Diving Back In!

I’m in week 4 of being back after maternity leave. The end of my first week back I had found myself on an airplane on my way to a conference in Las Vegas. Nothing like diving right in! Overall the first week wasn’t bad. I didn’t cry and I managed to get through all 3,000+ emails that accumulated while I was out. However, I should have written myself a note to remind myself what the heck I was working on before I left. Seriously. It took piecing together many emails to remember projects I needed to follow up on and people I had to reach out to. I feel like the maternity fog is still lingering, but its begun to dissipate substantially. Well, except for the burnt out part, I can forego that feeling.

Week 3 we had family visiting and Ariah’s dedication at church. I went right from our crazy Vegas conference, to hosting. And then again last week, I was sitting on the plane headed to another conference in Vegas. The problem with this conference, although shorter than the first, it left me reeling with ideas for work. Not that digging out of email and playing catch up from three months away isn’t enough, right? Networking with others in the analytics industry and seeing what’s been happening over the last few months, gets me all revved up to go back to work and conquer the most challenging business problems. So, thank you Alteryx Inspire conference, you have inspired me. But I’m gonna need to wrap my head around the fact there is just one of me and lots of ideas.

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I’m especially thankful that hubs is a rock star. I don’t have to worry for a second about him holding down the fort and taking care of 4 kids. It’s easier to be away and makes FaceTiming way more enjoyable. Instead of having to ask “did you remember to take the baby out of the car seat?”, I can ask what the funniest thing Asher said, or did the boys enjoy the notes I put in their lunches. I suppose if I’m diving right back into work, that’s the best way!

 

Medical School Debt

There was recently a video online from a radio show where the host ridiculed the caller regarding he and his wife’s student loan debt. Both were doctors heading into residency. The caller was asking for advice and instead got talked down to and disrespected. Although that is the right of the host (it’s their show), I thought it was in very poor taste. What startled me even more, was when I read comments from people that watched the video, so few people really understood what the full medical school journey is. That, coupled with the constant questions of where hubs is in his journey, got me to thinking. I imagine there are a lot of people who really do not understand all that goes into becoming a doctor. All you hear about is a lot of school, insane hours, and insurmountable debt. I can assure you, all of those are correct. However, there were a lot of assumptions people made- at least based on their comments- that were incorrect. For example, that a Family Medicine physician does surgery. That is incorrect. They may do some small procedures, but Surgeons perform operations. That was just the beginning of the misconceptions. Here is a crash course on what the process and cost is.

Let’s talk timeline to fully lay out what this journey looks like.

Year 1: Classes that will require ridiculously expensive books (usually around $500 if lucky), laptop ($800-$1,000 for a decent one), apps for studying (upwards of $100-$200).

Year 2: Classes that again require books, Step 1 (the first of 3 board exams and the cheapest one at $600), Step 1 study course ($4,000 – $15,000 depending on what you choose), Step 1 study apps ($100-$300 each), Step 1 practice test ($50/test and you usually want to do multiple tests to ensure you’re scoring within passing range). If you don’t pass Step 1, plan on paying for all of that again.

Year 3: Rotations begin so transportation to/from practicing locations. Study items related to your rotation- not required but recommended. Step 2 (the second of the board exams and I believe around $1,200), study materials for Step 2.

Year 4: Rotations continue (see above). The largest cost is residency applications: $99 for the first 10 and then a per application fee after that. That doesn’t sound so bad right? Well, in most cases you will want to apply for MULTIPLE programs to increase the odds for interviews. For example, most people I talked to had applied to 35-40 programs, some even more. Using the current pricing, the cost for the applications alone would be over $400. That does not include travel to each interview you’re invited to. You are responsible for travel, lodging, and food. We’re talking hundreds of dollars for each trip. Now, you don’t get invited to interview at every place you apply. But, a few people I talked to had 5-10 interviews they attended. Think about that: 10 interviews at (conservatively) $700 per trip, we’re at $7,000. Of course, if it’s booked last minute and your airfare alone is $900 and it’s a high cost area so your hotel is $200 a night, that can break a budget quick.

