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Maternity Leave

Six weeks.

That's the maternity leave the Army gives new mothers. By the time babies are four months old, their Army moms can be sent to a war zone.

Army Spec. Amy Shaw comforts herself while away from her baby in this way: "I'd rather be here now than maybe when he's 4 or 5 and he's saying, 'Where's Mom? Where's Dad?' " she said.

What a choice to have to make. Leave a child during bonding time in that first year or not.

And while six weeks' leave seems pitiful to a mom like me who was able to take six months off with each child (only part of which was paid), pregnant high schoolers in Denver would be happy with that. In December, one soon-to-be-mom asked the school board to establish a policy of granting new moms four weeks off school to recover from childbirth and bond with newborns.

It's hard to believe that even now in 2008 our country has a hard time with such a basic benefit as parental leave. The government's Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers with over 50 employees to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave. But even the federal government doesn't yet provide employees with paid parental leave. Most government workers use sick leave and vacation days to cover that leave, The Post's Federal Diary columnist Stephen Barr says. And while some believe the combination of the two is enough to cover the time new parents need, some newly hired workers say that's not the case.

How long did you take off work after you or your spouse gave birth or adopted a child? What do you think are reasonable paid and unpaid leave times that account for necessary recovery and parent-child bonding?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  February 20, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
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"What do you think are reasonable paid"

Reasonable paid leave is upto however much leave the person has accumulated. There should be NO special paid leave for childbirth or adoption.

A person should be allowed upto 3 months in total (paid and unpaid) before being expected back at work. Work shouldn't have to wait forever for a person to get back.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2008 7:11 AM | Report abuse

I took 20 weeks off paid (accumlated leave) for our first child. I will take 12 weeks off with our second child. We have more time but we need to keep leave in the balance in case the kids or I get sick during the year and the next. We would also like to take Christmas week off for our older child to unwind. They are starting a short term disability where part of the money is paid for through insurance. I believe you can take 6 months off for a medical reason or care of a family member. I don't think the program will kick in time for me to use it for maternity leave. But I will be grateful to pick up the insurance in case of medical illness for the future. That way I can use my accumlated sick leave but feel secure if I ever need an operation or my family member does, we are covered. I honestly would rather see some sort of employer/employee insurance like the Canadian system. This way partial payment is covered and the employee has a choice to buy into the system or not. I don't agree with 7:11 that 12 weeks total leave is enough. Seriously, most jobs are not going to fall apart with an employee being gone for 6 months. I have seen people leave (unpaid part of the time) for 6 months and nothing happened. Not to mention that gives the employer the time to hire a temp.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 20, 2008 7:21 AM | Report abuse

I took 5 1/2 weeks off when both my kids were born. I work for the Fed. Govt so I had to use all of my own leave. My wife took 12 weeks (paid and unpaid) with no. 1 and quit before No. 2 to be a stay at home.

I do think that the Fed Govt should lead the way by offering paid parental leave. Probably 6-8 weeks for women and at least 2 weeks for Dads/Partners. I loved each and every minute of my time off with both of my kids and it is time i would never give back. There is so much bonding that goes on that first month. It is also a shared time that my wife and i have together that we will always remember. it made us a better couple and better parents.

Posted by: HappyDad | February 20, 2008 7:28 AM | Report abuse

I am an American now living in England. I am appalled by the way Americans do not see the benefit to society by only giving mothers a few weeks.

I am grateful that when I do eventually have children in the UK I will be entitled to 6 MONTHS full pay and 6 months part pay by my employer, which incidentally only has 15 employees.

The US's family leave policies are an abomination and show no compassion for mothers or children who need them.

It is far better for economy to keep mothers in work, and stop them from leaving their jobs just because they have children. I will happily take my 6 months the time comes and will feel better about going back to work. In the meantime, my employer will have hired someone to cover me, giving them experience in a field that is difficult to get into while I help to produce a happy healthy child.

Posted by: Sarah | February 20, 2008 7:34 AM | Report abuse

I think one of the problems with Americans is they are all in it for themselves. They truly believe in less for the group because they think they can do better on their own. I often wonder if that is true. I was watching 60 minutes were they were saying the Danish were the happiest people on earth. One of the major reasons was their expectations were lower, so they were less disappointed. But they have a strong socialized system. They pay about 50% taxes to the state but it covers maternity/paternity leave, education, retirement, and full health benefits. But if you actually look at what you take home after you pay for all that stuff, 50% is a close number. At least it is for me. But Americans believe they need to have their 50% all to themselves in hope that they will get a greater return in the end. I just don't think for the majority of Americans that is true. It is obviously true for the minority. But probably only true for about 30% of Americans. Again, I don't think we will change American attitudes any time soon. They spend too much time worrying about what is fair and not what is in the best interest of society as a whole.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 20, 2008 7:43 AM | Report abuse

I took 12 weeks off (all my FMLA), half of which was at partial pay on short-term disability, and half of which was unpaid. I feel fortunate that we were able to afford to have me unpaid for so long, because I really didn't feel ready to go back until 3 months. That said, 6-8 weeks is medically necessary, and nobody should be required to go back to work before that.

Posted by: SPC | February 20, 2008 7:56 AM | Report abuse

I knew I wasn't planning on going back to work, so I quit before DD was born. I honestly don't know what a reasonable leave policy would be. It definitely seems like 12 weeks gives parents the worst of all worlds, because they get to be home for the really hard stuff, then just as sleep gets better and the baby gets to be more fun, they have to go back to work. Six months, probably as a combination of paid and unpaid, seems more reasonable. At least it would allow a little time for bonding and enjoying the baby.

That all said, I found myself becoming rather crotchety as I read the article about military moms. These are very young women in time-limited jobs who know exactly what is expected of them for the next 3-4 years, but choose to have children immediately anyway (and as I recall, most of the women in the article planned their kids very deliberately). If they really had a problem with the idea of leaving their kids, couldn't they wait until their military commitment was finished? For the most part, they'd still be in their mid-twenties, and have plenty of time for having kids.

Posted by: newsahm | February 20, 2008 8:17 AM | Report abuse

6 weeks is quite generous in most industries. Especially if it is paid. Small organizations and businesses don't have to give any leave and while many who will comment on here today can afford to accrue leave to pay for 2 months, 3 months, or even 6 months of paid or partially paid leave, many of us don't accrue enough leave to do that and can't afford the luxury of "unpaid" leave. I was devestated to go back to work after a couple months, but was slightly comforted by friends who pointed out that when a baby is that young, they really do fine with anyone who can meet their basic needs (food, clean diaper, naps) but when they're older they really need you. Yes, we should have a system that allows for PAID maternity AND paternity leave. But don't think for a moment that being able to take 2, 3, 4, or 6 months off when a child is born is a luxury that all new parents can afford.

