did so, and it worked perfectly fine.
    For PhD students working with dangerous chemicals, our women’s equality office offers to pay 10 hours of lab technician, to do the experiments that I would not be allowed to do while pregnant.

    Reply
  • Erin June 5, 2013, 3:51 pm

    America’s lack of maternity/parental leave is astonishing. While this is an interesting topic, I have no idea why you decided to use your visit to GM to talk about this…also curious as to why you accepted the visit when you rarely eat their food. Honestly, I used to enjoy your blog a lot but between this and the Sargento Cheese post, I am getting a little sick of all the sponsored/comped posts that just seem so forced, like they were done for the money….

    Reply
    • Caitlin June 5, 2013, 7:21 pm

      Thanks for your feedback.

      I actually eat GM products all the time. Their GF line of baked goods are awesome, and I linked to two recipes I’ve done that feature Chex.

      I have always done sponsored posts, but I can understand why you feel that I’m doing more when I am posting less in general. Please note that I did NOT get paid for this post. When i do sponsored posts, I try to make them interesting and engaging, and I promise – I will never feature a company that I don’t use myself or think has a great product.

      Reply
      • RJ June 6, 2013, 3:40 am

        Actually the FTC says that if you receive money OR product OR services from a company and you then write about that the product or the company it is considered a sponsored post and should be disclosed as such. You may not have been paid to post about General Mills, but you did receive services from General Mills. Your flight and accommodation were provided by GM, therefore even though you were not paid to write this post it is considered a sponsored post.

        Reply
        • Caitlin June 6, 2013, 6:20 am

          Thanks for clearing up the semantics! Appreciated.

          Reply
  • Amanda June 5, 2013, 4:05 pm

    I got 12 weeks off with FMLA. I had to save my vacation and sick time to cover lost pay for each of those weeks. I saved 5 weeks vacation and 3 weeks sick time. I bought into disability pay and that covered half of the final 4 weeks. So, essentially I was only without pay for 2 weeks as the breadwinner. Not bad! I would love to see companies offer 90% pay for at least 8 weeks maternity leave and then families can use 4 weeks FMLA to cover the rest. My long-time love decided to not teach any of his college courses during the summer so we could both have 12 weeks with our new baby. He went back to work in August when I did. Since we had a late May baby he didn’t need leave time.

    Now, for baby #2, the pressure is on to save up enough to cover lost weeks of pay. With one child already in the family, it is much harder to save vacation and sick time. I will need to actually pad my bank account this time to cover lost weeks pay, because I doubt I can save 8 weeks time again in the next or two before I’d plan to have baby #2. Much more stressful I think planning for baby #2 even though we already know the drill…

    Reply
  • Lindsay June 5, 2013, 4:24 pm

    I’m torn on this issue. If my company offered paid maternity leave, I would obviously be happy about it and find it very useful after birthing a little one. However, I am not sure that the government should require companies to pay people to not work for extended periods of time while they care for little people that they chose to produce. I also do not think they should lose their jobs for taking off time after having a kid, but holding someone’s position for a YEAR? That sounds ridiculous.
    I also understand that some people would like to have children AND a career, which is fine. However, like many other commenters pointed out, I think this makes it their responsibility to plan accordingly for their leave, and then return to their jobs.
    At my last job, a woman was pregnant when I first started. I think she was gone for 16 weeks after having her child. During this time, the rest of us had to take on all of her responsibilities, with no added compensation or benefits. Then, when she returned to work, she abused the WFH policy, etc., and many of us had to CONTINUE handling her responsibilities. Why should MY job become harder because she and her husband chose to start a family?
    Without intentionally sounding harsh (though I am sure many may think that I do), I think that if you want to have a career, then have one. If you have kid(s), fine, but they should not drastically interfere with your ability to perform your job functions. If they do, then perhaps you are no longer qualified for that position.
    I think there are a lot of issues with many policies here in the states, but I don’t think this is the first I’d have a bone to pick with. For example, I would much rather we have more PTO for all employees, a la many European countries. This would make it easier for those who choose to have children to find a happy work / life balance.

