How to Afford Not Working During Maternity Leave

Marisa Torrieri

maternity leaveWhen my mom was pregnant with me, she stopped working entirely about a month before she had me, using the time to reflect, relax and prepare a lovely, 1970s-décor nursery for my arrival.

How I envy her now! I worked job #1 almost up until the day my son was born—and job #2 until one month before he entered the world. I was a journalist by day and a guitar teacher by night (two nights a week—and weekends too), until I was 30 weeks pregnant.

I made about $2,000 in six months by taking on extra students—which is what I felt I needed to make to prepare for a steep salary cut once the baby came.

Don’t get me wrong: I love teaching guitar, and I am grateful for the salary and benefits provided by my corporate day job. And perhaps I could have made it work with just one salary (I am, after all, married and part of a two-income household). But by making a couple thousand dollars extra, I was able to relax and (almost) not worry about money during the first three months of my son’s life.

Still, while hauling a guitar on my back to six homes a week after slaving away at a computer for eight hours is tough when I’m not knocked up. So just imagine how hard it is when you’re carrying 30 additional pounds of baby weight!

The Problem With Maternity Leave in America

Yet I’m better off than a lot of women in the United States. My job offers two additional weeks of paid parental leave on top of six to eight weeks of disability leave pay (three weeks paid in full, plus three to five weeks paid at 60% of my salary).

According to 2013 data from the National Partnership for Women & Families, just 60% of the U.S. workforce qualifies for benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave (which can be taken intermittently over a 12-month period, if necessary) with the guarantee of getting your job or job equivalent back. The law only applies to workers at sites with 50 or more employees, who have worked at least 12 months and 1,250 hours.

RELATED: Mat Leave in America: Is the Landscape Finally Changing?

So I often wonder—for two-income households like mine—are there real alternatives to cutting maternity leave short or working overtime to save up for a huge pay cut? Is it truly possible for one parent-to-be to save enough money for time off by working a normal job? And finally, how many women stress about money during maternity leave, or even take up part-time work in advance of it?

  • JJ

    When I became pregnant, we started funneling my paycheck into savings to see if we could live from my husband’s paycheck alone. We not only figured out that we could do it, we save quite a bit, in the meantime. I know not everyone is that fortunate, but buying a house that we could afford on only one income, even though we had two good incomes, was a huge help in being able to do that.

    • mara

      couldn’t agree more…

  • MamaofOne

    I work for a state university and although they don’t pay me during FMLA, I was able to use banked sick time and annual leave time to fund 14 weeks of fully paid time off. I knew we wanted to start a family, so I worked for 5 years to bank that time so I could stay home. One of the best decisions we have made.

  • anon

    This article makes me feel appreciative that I am a single mother. If a pregnant woman is going to have to bear the sole financial burden within a 2-income household as to whether or not she can afford to take maternity leave, then she may as well be a single parent. It is insane that a married woman living in a 2-income household should have to go out and take a second job to afford a baby that was created by two adults. That is what single parents do.

    I took six weeks of paid leave. During that time, I interviewed for a higher paying job, relocated out-of-state, and handed in my resignation. The day I moved into my new home was the day I started my new job. Everything happens for a reason. :-)

  • JJ

    Why do you have to work if you have two incomes?