Posted by: Sarah | February 20, 2008 8:35 AM | Report abuse

The reality is that someone has to pay for all that 'leave.' I'm not so sure that what we have is that horrible (incidentally, I was laid off in my last 10 weeks of pregnancy, returned to work after second baby was about 6 months).

I mean, really - if we were to say we wanted to give the govt more money to run a program, my feeling is that they would do what they always do and waste that money, then raise our taxes more to pay for it. And then we'd have an even larger deficit. The govt has done such a lousy job with most things that I can't even fathom it when people say: the govt whatever. Why give them MORE??

Anyway, I'm not saying what we have is perfect, and realistically, the companies that give good benefits don't have as difficult a time at getting and retaining employees - and they make money to boot. So it can be done (better benefits) and when companies cry about how much it costs - just show them how much they're spending on new employees all the time...

Posted by: atlmom | February 20, 2008 8:37 AM | Report abuse

Denmark...1000+ years of low expectations has given the world Legos, Tyco Brahe, Victor Borge and Hans Christen Anderson...and that's about it. Thanks, Denmark - keep 'em coming, and stay happy.

Foam, sounds like you're on the fast-track to socialism.

Posted by: to foam | February 20, 2008 8:37 AM | Report abuse

I took 5 months off with both kids. I work for the gov't and I used sick and annual leave. I think it covered about 4 months with my first child and 3 with my second so I was on unpaid leave for awhile with both. I didn't mind having to use the sick and annual leave, as opposed to paid maternity leave, but I agree that it is a real problem for newer employees and for people who have their kids close in age to save up enough leave to even cover 6-8 weeks. Since my daughter was in daycare, one of us had to take off whenever she was sick so I didn't have much sick leave for my second maternity leave. But, my kids are a little over 3 years apart so having that much time in between helped me save up more annual leave. I agree with the poster who suggested that the gov't should lead the way with some paid leave for mom's and dad's and then require employees to use sick and annual. That would be a great balance.

Posted by: Pt Fed Mof2 | February 20, 2008 8:38 AM | Report abuse

But sarah: someone has to pay. Really. The money has to come from somewhere - the govt can't just print more, contrary to what many think.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2008 8:38 AM | Report abuse

"If they really had a problem with the idea of leaving their kids, couldn't they wait until their military commitment was finished?"
Not everyone in the military sees it as a short time commitment. There are plenty of people who consider it a career. Granted, you don't see many career Army women, perhaps this is one reason why?

Foamgnome - I am totally with you. I just can't understand why everyone is so worried about anything they have "earned" being used by someone else (i.e. the "I don't want to pay for someone else's .") Its good for society and our country as a whole. Actually, I understand it, I just don't "get" it.

Oh, and for those who don't know, in the Canadian and New Zealand systems (where I have friends so some knowledge), if you take the full year off, you must come back to work for a year or else you have to pay back the benefits. So its not like it its a totally free ride. There is no take the benefits and run policy.

Posted by: RT | February 20, 2008 8:44 AM | Report abuse

It probably comes as no surprise that I'm with Sarah and continually amazed at the American view of parental leave as an "unfair perk" that good workers don't need.

With family on both sides of the border, and having supervised staff on both sides of the border, I guess I just see the longer leave as generally being good across the board.

On the work side, if the mum in Canada chooses to take the full 50 weeks of leave, I can actually hire a good contract staff member or cross-train someone I already have, and I usually end up with money in my budget 'cause I pay them slightly less. For young childless people, that means there are good 1-yr contracts out there to broaden their experience.

Also, in Canada, I don't pay for their leave - we all, every employer and employee, pay into the EI fund which then pays the leave. When I did quick math on my own contributions vs. leave pay I had paid more into the system, which is ok with me. I've been fortunate not to be unemployed (which comes out of the same fund). Spreading the costs across everyone helps quite a bit.

Also on the work side I end up with an employee back who is raring to go - who's had time to adjust, to get sleep and feeding schedules down, find good care, and settle into her role. Comparing this to a sleep-deprived employee who needs to pump and be in and out for baby illnesses, etc. - thanks, but we'll see you in a year. :-)

In my industry too sometimes I find people come back from a leave with the insight or idea that we need, and that is pretty cool. But I freely admit a lot of jobs do not need that, so.

On a family level not all families can afford to go on leave, of course (55% of one's salary up to a cap of $1600 a month). But many can and it makes that first year an easier transition. It also keeps childcare costs low that first really intense year, which saves the family and also saves society in childcare grants.

The societal theory beyond childcare savings is also that by making it less stressed for families, the children are more likely to succeed and not end up costing tons of money in health care costs, intervention costs, drop out rates, etc. Some mums I know anecdotally theorize it lowers divorce rates too. :) It's hard to measure but that's the belief.

I always find it a little bit sad that such a rich powerful nation often has the reaction that there's "no way" to afford these things or implement them. You'd think it would be the reverse and the US would be leading the way.

All in all I think it's a shame the American military can't lead the way with some more forward-thinking views on this. But that is of course my bias.

Posted by: shandra_lemarath | February 20, 2008 8:49 AM | Report abuse

This was not an issue for me as I worked only part time and was able to resign my positions to stay home after each of my girls was born. I will be returning to work this summer for the first time since my youngest was born. Choosing to live on one salary was not easy, but we made it work.

My husband was given 8 days of paid leave with the birth of each of the kids. I was very thankful to have him, even for a short time.

Posted by: Momof5 | February 20, 2008 8:51 AM | Report abuse

I had 6 total weeks off (4 weeks partially paid by STD insurance) and then worked "part time" for 12. I was supposed to be working 20-25 hours during this time, but I usually ended up putting in 32 or more. My husband would stay home 2 mornings a week so I could have some time in the office and the rest I did from home. That part was nuts. I'm glad we did it but it was a relief to go to all daycare and all office after that. I had enough leave to cover my hours off during that period. I don't know how it would work since we got bought by a big defense contractor and sick leave went out the window. But I'm not having more kids, so the question is moot for me.

I do think there would be a general benefit to society for parental leave to be paid somehow. I also think caregiving for the elderly should be helped also. Yes, it costs money - but it already does! We all have an interest in a workforce that is not under so much stress and in children that are more closely bonded to their parents. I also think that state-sponsored, high-quality daycare would go a long way to raising up society in general. Let's stop allowing the top 3% to get all the goodies!