    Reply
  • FitBritt@MyOwnBalance June 5, 2013, 4:33 pm

    Caitlin, great topic. I find America’s policies on maternity and paternity leave to be incredibly disturbing. As a lawyer, I’m constantly attending events and panels that discuss why there are not more women partners or women in high level attorney positions. While work/life balance is difficult enough, I can imagine that many women feel completely daunted at the fact of having to work 80 hours per week only a few weeks after giving birth because their firm/organization/company does not allow more time off. If we want women to achieve in the workplace, the country as a whole needs to support them at a time in their lives when they need to focus on their new babies and themselves without worrying about financial and work pressures.
    My company recently changed its policy from 12 weeks of unpaid leave to 26 weeks of paid leave with a doctor’s note. Much better!
    On a side note, I went to brunch with a man recently who voiced the question of why companies should have to pay women at all during maternity leave. I almost hurled a bagel at him. What about single moms? What about women who are the main breadwinners in the family? Ugh!

    Reply
    • Victoria June 6, 2013, 10:40 am

      I’m a lawyer with an almost six month old. The “with a doctor’s note” caveat is what makes me think this is nowhere near as generous as it appears. It’s standard for doctors to consider you disabled for 6 weeks following a vaginal delivery and 8 weeks following a c-section. There are more complicated deliveries, and I’d imagine that’s where the 26 week provision would apply. So, it’s a great compromise for people that had major complications, a premature birth, etc., but I doubt it’s going to apply in most scenarios.

      Reply
  • Liza June 5, 2013, 4:36 pm

    I live in Sweden and that statistic is not accurate. It’s 90% of your entire salary for almost an entire year. And that can be split up with the husband as well (as in you can go back to work after six months and then your husband can stay home for six months and make 90% of his salary). Since most men still make more than women here, the women do tend to stay home for the year more than the men do. Also, we pay a much much larger percent of our salary to the government (over 50%), which is how we can afford to be able to stay home for so long and continue to be paid. Maybe if Americans paid higher taxes they, too, would have longer and paid maternity leave?

    Reply
    • Megan June 6, 2013, 12:06 am

      Yikes! 50%! I am so scared that this is what is going to happen in our country thanks to *the wonderful* Obamacare. *note sarcasm

      Reply
      • Liza June 6, 2013, 7:09 am

        And how has Obamacare impacted you? Are you paying higher taxes? Are they taking money away from your paycheck to pay for medical care for the indigent? No. Do your research before you just say how terrible it is that our country finally decided to take care of those who need it most.

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      • Allison June 6, 2013, 7:47 am

        Megan, how would Obamacare lead to us paying over 50% of our salary to the government? One has nothing to do with the other. Plus, what we now call “Obamacare” was originally proposed and developed by the (very very conservative) Heritage Foundation. Do your homework before you make a claim like that.

        Also, I’ll go ahead and say what I think a lot of other commenters are dancing around. If you don’t have any ability to take time off when you have a kid, and you are not in a financial position to miss a few paychecks, then what do you think happens when, like many people, you find out that you have accidentally gotten pregnant? Two options: you either don’t have the baby (which I don’t have a problem with, but many supposed “family values” proponents do), or you have the baby and likely have to go on a bunch of government assistance programs (which costs the government as much, if not more, than it would cost to subsidize maternity leave. I, for one, would rather the government pays a little more up front to take the risk of harm and suffering out of the equation).

        This might be getting a little deep in the woods, but people form societies because we make each other collectively better off than we would be if we fought every daily battle ourselves. People in this thread arguing that just because YOU did something yourselves, everyone else should be able to, just remember that “there for but the grace of God go I.”

        Reply
    • Marissa C June 12, 2013, 12:45 am

      I’m glad you posted. I think Americans look at other countries and are pissed because they forget about the taxes aspect. I was one of them. I’m not saying it is a bad idea, but everyone needs to remember it isn’t free.

      Sweden is pretty awesome, though–I visited in 2008 and loved it.

      Reply
  • Noelle June 5, 2013, 4:58 pm

    We get 6 weeks or 8 weeks (for c-section) of short term disability at 80% pay, my company gives me 4 weeks family leave at 100% to be used within the year after the baby is born and then I can use whatever time I want from my time off bank, which I get 29 days a year. So I’m taking a total of 14 weeks. I believe my husband gets 2 weeks of paid family leave. I’m having a baby in august. so excited!

    Reply
  • lauren June 5, 2013, 5:01 pm

    In RI everyone pays into TDI (temporary disability insurance) and mom’s who deliver vaginally are entitled to 6 weeks pay at 55%, 8 weeks at 55% for a c-section. One of the complaints I’ve heard is that it takes a few weeks to get the first payment, which can be tough on families. I know you can also collect short term disability at the same time if you have that, I don’t.
    I work for a small business and don’t qualify for FMLA. When I have my son, I’ll be taking 6 weeks off, paid + TDI, then working from home for 6 weeks. My husband saved up a week of vacation time (he earns just under 12 hours a month) to take when he’s born.