So, once you’ve made it through fourth year and graduate, you’re a doctor! But you still have Step 3 you need to complete (I believe it’s around $1,600 for the test alone). The fun doesn’t end there- you now have residency! That is where you rotate through your specialty program for usually 3-5 years and get paid a meager salary- usually making less per hour than the custodial staff. But, it is better than nothing. If you chose to go further in your specialty, you would then do a fellowship, which is another few years. The fun can last for 10-12 years beyond undergrad! Are you ready to start your med school journey yet??

Now looking at that timeline and the number of non-tuition items that come up, you can see why my blood pressure skyrocketed while reading those comments. I’ve previously written about the journey to get into medical school. So, if you make it through that mayhem, you have to figure out how you’re going to pay for medical school. That is assuming you don’t have a wealthy family member than can cover the $30K/year tuition cost, lab fees, books, and living expenses since you cannot work while in medical school (we’ll get to that later). So, if you don’t have a rich Aunt Agatha or even a stingy Uncle Scrooge (that wouldn’t fund it anyway), you need to figure out how to pay for school (up front). There are a few options:

  • Save up your money and pay cash. So, after you finish undergrad, often a graduate degree as well, begin setting aside as much money as you can. For a state school (typically the cheapest) it’s usually $30K-$40K per year. Multiply that by 4 years and that is the amount you need. So, on the safe side, assuming you do not need basic living needs such as shelter, food, clothes, insurance, etc., you should be covered with about $160,000. But be careful to not have any unexpected things happen because that may cause you to reallocate your robust savings.
  • Enlist in the military. All branches (that I’m aware of) offer a “scholarship program”. This is different than an academic scholarship which we personally have not encountered often, if at all. You sign up to serve in the military, at their mercy for 4 years after medical school and they will pay for medical school and even provide a living stipend. Yay for Ramen money!! Actually, hubs did try this path since he had previously served in the military but was not selected. We’re not sure why, I say it’s because he’s old. All kidding aside, this is a great option. But, like we discovered, not everyone is accepted (even with previous military experience and active duty service). So, for those who go through the rigorous process of applying and getting in, but do not get the scholarship, please, forget the work and money you put in and just quit. That must mean it’s not meant to be.
  • Reach out to Sally Mae. So, when your rich relative and the military cannot help you out, there are student loans. You can get enough to cover tuition and then even a refund (to be addressed later). You may have an option after becoming a doctor to practice medicine in an underrepresented area (rural or urban typically) and after a period of time have all or a portion of those loans forgiven. We may go down that road, but are more focused on getting to the “becoming a doctor” part first.

Now, let me address this refund thing. A lot of people seemed to get annoyed that medical students get a refund. I will say our case is a little different because we have 4 kids. For most medical students, it’s just them and perhaps a spouse. Even so, beyond the tuition there are books, food, clothes (especially if you’re in clinic and don’t have business clothes), insurance, transportation, rent/mortgage, school supplies (laptop, paper, pencils, etc.). There are many expenses outside of just tuition. As a medical student, at most medical schools, they do not allow the students to have a job. Being a student is your job. Quite honestly, I can’t imagine hubs even trying to have a job. Between classes full time, studying in off time and something called sleep that doesn’t happen often, there is no time for a job. Not one that would pay for all the things mentioned above. You cannot stop and start school either. You know if you were in undergrad and didn’t have tuition for a semester, you might take it off and work and then come back in the fall. That’s not possible with medical school. It’s all or nothing. If you don’t believe me, ask the 8,000+ wives of doctors and students who regularly weigh in on these topics. So, in our case, that refund helps to replace the income that hubs had before school. Believe me, it’s merely a fraction of what he made, but every little bit helps. We don’t live extravagantly and use the money for vacations or big ticket items. Well, unless you count the car seat we bought for Ariah. Then yes, we did buy a large ticket item.