Posted by: MaryB | February 20, 2008 8:52 AM | Report abuse

first child: even though I had three months sick leave available to me, I was not allowed to use it, as sick leave is for mothers who are temporarily disabled by the pregnancy and childbirth. I had saved money and took all of the 12 weeks unpaid that FMLA guarantees. My boss was appalled by that and by the fact that my request for an exception (which he and his supervisor supported in writing to the VP in charge of our division; the VP was all set to approve until HR intervened--didn't want to set a precedent). So he allowed me to "work at home" at full pay for an additional month, but never gave me any parameters for the project I was to work on (I did ask), and never asked to see results. I went into it thinking that there was to be a project for me. I don't know if he intended it to be a sham project all along, or the fact that I got pneumonia in the middle of my unpaid leave and was not allowed to change to sick leave caused him to change his mind.

Anyway, by the time I adopted number 2, I was working in a new job, with less than two weeks leave accumulated. I was allowed to use what I had earned, but the rest was unpaid. This time around I was off for six weeks. Had I given birth, I would have been eligible for six to eight weeks of paid short-term disability leave.

What should be available? I think that if women who give birth are "disabled" by the pregnancy and childbirth, then adoptive parents should have the same leave available. Who says it isn't disabling to fly to the other side of the world--and back with a brand new child?

I also agree with others who see US policies as lacking in foresight. There is value in allowing parents time off to care for their new child(ren).

Posted by: adoptive mom | February 20, 2008 9:02 AM | Report abuse

If you work, you are paid to do a job -- not to procreate. Your boss shouldn't have to pay you to sit at home every time you foal. If everybody was paid to have babies, no work would ever get done. Think of paid maternity leave as welfare. You have welfare leeches sucking in money from the Government for not working. Same as paid maternity leave. Wake up and smell the coffee -- if you work you are paid to do a job.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2008 9:05 AM | Report abuse

I had a typical 6 weeks of short-term disability coverage after my child's birth. I stayed home an extra week using vacation until my MIL was free to come up and start caring for my daughter. I was desperate to get back to work (or at least out of the house) and there was a betting pool on whether I'd manage to stick out the full maternity leave.

Posted by: Olney | February 20, 2008 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Sorry to sound harsh - but if you don't want to go to war, maybe the military is not the best option? I have read about both parents being sent int combat, and I have to wonder if they thought their cunning plan all the way through.

Posted by: Me | February 20, 2008 9:15 AM | Report abuse

I'm due with my first in 6 weeks. I'll be taking 6 weeks off at partial pay through our short term disability insurance, and then I'm back to work part time for another six weeks using a combination of paid & unpaid leave to fill in the days I'm not actively working. I would have been thrilled to be able to save up sick or vacation leave over the past years for this purpose, but we get PTO that doesn't carry over so that wasn't an option.

My company likes me and would have let me take as much time off as I wanted, I think, but unfortunately it wasn't an option for us to take more due to financial concerns- I make twice as much as my husband and we need my salary. But I'm extremely lucky that my father recently retired and has volunteered to watch the baby for several months, which I think will make it much easier to go back to work after 6 weeks.

I do think that it would be a very good benefit to make FMLA leave partially paid. I think it would work well to have it combined with unemployment taxes, and it should be available to all employees who need FMLA, not just maternity leave.

Posted by: Carifly | February 20, 2008 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Again, I don't think we will change American attitudes any time soon. They spend too much time worrying about what is fair and not what is in the best interest of society as a whole.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 20, 2008 07:43 AM

I totally disagree. Americans do care what is in the best interest of society as a whole. A lot of Americans feel the best interest of society is to have less government with lower taxes.

Posted by: Dennis | February 20, 2008 9:28 AM | Report abuse

"I totally disagree. Americans do care what is in the best interest of society as a whole. A lot of Americans feel the best interest of society is to have less government with lower taxes."

Which of course is how you end up with the highest rates of incarceration in the free world and second highest child poverty rates in the OECD countries:

"Significantly, the report found that the United States has one of the highest rates of relative child poverty of all OECD members. In the US, 22.4 percent of children live in poverty, a number second only to Mexico, with 26.2 percent. Countries with high rates also include: Italy (20.5 percent), the United Kingdom (19.8 percent) and Turkey (19.7 percent). Countries with slightly lower poverty rates include: Canada (15.5 percent), Australia (12.6 percent), Germany (10.7 percent) and Hungary (10.3 percent). The lowest levels of child poverty are to be found in countries with relatively high social expenditures, including: France (7.9 percent), Finland (4.4 percent) and Sweden (2.6 percent)."

"Bureau of Justice Statistics figures for 2005 indicate that there were nearly 2.2 million inmates in
the nation's prisons and jails, representing an increase of 2.7% (58,500) over the previous twelve

The new figures represent a record 33-year continuous rise in the number of inmates in the U.S.
The current incarceration rate of 737 per 100,000 residents places the United States first in the
world in this regard."

Posted by: Shandra | February 20, 2008 9:42 AM | Report abuse

If I had stayed in my private sector job, I would have had 3 months paid leave. Of course, I was working 80 hours a week so getting and staying pregnant would have been quite a challenge. So I went to the government knowing that I would never be able to save enough leave before we started trying. We'll be pinching pennies so I can take 12 weeks of unpaid leave and are timing our "trying" so that I will hit that magic one year mark before I give birth. It is odd to me that the feds are so behind the curve on this one. I wouldn't expect a full paid 12 weeks, but 4-6 would sure help take the edge off for those of us who don't have years left on our biological clock to save up leave. You always hear how great the fed benefits are, and for the most part, that's absolutely true. But in terms of parental leave, they have a long way to go.

Posted by: new fed | February 20, 2008 9:46 AM | Report abuse

For my first child I took 12 weeks paid by using 6 weeks of short term disability and 6 weeks of vacation. I also was allowed to come back the first week back at less hours to ease the transition to daycare. With my second child I was at a different job. I took 9 weeks paid (6 weeks of disability and 3 weeks vacation). That is all the vacation I had and we were not allowed to use sick leave. It was hard to leave my babies and go back to work. However, I love my job and we needed the salary. And bottom line in retrospect, it was the best decision for my babies, me and my family.

What drives me crazy about FMLA is that people act like it's paid leave. I know very few people that can actually afford to take FMLA unpaid leave. It's nice if you can but that isn't the case for everybody. And IMHO the solution is NOT making it paid leave. Everybody always trots out the argument that we are one of the few industrial nations that do not offer paid leave. Well, have you looked closely at those other nations that do? In many of those countries it is extremely difficult for a woman of child-bearing age to get hired. It is extremely difficult to advance as a woman of child bearing age.

Instead, I think part of the solution (which is already occurring BTW) is for both parents to be more involved in the first year and to stagger the time off. It also helps to find great daycare (which I was lucky enough to find--even though my kids are now in school full time we are still close to and friends with the daycare provider we chose).

I think the issue is really more about flexibility in the workplace for everyone, more options for telecommuting, more options for balance for everyone.