    Reply
  • Katie June 5, 2013, 5:08 pm

    I have a five week old baby girl, my husband and my third child. We live in Canada, and with our first child my husband took three months paternal leave as his work ‘topped up’ the government mandated reduced rate pay to the full amount so we could afford him taking the time off. Having three months with all three of us at home was great! Our first was extremely colicky, so having another set of hands was crucial to making it through with my sanity intact – I wish I was joking there. Before having our second and third children, my husband switched employers. With his new employer there is no top up pay, and taking time off is extremely difficult. So, he took a couple of vacation days and that was it. It’s a bit of a let down to have to use vacation days for the birth of your child. But either way, I’m glad to have my husband around and helping as often as his work schedule allows – and our kids love it too!

    Reply
  • Holly @ A Year in Wichita June 5, 2013, 5:41 pm

    Great post! This is a subject that is really on my radar these days as my husband and I plan for a family. My husband is currently in med school and it will be 3 more years before he has any income, so that burden falls on me. He is 28, I’m 27 and we are both hoping to start a family in the next year or so. The problem is that my company offers no paid maternity leave and, at this point, no option for short-term disability. Terribly frustrating. They are working to get a short term disability policy in place, but no word as to when. Its pitiful and obviously I think more should be provided, but if we could just get 65% of my pay for 6 weeks, it would make the possibility of having a baby seem like more of a possibility. If I had my ‘druthers, I’d love to see a full 12 week paid leave, but I realize that is wishful thinking! Great post, though!

    Reply
  • Jen June 5, 2013, 8:49 pm

    Great post! I have to try hard not to let it bother me how lopsided policies like these are in our country. When I was 7 months pregnant with my daughter Maya, we visited friends in Toronto. They were in shock that I planned to return to work after only 9 weeks off (not by choice). How could I possibly be ready to go back to work so soon? Their employers give 50% pay for 1 full year. Heaven. I saved my sick and vacation days, so 3 of those 9 weeks were paid, but the other 6 were unpaid (I live in New York State, which has one of the worse FMLA laws). I was able to collect short-term disability, but that amounted to about $200 a week! Um, maybe enough to cover the cost of diapers those first few weeks! Absolutely crazy.

    Reply
  • Jill Will Run June 5, 2013, 10:37 pm

    My work does not have maternity leave, but we do get FMLA. My human resources office told me I could take 6 weeks of leave, unpaid unless I had sick/vacation leave to cover it. If I ended up having a c-section I could extend to 8 weeks, I just had to fill out additional paperwork.

    That infuriated me. First, if I’m not up to coming back to work I’m supposed to be up to getting my doctor to sign paperwork? Second, if FMLA states I get 12 weeks and that’s the only leave I get, why are they dictating how much of that leave we should take?

    I ended up taking 8 weeks, I did have a c-section and didn’t realize they were basically denying me 4 weeks of leave the law says I should be able to have. I did have enough sick leave accumulated (11.5 years in a job can do that) so I was paid.

    My husband got 3 weeks of paid paternity leave. Which basically worked out to a relaxing vacation for him because I was the one who had to get up repeatedly to breastfeed a baby!

    Reply
  • J-dog June 6, 2013, 6:35 am

    I feel lucky to work at a company that provides decent maternity leave (and made the Working Mother Top 100 company list!). That being said, I worked closely with the team that rolled out paid parental leave in the organization and would like to challenge the comment “Paid leave would cost the government and private companies a great deal of money.” Of course it depends on the company, it’s size, financial standing, demographics/size of the workforce, etc., but this benefit was found to have one of the LEAST financial impacts to the organization and could serve the company well with long-term employee loyalty.

    Also, in regards to FMLA, another caveat (and I don’t know if this is state dependent) is that you have to work at a company for at least a year for it to be legally applicable. As a pregnant employee who was recently layed off, I’m very concerned about what my maternity will leave will look like when going to a new company. It will probably be something I’ll have to negotiate for…wish me luck…

    Reply
  • Marie-Sophie June 6, 2013, 7:40 am

    I live in Germany and here you get six weeks of maternity leave before your baby is born. Afterwards you can get up to 3 years of parental leave. During the first year you get 65% of your former income, up to 1.800 EUR a month. If you want to go back part-time during this time, the employer pretty much has to move the moon to make it possible for you :-).

