What would you do with one year of paid parental leave?
Netflix made the news recently for its progressive decision to allow employees to have one year of flexible time off for the first year after having or adopting a child. And it would be paid time off.
In other countries, this is standard practice. Chile grants eighteen weeks paid, or thirty-five weeks if you live in Norway. But here in the United States, where we’re supposed to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and do everything ourselves, we have no form of paid maternity leave, even. Forget paternity leave. Out of 184 developed nations, only we and Papua New Guinea have no paid maternity leave. Check out this chart from Bloomberg to see how other nations stack up against the U.S. in providing paid time off. Read the whole article here.
So what would I have done with one year of time off after having my son? First of all, I probably would not have returned to work after twelve weeks. I’m not sure who came up with the twelve-week benchmark, but that person had obviously never given birth, nor cared for a crying infant in the middle of the night for weeks on end. At twelve weeks postpartum, I had just barely figured out how to make myself presentable and get my son ready to go out the door. Granted, my maternity leave was during the coldest winter in recorded Chicago history, so we hadn’t gotten out much.
It’s hard to say what exactly would have happened, but observing the situation from the viewpoint, this is what I would consider a great plan:
Stay at home until at least 16 weeks postpartum - maybe 20.
Return to work on a part-time schedule - as in, four-hour shifts instead of eight-hour shifts.
When baby is about nine months old, return to full-time shifts. (Nine months is when I remember things becoming noticeably easier and I started to think, “I can do this!”
Enjoy the fact that all of the times I needed to miss work - for his viruses, sick calls, many ear infections, and all the times I caught something from him - will not be taken out of my sick or vacation time. They will be part of the flexible “year off.” This is a big one. I calculated that i took about ten sick days after returning to work, but before my son turned one year old. This is just what happens when your child goes to day care. After missing only three days due to illness in my six years on the job, I ended up spending an entire week out with an upper respiratory infection, and I also somehow got two ear infections. The last time I’d had one, I’m sure I was only a baby myself. (Of course, having to take sick days would not irk me so much if they didn't mean my pot of days for a future maternity leave was dwindling.)
Again, this is all speculation. Maybe if I had eased back into work, rather than diving right into the deep end, it would have been even more difficult to go back to a full-time schedule. I doubt it, though. It is an exhausting time, full of worries and learning and making mistakes. Many would agree that having a child is the biggest life adjustment you will ever make. So is taking time to readjust the rest of your life fair and reasonable? I think so.
So, what would you do with a flexible year off after having a child? I’d love to hear what you think!