Posted by: montgomery village md mom | February 20, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Career military moms are following the same trend as other professional moms--having their children later. I had my first baby after serving in the USAF for 13 years (delivering while my USMC husband was at sea, but planned that way because we weren't getting any younger) and the second 3 years later and I'm still serving my country proudly. I used my 6 weeks leave with both and took 2 extra weeks of my personal leave. By the way, in the military the 6 weeks "maternity leave" is not for the mother. If you read the regulation, it's actually for the infant because 6 weeks is the soonest that child care centers and most private care providers will take your baby. Trust me, if there was a way to get new moms back to work sooner, the military would find a way. I try to mentor other young women whenever I can in order to help them serve without having to sacrifice the opportunity to have a family.

Posted by: USAF Colonel | February 20, 2008 9:49 AM | Report abuse

While the discussion is interesting, comparing the United States 300 million people to Denmark is apples and oranges. Denmark is about 5 million people who are 90% white and Lutheran. It is always easier to achieve common goals when you have a homogenous population. Essentially, it is Missouri. So while many of the things they have achieved are laudable, it is really not a valid comparison at all.

Posted by: Moxiemom | February 20, 2008 9:53 AM | Report abuse

"In many of those countries it is extremely difficult for a woman of child-bearing age to get hired. It is extremely difficult to advance as a woman of child bearing age."

I know I'm harping a bit on this today but I have to say that in Canada, that's really not true, at least not in the industries with which I'm familiar. It IS true that in some industries there is pressure not to take the full leave (law, for instance).

I just think the US is a bit short sighted on this one. I do think that the view that "you chose to have children, so you suffer for it" is incredibly narrow minded - society needs its young people.

Posted by: Shandra | February 20, 2008 9:53 AM | Report abuse

I would say, up to 6 months of unpaid leave should be available from any organization regardless of size.

Furthermore, the leave should be available without regard to sex: i.e. Fathers should have the same opportunity to take unpaid leave.

That does not preclude someone from being laid off the day after they return from unpaid leave.

There should be one standard where no organization, including the Army, is exempt.

Posted by: Observer | February 20, 2008 9:58 AM | Report abuse

I felt fortunate to be able to take 4 months off with each of my 3 kids - paid and unpaid leave combined. At the time, I was a civilian with the Department of Defense. My immediate supervisor,a civilian, was very supportive. The rest of my management chain, a combination of civilian and military, was livid. For my second and third kids, the 4-months of leave was not continuous. I would return to work or work from home, as needed. That helped keep upper management at bay.

While I believe that leave policies for childbirth and adoption should be more flexible, I have mixed feelings regarding uniformed military. I sympathize with them, but they knew - or shoud have known - when they volunteered that their leave would be limited.

Posted by: PDB | February 20, 2008 10:07 AM | Report abuse

The women's health care clinic where I work does not offer any maternity leave or sick leave. After two years of employment, I get only 15 days off a year and very few holidays. I am planning to become pregnant soon and expect to receive nothing at all from my employer. Let me say again that I work at a women's health care clinic, full time, salaried. When even women's clinics don't provide maternity leave to their employer, you know that our system is flawed.

Posted by: messincm | February 20, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Shandra - it may not be true in Canada, but I have had female friends try to get jobs in Europe (France is notoriously bad about this), and it is quite difficult for a woman of child bearing age to find employment.
PDB - you took off a 1/3 of a year? wow...I feel guilty taking off a couple days!

Posted by: Me | February 20, 2008 10:18 AM | Report abuse

You know, there are father-bonding issues as well here. Why is it always focused on the rights of mothers, versus the rights of families?

When I was a month or so old, my father went to Vietnam. My parents knew it was coming, were planning on having a child after his tour was up, but a birth control failure meant I happened. ;)

When he finally came home, I was petrified of him. I didn't know who this strange man was, and kept trying to pull him out of my parents' bed. I considered one of our good friends "Daddy" (who kept trying to get me to call him by his first name - I ended up calling him "HisName-Daddy" for many years).

My Mom said it took me a good six months for me to get comfortable with my father, which broke his heart a little.

It's about parental rights, not just mother's rights.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | February 20, 2008 10:21 AM | Report abuse

With my first child, I took of 6 weeks. I was a new mom and bored, and stressed out with the new responsibility. I couldn't WAIT to get back to work. But I kept looking at her like she was some sort of stranger...that would cry at odd hours and never seemed to be satisfied. As she got older, she would run away from me and cling to my husband more. For a while, he was her primary caregiver.

So, with my second, I took 3 months off...and it made a HUGE difference. I absolutely ADORE my youngest child and was able to successfully breast her for 6 months before she weaned herself. It also kinda helped to have childcare at work where I could visit her and nurse her too. My oldest has "warmed up" to me since the day care is now at work, but I often wonder if staying home an extra 6 weeks and working harder at nursing her would have made her more affectionate towards me......

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2008 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: | February 20, 2008 10:29 AM

Oh yes, and all of my time off with both of my daughters was paid time off. The first, the standard 6 weeks paid and the second was a combo of 6 weeks paid and 6 weeks vacation time.

Posted by: tlawrenceva | February 20, 2008 10:30 AM | Report abuse

this is a response to newsahm:

The military is a CAREER not an internship, where you work for a few years and move on. The military is VERY attractive to some young people who otherwise wouldn't have the oppourtunity to get a free college education, 30 days of ANNUAL paid leave, and 6 weeks of albeit flimy paid maternity leave. Do you know of any other 19 year old that has those benefits?

And to boot, after 20 years, they get half of their paycheck FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIFE!!!! Could you imagine retiring at the ripe old age of 38 and not having to work again if you didn't want to? So trying to squeeze out a few kids while you are young, have your metabolism on your side so you can get back into fighting form (because yes, the military has weight standards and will throw you out if you don't lose the weight in 3 months or less) doesn't seem like such a bad idea.

And when you come from a lower socioeconimic background where getting those high quality benefits at such a young age is NOT the norm, having kids right out of high school IS the norm.

I am not saying that the military way of life is RIGHT, but there are people who are able to make it WORK, although it is HARD to do. There are ALOT of people in this country will never earn the $60K-90K a year in their 30s to afford to have a stay at home spouse, and own their own home, two cars and a dog, and the sooner you realize how lucky you are (and stop criticizing others who aren't) the better.

Posted by: tlawrenceva | February 20, 2008 10:43 AM | Report abuse

I am on the side of no paid maternity or paternity leave beyond any accrued sick or vacation leave. It's already been said, but I'll say it again. The government doesn't need to pay people to have children. If you can't afford to take the leave either through savings or through accrued leave, then perhaps you can't afford to have a child. And if you can't afford to have ta child, you shouldn't be having a child. The same thing applies to people who have children and apply for more welfare or WIC. There is no shortage of children being born in the world or even in the US, and there is no reason for the government to pay people more than they pay them now to have children. We already have EIC. It is not in the best interest of the country to pay people more to have children. Potential parents who want to do the best for the whole should not be so selfish about having a cute little thing to play with. They should determine whether they have the resources (emotionally, physically, financially and otherwise) to care for the child. If they can do so, they should feel free to proceed. If not, they shouldn't feel some right to drag the rest of the community into helping them do a job they can't do on their own just because they want a cute little baby or the status of being a parent.