    I really don’t get why the US is so bad regarding parental leave! From the blogs I am reading I get the impression that a lot of moms choose to be a SAHM simply because of that!

    Reply
  • Toni June 6, 2013, 7:47 am

    I work for a tiny (three people) company and got only three weeks of maternity leave for my second child (five weeks for the first) … but I also work from home, so it wasn’t as hard for me to go back as it would be for women working out of the home. Regardless, it’s a very tough transition and not enough options are offered to U.S. women.
    On a side note, I do freelance work for Gluten-Free Living magazine and was thrilled to see it in the background of one of your General Mills photos :)

    Reply
  • Marie June 6, 2013, 10:52 am

    You are giving examples of socialist countries in which other people pay taxes so other people can stay home with their children. When off for maternity leave either for medical and/or bonding (FMLA is amazing!) I would never expect someone else to pay for it. That is what makes our country great.

    Reply
    • Caitlin June 6, 2013, 10:57 am

      I fail to see how our country is so “great” when we have higher rates of maternal depression because moms with newborns are so stressed.

      Reply
    • Allison June 6, 2013, 12:03 pm

      People throw the word socialism around a lot. Marie, I’d love for you to define it. I, a U.S. citizen, pay taxes. I don’t drive, but some of those taxes are used to pave roads that I don’t and will never use. The people who drive on those roads “expect someone else to pay” for those roads by definition–if only the people who drove on them paid for them, there wouldn’t be enough money to maintain them (and as we can see by bridges crumbling a few times a year all over the country, there isn’t enough money to maintain them as it is, even though everyone pays for them). By your logic, this makes the U.S. a socialist country.

      Reply
      • Marie June 6, 2013, 2:32 pm

        We have a lot of socialistic policies within our country; our public school system is one of them. But we are not a socialist country, at least not yet. The act of paying taxes is not a socialistic concept. Having taxes pay for sitting at home while others work to pay that person is actually more of a marxist theory of socialism leaning toward communism.

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        • Verna June 7, 2013, 10:26 am

          Exactly!!

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        • bucky June 16, 2013, 1:12 am

          The person who is “sitting at home” also paid taxes into the program that funds maternity leave. They are not expecting other people to pay for them, they are getting back the funds they already paid.

          Reply
  • Marie June 6, 2013, 11:05 am

    I see, you did the typical lib thing. Since I made a point, you changed the topic. Bravo.

    Reply
    • Megan June 6, 2013, 11:37 pm

      BAHAHA This made my night, Marie!! You get the bravo!! (I am not being snarky, fellow conservative here!).

      Reply
  • Tammy Root June 6, 2013, 11:55 am

    What a fascinating post! The responses are just as fascinating! This is clearly a hot topic. All I wanted to say is that I was VERY fortunate because my employer gave me 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. I then used 2 weeks of sick leave for a total of 14 weeks paid. I love my job and the University I work for. I wish everyone was afforded paid leave. Having a baby is such a stressful time and, by far, the first three months are the hardest. So, not having to work or worry about money during that time is such a stress-reliever.

    Reply
  • Emily June 6, 2013, 12:43 pm

    I offer a completely different view: I am from Australia and we are facing one of the biggest health crises of the 21st century – an ageing population. Basically where I live Tassie, in the public system the waiting lists for important surgeries are a mile long, pushed back whenever there’s an emergency and there just isn’t enough beds in the public system to accommodate the declining health issues as our population ages. We bought in paid parental leave to try and assist with this problem and because the government recognised that raising children healthily and recovering after childbirth were so important. People can say that having children is the family’s choice but the fact is that when that family has a child they are stimulating our population and growth as a nation and why can’t they have some paid leave to help them along with this?

    No I don’t have kids yet, but I am a nurse in the public health system.

    Reply
  • Alice June 6, 2013, 2:08 pm

    Slightly off-topic, but it seems government intervention can really be positive. Finland is reaping the rewards.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22751415

    Reply
    • Alice June 6, 2013, 2:10 pm

      Must add, I suspect schemes like this would not be viable in the US. But a lovely concept, nonetheless :)

      Reply
  • Clare June 6, 2013, 3:57 pm

    I realize that this will not be a popular notion but there is something to be said for choosing one’s life partner wisely so you can afford to have a family on ONE income. If more families thought this way, this whole discussion would be rendered obsolete. It’s all very well to bang the ‘equal rights’ drum but common sense dictates that a parent stay at home with their child(ren) in the early years (and actually, children’s needs increase in the school years)…it feels like society is lost without a map and going in the wrong direction with regards to parenting. There’s no overcoming biology.

