While I am beyond the years of needing to worry about maternity leave, I still follow the policies and stories around how working parents navigate this very first challenge of trying to care for a new baby and support their families financially.
Like most moms, I wish I could have taken more time. With each my three kids, I took 18 weeks. Six weeks was paid at a particular percentage by my company, and then my husband and I saved so I could take more time. With my second and third kids, California had introduced Paid Family Leave, so I was able to pull a small check from the state for six weeks during that 18-week stretch. I definitely recognize my company, at the time, provided more paid support than most, but it still took planning and sacrifice to take time away from the office with no income.
Today, the debate continues. Most of the rest of the world offers some form of paid leave. Sure, Marissa Mayer is cool with taking two weeks off and hopping back into the office (that’s an entirely different debate). But most parents want and need more time – to heal, to bond, to sleep, to focus on parenthood. There will be plenty of time to juggle in the years ahead, right?
So when co-founders Kristin Collins and Katherin Fleury, the two moms behind a new maternity/paternity crowdfunding platform approached me to share their story, I had to learn more. Here are some details behind their idea and what they hope to achieve with a new site called MyBabyBond.com.
Tell me about MyBabyBond.com.
In the simplest terms, it’s a crowdfunding platform for maternity and paternity leave. New parents – or their friends or relatives – can set up a BabyBond instead, of or in addition to, a traditional baby shower to help them take time off with their new baby.
How did you come up with the idea?
Kathleen: My partner Noah sent out an email on behalf of his best friend, who only had one paid week off with his new baby. With that one email Noah raised $1500, and his friend was able to take one more week and stay home. I was astounded and quickly thought that we should try to scale up that idea. I was shocked that so few people had done this through other crowdfunding sites — and we are definitely the first to be devoted to the cause of paid family leave. We’re hoping this will also help bring more attention to the importance of paid leave. We’re giving a portion of our profits to A Better Balance, a charitable organization that is doing a lot of great work in that area.
What were your own experiences with maternity leave? Did you had a paid leave, need to scrimp and save, take minimum time?
Kathleen: For my first child, I was able to take three months, about half paid. This past October when I had my second child, I was in a leadership role at work and we had become much more dependent on my salary. I was only able to take six weeks, all paid sick and vacation time. It was certainly a challenge.
Kristin: I’m a lawyer and thought I understood my employer’s policies pretty well. I planned to use my ample vacation and sick time to provide pay through at least three months of leave. However, my mom was diagnosed with cancer when I was 8 months pregnant, and I used up my vacation time to be with her. Shortly after having my son, I learned that my employer was only going to let me use my sick time through my six week c-section recovery period. I was not mentally, physically or logistically prepared to go back to work so soon. It was a rough time!
Even though we had our struggles, one of our motivating factors is the realization that we are actually among the lucky ones. Only 13 percent of Americans get any form of paid leave.
What has been the response so far?
Everyone loves the idea, but we’re still just getting started and looking for a few people who want to test the concept. One challenge is to help people feel ok about asking for – and giving time instead of traditional stuff. It’s a great tool for second-time moms or self-employed moms, and it’s a much-needed alternative to the traditional baby shower model. So we’re hoping we can have a few successful bonds and keep spreading the word.
Do you have any other tips for new moms as they plan to take maternity leave?
Know your rights (for instance, even if your company is covered by the Family Medical Leave Act, that guarantees only unpaid leave). Talk to your boss early. Get creative. Ask for what you really want and take as much time as you can – both mom and dad! Babies grow up so fast and you don’t get that time back. Plus, rest is a pretty great thing when you’ve got a new baby!
I’ll be curious to follow the evolution of MyBabyBond.com. After all, I hear of young couples crowdfunding their honeymoons and home improvement projects. Why not crowdfund parental leave? You only need so many baby blankets and bottles from a shower. I’m guessing most parents would welcome the idea of having a little more financial relief to actually spend time with their newborn.
What do you think of this idea?
Would you recommend it to a friend?