Posted by: PersonL | February 20, 2008 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Question for moms out there--how have you handled talking to your employer once you know you are pregnant? We have kept our lifestyle pretty pared down and are saving my salary and living on my husband's so that I can potentially stay home if/when I have a baby, and while right now I think I would want to either stay home or work part time, I just feel like it's something I can't really know until I'm actually there. What do you say to your employer when you don't know what you want to do? I guess I don't have to say anything but I like my boss and the team I work with and would want them to be able to plan, especially since I think would be willing to be flexible with me. This isn't an issue for me now but will be (hopefully!) in a year or two.

Posted by: tsp 2007 | February 20, 2008 10:49 AM | Report abuse

To tsp 2007: My sister blog, On Balance, had a good discussion on telling the boss you're pregnant last week. Here's a link:

Posted by: Stacey Garfinkle | February 20, 2008 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Hi Stacey, wow, what a dope I am. I guess that's what I get for posting a question and then not following up on it...I never expected an answer!: )

Thanks, I'm off to read that entire blog now.

Posted by: tsp 2007 | February 20, 2008 10:56 AM | Report abuse

I am another fed employee. I took 12 weeks of FMLA and managed to receive pay for about 1/2 of it by using up sick and annual leave, and borrowing sick leave. The flip side is that now I have virtually zero leave time and am still "paying back" my sick leave, so it's a juggling act to cover DD's illnesses, etc. But we make it work.

The only way we were able to afford this, as I am the primary breadwinner by far, is that I was lucky enough to have some money set aside to pay bills for that 3 months. As it was, we ended up in the hole.

So for those who look down on the "foalers" (is that a word? lol), please don't presume we're all horny teenagers rumping without a thought to the consequences. Even the most educated (and older, I am 37) of the population can have a hard time arranging for post-birth child care.

Posted by: hockeyfan | February 20, 2008 11:08 AM | Report abuse

I'll have to agree very strongly with tlawrenceva and PersonL. Bravo! I've often wondered what sense does it make to have a child and then leave it at 6 weeks and give it to somebody else to raise. You criticize non-working wealthy women for turning their kids over to a hired nanny, but your working folks are doing exactly the same thing. If you can't afford to stop working, then maybe you shouldn't have them.

Furthermore, I think service in the military should be required of everybody, at least for a short period of time. It might do some people a lot of good. If your goal is to produce children, ladies, then don't sign up for a job that assigns you to different spots on the globe. There are ways to prevent children, you know.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2008 11:09 AM | Report abuse

"If you can't afford to stop working, then maybe you shouldn't have them."

That's a nice idea in theory, but how about we deal with reality?

Unless of course you are suggesting we need to curb population rates, which this approach would indeed acheive.

How about a balance sheet review before people are allowed to procreat?

Posted by: hockeyfan | February 20, 2008 11:21 AM | Report abuse

I was in high school when my first was born and was out a week because I did not want to jeopardize my grades (all A's, by the way). My second was a surprise and I was new at work. I had 10 sick days which I used. I am the breadwinner; my husband works parttime and keeps the baby.

Posted by: demosthenes24 | February 20, 2008 11:27 AM | Report abuse

I was off 3 full months - about 14 weeks. At my company I was paid in full for the first two months, then I used two weeks of vacation time and took two weeks without pay. I was thrilled by this arrangement - compared to many others I'd heard about from my friends/neighbors my leave and the fact I was paid for all but 2 weeks seemed very generous.

I think 6 weeks is ridiculously short, but I'm sure the US isn't read for European-style maternity leaves of 18 months either. I thought 3-4 months was a good amount of time for our family.

Getting paid for my leave was a bonus in my mind - I knew so many women who could barely get the time off, much less be paid for it. It would be a nice show of faith for a company (or government) to pay the leave for an employee who has worked there for several years, or plans to for several years. I know this is impossible to regulate but I think it would make good business sense...

Posted by: viennamom | February 20, 2008 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Of course, hockeyfan. You need a license to drive a car. You need a degree and a license to practice law or medicine. You need training to be a plumber or an electrician. But any two dunderheads can get together and produce a human being that they have not a clue how to care for and raise.

Before you buy a house (at least when I bought mine) I had to show the mortgage lender I was employed, disclose every debt, and promise I would pay the mortage in writing. You think raising a kid is less expensive than buying a house? What a hoot if hospitals made you produce a financial statement before they delivered your little mistakes. I still say if you can't afford them, don't have them. Get sterilized and hump your brains out, but don't make taxpayers pay for your procreation recreation.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2008 11:31 AM | Report abuse

It's the death of a culture when the women expect to be paid for making babies. Think about it.

Posted by: DandyLion | February 20, 2008 11:36 AM | Report abuse

" But they have a strong socialized system. They pay about 50% taxes to the state"

Here's the thing- we actually pay almost that much in taxes ourselves, when you count Fed. income tax, social security, state taxes, property taxes, etc. It really isn't that much less. It's just that instead of spending the money on social programs, much of it goes toward the military (and many of these European countries choose not to fund an extensive military). The "higher taxes" issue is really a big canard- we just choose to spend our tax money differently.

Posted by: reston, va | February 20, 2008 11:46 AM | Report abuse

1) I wasn't saying that the Danish are happier because they have socialized system. I said their 50% tax contribution to the system is really about the same as our contribution (public and private) to the same things:taxes, health care, retirement, college education, maternity/paternity leave, etc... We still pay it but it gets removed through a combination of taxes and private contributions. Of course the argument could be made you don't have to save for retirement or college etc... My point was that Americans always believe that in the end they will make more by paying less taxes. I am saying statistically, I doubt that is true. I said they were in general more happy because they had lower expectations. Do you really think that is a racial or religious thing? I would imagine it is a historical and cultural factor not because they are white Lutherans. I wasn't saying we could easily achieve socialism or that we should even do that. I am just saying it is our desire to beat the odds that would prevent such programs like paid maternity.
2) Why do always jump on the paid maternity leave as being a government program? Whose to say it shouldn't be like the Canadian system of EI or even expanding options for STD? I am personally for everyone contributing a little and taking a risk. BTW, EI and STD does not only cover maternity/paternity leave. I don't know about you guys, but I have a friend who just took off 6 weeks to recover from a hysterectomy, two colleagues had cancer in the last three years, and I am sure there are people out there with sick parents, kids or spouses. The point being that some sort of partially paid sick/family leave in the form of insurance is a good thing.
3) Anyone who thinks it is in the best interest of the country to have lower taxes is really just about wanting more moeny for themselves. Seriously, who are you kidding? Americans vote with their wallets almost exclusively.
4) Altmom, I am not into a government system of paid maternity/paternity leave. I would like to see expansions of STD. I am lucky that my employer is working on that and I will have that safety net for the future. But I think everyone should get that.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 20, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

1. The odds are in favor of people keeping their money instead of giving it to the government. Let's take paid maternity leave as an example. Every year, the government would collect $X in taxes to fund the program. The cost of administering the program would be $Y. What X and Y are doesn't matter. So the amount of money that is paid out by the program is X-Y. The benefits of the government program need to be at least $Y to make it even with not having the program.