    Reply
    • Marie June 7, 2013, 8:57 am

      So, marry for money is what you’re saying?

      Reply
    • Anne June 7, 2013, 12:17 pm

      ???? Are you serious ???? I don’t even think a can respond to that, too much different issues here.

      Reply
  • Jenn June 6, 2013, 9:26 pm

    I appreciate that you gave us more than an ad for GM and brought up a great topic. However, I suggest a general rule of thumb for bloggers to consider: if it takes a paragraph or more disclaimer about why the company actually fits with your values even if it doesn’t appear to, maybe think twice before accepting free trips and product. It just sends frustrating mixed messages to readers.

    Reply
    • Caitlin June 6, 2013, 10:09 pm

      I chose to explain my position because I believe in being transparent when possible. I am sorry if you don’t like how I reached mg conclusion but appreciate your reading.

      Reply
  • Laura June 6, 2013, 10:50 pm

    What a great topic, it’s clearly started a lot of conversation here! I’m a recent college grad who will be heading into law school next year and would like to be a mom someday, so problems regarding maternity leave are worrisome for me. I’m concerned that once I start at a law firm I’ll be reluctant to stop and have children, as staying in good standing at a firm while bonding with a baby would be difficult. If anyone else is interested in stories of professional women who have struggled with balancing work and raising children, the book Competing Devotions by Mary Blair-Loy (http://www.amazon.com/Competing-Devotions-Career-Family-Executives/dp/0674018168) is a good read – one I had to read for a Sociology class in college. Some of the stories of their struggles are heartbreaking.

    Reply
  • Lindsay J June 7, 2013, 9:44 am

    With my first son, I took 9 weeks off. I only had 6w eeks of leave saved up, but I worked from home part time a week after he was born to stretch out my leave.

    With my second son, I got pregnant and started a new job on the same day. So, I didn’t have very much leave built up. I planned to take unpaid leave, but fortunately, my work allowed me to work from home part time! I was not as efficient working from home but I was able to be home with the baby for six weeks.

    My company is a great one, but I don’t get the benefits of working on site. I’m contracted out to another location. I use to pump in my car, then in the bathroom. Now I’ve upgraded to a storage closet! (It’s not my company’s fault. Onsite, they have nice facilities.)

    I would love for actual maternity benefits to be provided, seperate from having to take your own paid time off. I had to make sure I didn’t use all of my vacation time so that I would have time saved up to take the babies to doctor appointments. I would also LOVE an onsite daycare option.

    Reply
  • KC June 7, 2013, 4:56 pm

    For my leave I took 12 weeks off and was paid for 6 weeks by my company. I had the option of taking off longer and will likely do that for baby number 2. I work in technology and there is a very flexible work life balance at my firm. My husband received 1 week paid leave but was able to stay home 2 weeks when our daughter was born (vacation). All in all we had to cover a gap of about 1 month of missed wages. I will plan better for the next one (save up vacation, save more $$) so that I can take more leave. Oh – and we have a GREAT wellness room for puming. I used it 3x a day for 9 months after my return. All in all I’m satisfied with my companies policy but agree – the US is lacking for sure.

    Reply
  • Anna June 8, 2013, 11:35 am

    In response to some of the comments regarding the cereal nutrition (or lack thereof), I thought I would add my 2 cents. I am a graduating Dietetic student, which means we receive a lot of education beyond food and nutrition. We learn about food patterns, food deserts, people’s ability obtain and/or access to fresh food, the pros and cons of processed foods, people’s preferences, habits and etc. Even though I do not eat many processed foods (especially with added sugar, GMOs and whatnot), from my experience and knowledge, I feel that it is not fair to say that cereal is the worst thing you can give to a child, and essentially patronizing, in a way, parents who do so. It is true, some families DO NOT have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. And even more, they don’t have access to healthy processed food. There are places in the United States, of all places, where single moms have to take multiple buses, walk a mile, and spent 1/3 of their grocery budget on transportation just to GET to a grocery store….one that might not even have very many fresh foods available. In these situations, maybe a box of cereal (that is fortified, made with whole grains and would be eaten with milk, adding protein) isn’t such a bad option. Surely better than poptarts, canned cinnamon rolls, or, say, nothing, like some children get for breakfast. I just feel it’s incredibly insensitive to say to someone that feeding cereal to their child is the worst thing they could do, when in fact, it might just be the best thing they can do.