Let me really rock the boat for a second. Stop and really think. How many people do you know, coming out of undergrad and/or graduate school that do not have any student loans and have resources to pay cash for medical school? You know, that $160,000 for tuition? Don’t forget living expenses, travel expenses for year 4 when you have to travel all over the country for residency interviews and other miscellaneous items that come up during 4 years. Now, did that person you’re thinking of (if you can think of one) grow up in poverty? I’m not talking about race, I’m talking about class. Did they grow up living comfortable- surviving well beyond paycheck to paycheck? With an already growing doctor shortage, I just cannot understand how someone could say that the only people who should attend medical school are those that pay cash for it. I feel that would not only severely limit an already understaffed profession, but it would feel like we’re stepping into some caste system that allows only those with money the ability to pursue careers that can be lucrative. Not only as a physician, but lawyers, dentist, etc. I’m just saying, I don’t feel like the ability for my doctor to practice medicine hinges on how much student loan debt they have. I would rather they be great at their job- taking care of their patients- than what their net worth is.

So, I write all this to say that I cannot fathom how one could go to medical school without some type of assistance. Medical school is not just 4 years of science. It’s hours upon hours of studying, serving, and testing. The drive needed to be a doctor, in light of the debt you’re likely to have coming out, has to be fierce. We need doctors that are willing to practice medicine, care for patients, and change the world of medicine for the better. They’re mentors for our future and role models for our children.

 

 

What I’ve Learned: Maternity Leave Edition

I’m baaacck! To writing that is. Apparently, my blog has been on maternity leave as well! As I’ve been enjoying snuggles and dressing like a bum, there are a few things that I’ve come to realize.

  • I was reminded what a big job it is being a stay at home mom. I’ve been lucky enough that all the kids are in school or daycare so I can really focus on the new baby. The days where they were not, at a minimum, were chaotic. So, shout out to all the stay at home moms!!
  • Daytime TV is terrible. Maybe it’s because I’m not a huge reality TV person (talk shows included), but there are slim pickings. You can only watch Law and Order: SVU so many times. I think I watched all the episodes while on leave for Asher so I’m not seeing anything new.
  • Late night TV is terrible. So, when she wakes at 2am and I turn the TV on to stay awake while feeding her, it’s usually reruns of Law & Order: SVU (note #1 on why that’s not entertaining). Or, the lovely choices of Life Lock, Pressure Cookers, Amazing Abs, Erections, Great Sex, or a variety of kids shows on Disney and Nick Jr. Don’t get me wrong, I could use some good abs and, well, some of the other options are what got me on maternity leave to begin with so I’m not interested in watching the infomercials.
  • Babies only sleep, eat, and poop (well, at least mine does). So, for the other 22 hours a day, it can get boring after cleaning the house and taking a nap. I’ve been reading and doing puzzles. Hubs says it’s time to head back to work. He knows me well.
  • A “quick trip” to Target to get diapers or groceries is anything but that. There is something therapeutic about wandering the store without a child tugging at your leg. That is until you check out and throw up in your mouth a little bit because you spent twice as much as you expected.
  • There were more times than I like to admit where I really didn’t know what day of the week it was. And certainly not what day of the month it was. I managed to nearly forget a field trip day, almost miss a meeting, and oversleep on days I had to do school drop off.

Don’t get me wrong, maternity leave has been nice. I’ve been able to relax and get to know this new little baby of ours. There are a few items I will miss when I head back to work in a couple weeks (besides my kiddo of course!).

  • Naps. Whenever I want. I fully predict that at least once the first week back my forehead will hit the keyboard around 2pm begging for a nap.
  • Catching up on housework. I have enjoyed not using every Saturday to clean the house. I’ve been able to work on things here and there and it’s made it way more manageable.
  • Naps. Did I mention that already?
  • Grocery shopping when it’s not busy. Aside from spending too much at Target, it’s nice being able to get a good parking spot and then get through the aisles without playing bumper carts.
  • Flexibility. Asher was sent home sick last week and I did not have to worry about the debate of who does pick up and stays home with the sick kid. It’s certainly made it a lot easier for our schedules. Or when Elijah had an evening event, I didn’t have to stress about having to leave work early to make it on time.

At the end of the day, I do feel I am still a better mom when I’m working. I may be less organized and laundry may pile up a bit more, but I have that adult interaction I’ve been missing while away. And the time when I am home will be even more precious.

She’s Here!