2. This already exists. It might not be universal, but what's wrong with letting employers decide what benefits they want to offer? That's how a free market works.

3. And I would say that anyone who thinks it would be good to let the government handle more things is kidding themselves. Look at health care. As many problems as we have with our current system, it's still miles better than the VA system.

4. Again, why does it need to be mandated? Let the marketplace decide what should be offered. If employers find they attract better employees and reduce turnover by offering better benefits, they will do so.

Posted by: Dennis | February 20, 2008 12:13 PM | Report abuse

So only wealthy people should be able to have children? Before you launch into parents on welfare, those of you who are criticizing mothers for wanting some paid maternity leave, I'm not talking about any potential major burden on taxpayers. I'm talking about the average middle class couple who cannot afford to live on one income. A couple who are both college educated and have white collar jobs. A couple who cannot pay their modest mortgage or other bills without those two paychecks. So that couple shouldn't be able to reproduce?
What you are advocating for is scary and a society I sure don't want to live in.

Posted by: Really? | February 20, 2008 12:43 PM | Report abuse

And another thing. The idea that only wealthy people should reproduce is a little to close to the old rule that only landowners should get to vote.

Posted by: Really? | February 20, 2008 12:45 PM | Report abuse

That should be "... a little TOO close..."

Posted by: Really? | February 20, 2008 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Exactly, Really

You should not have to save up until you are 40 to have children- you may not be able to have them then, and then will spend all of your savings on in vitro!

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2008 12:52 PM | Report abuse

"A couple who cannot pay their modest mortgage or other bills without those two paychecks. So that couple shouldn't be able to reproduce?"

I'm going to say that someone should come around and sterilize this couple, but NO, I don't think this couple should reproduce. It would be irresponsible of them considering they need two paychecks to pay their current bills. And I don't agree that his would allow only wealthy people to reproduce. Often this middle class couple who is struggling so much to live on two incomes have late model cars and cable/satellite television. Those are unnecessary luxuries. If they made the correct financial choices, many couples would not be struggling. You don't have to live in "THAT" school district and drive "THIS" car. If this couple adjusted their lifestyle, maybe they could afford to have a child.

Posted by: PersonL | February 20, 2008 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Was I the only one disturbed that Spec. Shaw and her husband chose to have a child knowing that they were BOTH going to be deployed immediately to a combat zone? Did they think about the very real possibility of both parents being KIA? The whole think just strikes me as irresponsible and selfish.

And for the record, USAF Colonel's post struck me as reasoned and intelligent. Clearly it's not impossible to have children in a responsible way while serving one's country. Once again, the Post has chosen an extreme example to play to pathos and overshot the mark.

Posted by: two terrific boys | February 20, 2008 1:04 PM | Report abuse

4. Again, why does it need to be mandated? Let the marketplace decide what should be offered. If employers find they attract better employees and reduce turnover by offering better benefits, they will do so.

Posted by: Dennis | February 20, 2008 12:13 PM

Dennis, that is what I was talking about with the expansion of STD. Until employees start demanding STD coverage, it won't take shape. That is exactly what happened in my job. People starting demanding better benefits and in order to create stability we got a huge boost in benefits this last year. The new benefits will be phased in over a two year period and the compromise was that annual salaries took a slight hit. People gave a little and took a little. I am not advocating a government system. But whenever people talk about paid maternity and paternity leave, people jump to taxes and big government. It doesn't have to work that way. There is an expansion of STD and EI as two compromises. I think people start screaming about taxes and government to avoid looking at other alternatives.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 20, 2008 1:17 PM | Report abuse

PersonL: This kind of assumption is what is wrong with these WaPost blogs (although it's usually On Balance folks making these assumptions.) We don't drive new cars, we don't live in a fancy school district, we don't have satellite tv. Most people can't afford for one parent to stay at home with a kid. And frankly, I wouldn't want to live off one income. Talk about instability and risk. The way we will afford childcare and other expenses will be to pay less debt off and to buy cheaper stuff until we have more job experience that will ideally transfer to higher income levels. If we waited until then to have kids, as 12:52 said, we'd be old.

Posted by: Really? | February 20, 2008 1:22 PM | Report abuse

"It would be irresponsible of them considering they need two paychecks to pay their current bills."

Well, you never had me but you've definitely lost me now. I'd love to live in your world, it seems so perfectly black and white.

Posted by: hockeyfan | February 20, 2008 1:47 PM | Report abuse

personL: I don't understand why you think one parent should stay home with a child because of a short term issue (12weeks-6 months) of maternity/paternity leave. I can see an argument of children should have a parent stay home because in the duration of their childhood, it is in their best interest and in the best interest in society. But that is entirely different then saying because one can't afford a longer parental leave, one parent should drop out of the work force permanently or not have kids at all. Not to mention with a less then 5% unemployment rate, if all working families, had one parent drop out, we would not have enough qualified workers to fulfill the jobs in the US now. Or is your solution to increase immigration to get new childless workers? The fact remains that people whether they can afford to have children or not will continue to have children. And paid parental leave is not paying someone to have children. Just as health insurance is not paying people to get sick. And yes, just because you can't afford a longer parental leave doesn't mean in the long run you can't afford children. I always find it funny that always says people should only have kids if they can afford it. But on this blog and on balance, when you get posters who obviously have the means to have kids, others jump all over them for being rich and out of touch.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 20, 2008 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Oh boy... I wish my problems with living off one income (while caring for an infant) were because we had expensive cars and a luxury home. At least I could be enjoying the fact that we don't have a lot of money left over.

We have a brand new car (but not expensive) that we bought because we needed something that was family oriented and a two person working household needs 2 cars to get to work. Our other car is 12 years old and I am hoping it makes it another 4 years.

We own a one bedroom condo (it is 30 years old so very reasonably priced fort this area) that we share part time with 2 small children. And yes... it gets a little crowded.

Some of my furniture is more than 12 years old (dining room) with only one item bought since we got married more than a year ago. We upgraded from a very old(10 years?) double bed to a new queen sized bed.