    On top of that, I did a study this year where I created a healthy breakfast cookie and tested it against the new Quaker Oatmeal Raisin Breakfast Cookies (which have 15g of sugar and HFCS as the second ingredient). While 75% of people preferred the Quaker cookie for taste, texture, appearance and almost all other sensory attributes, almost ALL participants preferred my breakfast cookie for nutrient information and ingredients used. But still…..at the end of the study, 50% of participants said they would STILL choose the Quaker cookie, when given a choice, even though they preferred the nutrition of the other cookie. What does this show us? Knowledge of nutrition is not the winning factor for most individuals when making food consumption decisions. TASTE is key. When something is appealing, sensory-wise, people will be more apt to choose that food. For some (like me), nutrition information might be a bigger factor, but I think we need to be realistic and sensible, and realize that nutrition knowledge DOES NOT dictate most of America’s food consumption decisions. What does this mean, then? We need to work hard to meet in the middle….1) educate more on nutrition and work toward changing people’s minds, attitudes and decision making processes (easier said than done), and 2) Make better quality processed products (such as General Mills), to appease in both the nutrition and taste categories. They may not be making as big of strides as people would like, but we have to remember that implementing such changes on the massive scale that they work with probably takes a lot more effort, money and change than we realize.

    That’s my two cents :)

    Reply
    • Caitlin June 9, 2013, 10:20 am

      Great comment

      Reply
    • Emily June 10, 2013, 7:57 am

      I have to credit this comment, it’s spot on and thoughtful.

      Reply
  • Cat June 8, 2013, 4:46 pm

    I have a (maybe silly) question; If in some cases you have to return to work several weeks after giving birth in the U.S., where does the baby go while you are at work? Do daycare centers take babies that young?

    Having worked for a company with a US office, I was always surprised to hear colleagues taking only 6 weeks maternity while the norm in our UK office was almost year. I live in scandinavia now and can’t imagine leaving largely due to the amazing maternity benefits! To be honest though I don’t know who pays maternity pay in all of these countries, I know it is not 100% on the employer though.

    Reply
    • Caitlin June 9, 2013, 10:19 am

      Yes, day cares take newborns.

      Reply
  • Erin June 10, 2013, 9:53 am

    Really when we hear of other countries allowing women to take off so much time it’s because they are really paying for it already due to a higher level of taxes.

    In Sweden (59%) and China (45%) the tax rate per individual is high. I would much rather have my money and save vacation time and FMLA time toward childcare costs than have the government take half or more than half of our paycheck.

    And my mother and father owned a small business with four employees and mandated care is something that costs them so much money because they are smaller company.

    Reply
  • Melissa June 10, 2013, 12:38 pm

    My kids were born in 2003 and 2005. The first time, FMLA law applied, and I took the 12 weeks off, using my accrued vacation and sick time for as long as that lasted (I believe I had about five weeks paid). By the time my second was born, I was a working less than half-time and no longer eligible for FMLA as such. My employer still granted the 12 weeks unpaid leave with no hesitation. I believe my husband received something like 3 days paid time off for each baby, but he took vacation time to stay home longer than that.

    The requirements for breastfeeding mothers applied at that time as well, though I never had such lovely accommodations as you’ve shown at General Mills.

    I’ll be interested to see what more you end up sharing about General Mills.

    Reply
  • Ilane @cultiv8health June 14, 2013, 11:06 pm

    Great discussion among mothers and moms-to-be. In Brazil, the moms get 6 months of paid maternity leave. Babies totally need their moms to establish a healthy lifestyle from early on. Dads need a break too.

    Reply
  • Elise June 28, 2013, 5:03 pm

    I’m not sure if someone has told you about this already, but I thought you might be pleased to know that General Mills is providing free cakes to all same sex couples married at city hall on August 1st (the first day that same sex marriage will be legal in Minnesota). They are a pretty awesome company and I am proud to share a state with them.

    Reply
    • Caitlin June 29, 2013, 6:48 am

      I love it!!!

      Reply

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