I haven't been on vacation in three years. Where is the money for that?

Part of our income does go to our 401K which I am thankful for. Another chunk of our income goes to child support. But a huge chunk of our income goes to our modest living arrangements. Washington DC is an expensive place to live and incomes don't always reflect the cost of living!

I think that I am content with having 2 step-children so I doubt that a planned baby of our own is in the works. But it frosts my socks off that someone thinks it is ok to say that just because we are struggling to pay for our modest lifestyle that we don't deserve to procreate. Financial wealth doesn't necessary make good parents.

Posted by: Billie | February 20, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Ah this issue is so timely! I am pregnant with my second child, and I only just got out of the hole on sick leave from my first (she's now well over 2 years old). I work for the federal government, but because I started this job close to my pregnancy, I had to borrow sick leave to stay home for 10 weeks with my DD. I was grateful I could borrow the leave, or I would have had to come back to work. But it's frustrating that the federal government doesn't even have short term disability that allows you to make 60% pay while you stay home on maternity leave. I've had negative sick leave for over two years. Luckily my husband has plenty of leave to stay home during that first year when DD got sick.

So, anyway, come fall, I'll be back in the red on sick leave. In about 2 years I'll have earned my way back to zero! And I don't expect any more children, so maybe some time I'll actually have ACCUMULATED some sick leave! Woo hoo!

Posted by: sciencemom | February 20, 2008 2:37 PM | Report abuse

All things considered it's probably rational for those military mothers to have their children when they do.

A military job offers someone with just a high school education pretty good benefits. So the pregnancy is covered.

If the soldiers have their children young then their own mothers/families are also younger. Since Grand mom's seem to be a big factor in watching the children while Mom is deployed it's better to do it while she is young and able.

I'd also add that most 40-50 y/o Grandmothers are seasoned enough to do a good job of parenting small children, whereas many 18-24 y/o are not. So for all we know the children are being raised in their young years by family members who are best able to care for them.

There is no draft, so these women have chosen this path. A baby needs to bond to someone, but not necessarily a birth Mom. As long as someone stable can watch the child while Mom is deployed I don't see that any harm is done.

Posted by: RoseG | February 20, 2008 2:59 PM | Report abuse

"I am not saying that the military way of life is RIGHT, but there are people who are able to make it WORK, although it is HARD to do. There are ALOT of people in this country will never earn the $60K-90K a year in their 30s to afford to have a stay at home spouse, and own their own home, two cars and a dog, and the sooner you realize how lucky you are (and stop criticizing others who aren't) the better."

First off, I know full well how lucky I am. That good fortune does not mean I can't have opinions on other issues. (and for the record, I worked darn hard for what I have. I worked full-time to put myself through undergrad and law school, then put off having kids for several years while DH and I built the financial cushion that makes our current lifestyle possible).

Beyond that, I have to confess I'm confused by your post. I hear you saying that the military is a wonderful way of life with great benefits, and so it totally makes sense for military families to procreate early. If that's your point, ok, fine.

However, the article we're talking about here is full of people who don't seem to think the military offers such a great deal, and that's where I get cranky.

I read the people in the article as saying that (1) they want the benefits that the military offers, but (2) don't want to wait to have children until after they're off active duty, and (3)they don't want to be deployed while they have infants, but(4) they also don't want to quit the military and its attendant benefits. In short, they want everything they want the moment that they want it, regardless of whatever commitments they've already made to the military. It's an attitude unlikely to elicit my sympathy.

Posted by: NewSAHM | February 20, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Why would you want something you can't realistically afford? I want a house in Fairfax County, a Mercedes, and European vacations twice a year but know I can't possibly afford them. Just settle for what you can afford. According to previous posts, everybody here has advanced degrees from Ivy League colleges and high-paying jobs with top law firms. You can afford the live-in nannies, shrinks, orthodontia, Beamers, and mistresses.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2008 3:08 PM | Report abuse

The military is like a huge tanker in the middle of the ocean. For it to move, it will take time and move slowly. (Not in battle of course, but as far as bureaucracy.) Now that there are so many more women and mothers in the military, the tanker will have to make adjustments, even if it is ever so slowly. I believe I read in the WP just yesterday that the Army wouldn't be able to maintain its levels without women (the alternative would be a draft). So obviously, the maternity leave limits will need to be extended at some point.

As far as the benefits of being in the military, they are huge. I was an Army brat. My sister's braces were free. I felt safe walking home from school with MPs as my crossing guards. Even though my dad retired after 20 years, my parents still get to go to the commissary and PX to buy stuff that is way cheaper than regular stores. Now the sacrifice, of course, is that parents will be away from their children for TDY or tours. That's the exchange rate, and that's the way it is. It is still a good life, one that I'm glad I was raised in. It was easier for my parents, though, since it was my dad in the Army and my mom stayed at home. When I was 6, he actually moved a state over to start work at a new post for a year, and I have no recollection of him being gone. He was around every other weekend, apparently enough that his first grader wasn't damaged.

Posted by: Really | February 20, 2008 3:13 PM | Report abuse

I got 6 weeks off. I was so exhausted. I managed to negotiate another 6 weeks at half time/half pay. It's not enough. I am convinced that it caused a lot of the sleep problems of my son. He went on a bottle strike, etc. It took 1.5 years after the birth before I stopped being absolutely exhausted and just tired, like all parents...

Posted by: Toni | February 20, 2008 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Just to get the facts right, since it has came up:

Canada's EI (Employment Insurance) one year maternity program doesn't require post-maternity work - it is a benefit earned by the number of hours worked in the preceding year.

A component of the year is actual maternity only claimable by the mother. The remainder is "parental leave" and can be taken by either parent, or split between them.

During that year the beneficiary gets 55% of salary during the qualifying period up to a certain amount (I think the max works out to about 41K). Some employers offer a partial or total "top up" on top of that based on the prior salary.

EI premiums go up with salary and are capped at $720.

More info:

Posted by: A Canadian | February 20, 2008 5:04 PM | Report abuse


Sure not everyone can afford to have a child. But there is no right to have a child. Some people can't have a child because the man is shooting blanks or the woman's ovaries are messed up. Too bad, so sorry. If you can't have a child because you don't have the money or there are physical problems, it won't be the end of the world. I mean, literally, it won't be the end of the world. There are plenty of other people popping them out. The majority of Americans have some unneccessary luxuries. Even people who live in public housing seem to think that it is strange not to have cable or satellite television, so I don't believe the argument that most people in this country cannot afford to have children. They simply make the wrong financial decisions. It's not the government's job to pay for that.


I'm not going to argue whether one parent should stay home or not. But obviously many here think one or both parents should stay home during the initial part of the child's life. That's fine. But no you shouldn't be paid to stay home beyond normal accrued leave that everyone gets. And the comparison with health insurance falls flat. Having a child is completely controllable. How often one gets sick is not as much under one's control.

Posted by: PersonL | February 20, 2008 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Actually, having a child is not always completely controllable, birth control can fail!

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2008 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Yes, it is completely controllable. You must abstain from heterosexual relations, sinners!!

Posted by: Pope Prudish III | February 20, 2008 5:57 PM | Report abuse

I didn't have time to come back and clarify as I was out of the office most of the day. I realize I mispoke. It was companies who "top off" the 55% so you keep your full salary that require a commitment.

Posted by: to A Canadian | February 20, 2008 6:24 PM | Report abuse

re: commitment - yes, as with my employer's partial "top up" as well. I think "top ups" are fairly rare though.

Also to clarify - the $720 is the annual total.

Also just FYI, I didn't put that information up to say how great it is to be here (because it's also great to be there in many ways). As an outsider watching your debates on topics like this and healthcare I just get the impression that you don't get a lot of accurate information about alternatives.

Posted by: A Canadian | February 20, 2008 7:03 PM | Report abuse

What is all this obsession with cable and satellite TV? I have satellite TV, it costs me about $35 per month. I barely notice the bill, and if I stopped the service, I would never notice the "saved" money either! Can we stop beating this dead horse? It's cheap, which is why people have it.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2008 7:12 PM | Report abuse

What is all this obsession with cable and satellite TV? I have satellite TV, it costs me about $35 per month. I barely notice the bill, and if I stopped the service, I would never notice the "saved" money either! Can we stop beating this dead horse? It's cheap, which is why people have it.

Posted by: | February 20, 2008 07:12 PM

It's cheap for you. But some of us would notice if we saved that $35/month. But the point is more that you add up all these little "cheap" things and then you have real money. ...not that I agree that one could magically live on one income if we just cut out such "extras."

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2008 10:13 PM | Report abuse

I live in Austria where there is paid maternity leave. It's recently been changed so that one can pick from one of several models. The old and standard model is 2/1/2 years for a mom and a dad can take 6 months. Also if you are an employed mom, you have to leave your job 8 weeks before the due date and stay out 8 weeks (12 with a C-section birth) and you get your full salary during that time.

All well and good-- but there's a catch. I have found that employers don't like to hire women of child-bearing age because they assume they will get pregnant and leave, at least for the 2 years or so. By law you have to inform an employer of a pregnancy by 12 weeks along-- not ideal if you're job-searching (because during the first month you usually don't have firing protection-- and this is the one time an Austrian employer can fire you because you are pregnant.)

Even with the benefits, the birth rate here is still really low-- I believe recent figures I read were something like 1.4 children per woman.

Posted by: American mom abroad | February 21, 2008 2:08 PM | Report abuse

I live in CA and a Paid Family Leave program was implemented several years ago just before I gave birth to my last child. Along with the 6 weeks of state paid disability and the 4 weeks of paid time off I saved up, I was able to take 4 months off. My employer let me come back part time (at full pay) for an additional month and by 6 months I was back full-time. I had planned for this baby for quite some time and waited until my older child was in school and things worked out fine. CA is one of the few states to offer a paid disability and family leave (that dads can take too!) programs. Yes, it's expensive to live here but this is definitely a perk!

Posted by: gracep117 | February 21, 2008 6:46 PM | Report abuse

With my now 17-year-old daughter, I took six months off. Nearly three of those months were paid via medical leave, maternity leave and vacation. When my son came along two years later, I took nine months off, using the same combination of medical/maternity and vacation to keep a paycheck coming for nearly three months. When I went back to work, we were out of savings and needed my paycheck to make the mortgage. If I had to do it again, I would do it EXACTLY the same way. Taking that time off with my babies was worth every penny we lost...

Posted by: MandyS | February 22, 2008 10:41 AM | Report abuse

To the people who criticize working women for having children, how do you think future doctors, nurses, plumbers, etc. get born? How do you think the human race perpetuates itself? If you discover a better way than women having children, let us know.

Every working women should have a minimum of 6 mos. paid leave when she gives birth or adopts a child. Fathers/Partners should have paid and unpaid leave available too. Period. Would it be expensive? Yes. So are lots of other things. Like prison and war.

But, I also believe that parents should show much more responsibility and planning. If you know you want to have children and that you want to take some time off to be with them, start planning years in advance. Save, don't buy the big house, don't buy the fancy car. I agree that 23-year-olds in the military having babies represents a phenomenal lack of planning.

In other words, the responsibility goes both ways.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 22, 2008 10:43 AM | Report abuse

The whole point of the creation of the United States government was to move away from government control... since government control was the root to all oppresion, tyranny, rebellious war, class discrimintation, and the prevention of democracy for thousands of years. We don't get it right all the time, but we are careful to preserve that idea, less we may loose the cause that made us what we are.

In the U.S., our economy is built off free enterprise, and free market, and to have that, we have to have a government that promotes that. I submit to you all that maybe we are not greedy for our lack of government interference in this, but that we (parents) are greedy for feeling like we have to work, even if we just had a child.

In this society, growth is based on competition. There is little protection for companies who loose their competitive edge. That is how we have been successful, but also why businesses can't afford to lose valuable employees for extended periods. What we need to understand, is that a modest home, a old but good vehicle, alot of love, education, and fun is what a family needs.. not a new Escalade, a BMW, a 3500 Sq. foot, 4 gable home with cathedral ceilings. Kids don't need 250.00 shoes... just good, loving parents.

The question is, can you provide lots of love, education, and a modest home on one income? If so, then why do both parents have to work? In the spirit of what this country is founded on... take responsibilty yourself, make a choice to make the sacrifices necessary. If the 'market' doesn't have a place for mothers who want to dedicate the right amount of time to their child, then that's the 'market.' However, the 'market' may change, if the workforce changes. That is what free enterprise is all about.

On the other hand, if you feel you can raise your child just fine and work, then go for it. I think anything is possible with the right amount of love.

Some may say... "Hey, some people are so poor they can't live without both parents working." I say this to them, either don't have children, or have them poor..reverting to my previous statments about what a child really needs... and that is love.

I love the U.K. and Canada, and really respect their system of government.. The U.S. is just a different form of government, that requires different implementations of the family/child-bearing element of society.

Posted by: chip meyer | February 27, 2008 10:08 PM | Report abuse

previous comment:

Which of course is how you end up with the highest rates of incarceration in the free world >>>>>>>>

Yes..unfortunately our incarcaration rates are high. It's from mandatory drug sentencing, and other simliar criminalizations of people... not the foundational concepts of our government or low taxes.

Posted by: chip meyer | February 27, 2008 10:15 PM | Report abuse

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