She’s here! Our final family member arrived on Thursday, February 16th. Ariah (pronounced like “Mariah” without the “M”), completed our family. Honestly, boy or girl, we were done anyway! The boys are super excited for her to be here, and even Asher has adjusted well- after a few tough days. The pink, purple and glitter take some getting used to. I’ve, on more than one occasion, called her a boy nickname. It’s weird having another girl in the house, but it’s certainly something I can get used to!

A lot of it is surreal actually. The pregnancy was tougher than any of my others like I mentioned before. But it did go by fast in retrospect. I had started my maternity leave on the 15th. I figured that I would get a few days of rest in before my scheduled induction date on the 21st. My first day off hubs and I ran errands, had lunch together and just enjoyed some quiet time- which hasn’t happened in a REALLY long time. The morning of the 16th, we were getting the boys ready for school and then planning on running some additional errands before my 38-week checkup. In the midst of the usual morning chaos, I realized that I had either become incontinent or my water had broken and was leaking out gradually. I called the doctor and they said to head to the hospital where they could check for certain. The boys, being the boys, were moving at a snail’s pace. I had been having a few contractions and I realized that not only did we have to do drop off at 2 different locations across town from one another, but we had to head into the city. During rush hour. Now, Minneapolis doesn’t seem super big, but the traffic here is terrible. Especially if you live south of the cities and have to travel north, which we do. No matter what, I did not want to be that person to give birth on the Bloomington Ferry bridge during rush hour and be on the 5 o’clock news. After much prodding, I had to turn the drama level up a few notches and yell that my water broke so they better get a move on. Surprisingly, it worked. Those boys moved faster than I’ve ever seen. Hubs thankfully was still calm. Side note- when my water broke with Asher in the middle of the night, hubs was in a very sleep deprived, delirious panic and backed into our other car as we left. We still all laugh about that. No major incidents getting out of the house this time!

We did make it to the hospital where an amazing labor and delivery triage nurse- who also has 3 boys and girl- got us situated. They confirmed that my water had broken and then got us set up in the labor and delivery room. I believe we got all settled in there around 9am. My labor and delivery nurse- who also has 3 boys and a girl (I believe that was God reassuring us?!)- was absolutely awesome. My doctor stopped in to see how things were going- at which point the rest of my water broke- and they began the process of moving the labor along. For whatever reason, my body does not seem to go into regular labor patterns on its own. I’ve always needed Pitocin, which in my world means I need good drugs too. That Pitocin stuff is no joke! Heck, labor is no joke and I’m totally of the camp that if I can be comfortable, why not!? Thankfully my OB is very supportive of that- I believe the quote I heard was “no need to play hero”- and he put orders in for an epidural.

Several hard contractions later the angel anesthesiologist, showed up to get the epidural going. Within 30 minutes I was laying comfy and chatting with hubs and the nurse. They did a check and I was at 4.5 centimeters. Decent progress but we figured I had at least another 5-7 hours to go.

About an hour later, I was at 6 so we were gearing up. They rolled me to my other side to even the epidural out. About 5 or 10 minutes later, I started feeling the contractions again, or so I thought. I mentioned it to the nurse and she checked and I was at 9.5 centimeters! I was NOT ready for that. Mentally, I was still wrapping my head around the fact that we were having a baby that day and not running errands and taking naps all afternoon. About 2 minutes later my doctor shows up and they get me all set up to begin pushing. So, I do a “practice push” and out comes a head…and half a “practice push” later, she is out! Seriously, I think that was faster than a cesarean! My head was spinning. Yes, I realize that I was lucky. She and I are healthy, but that was a shock to the system.

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Since then, I’ve been healing well- far better than I expected. She is growing really well and we’re just getting settled into a new routine. We’re staying quarantined at home, as much as we can, until she gets a little older and this flu and RSV wave let up, not to mention all of the other possibilities that can come up. It’s not worth the risk. I believe the Jimmy Kimmel PSA covers it well. So, come May, we will be out and meeting people. Until then, I’ll keep sending pictures and welcome any girly advice!

Counting Down!

The countdown is on. Only 4 weeks (or likely less) until we welcome baby #4 into the family. This has by far been my toughest pregnancy. I’m not sure if it’s because of my “advanced maternal age” or because it’s a girl this time. Either way, it’s not been pretty. Aside from the physical challenges I’ve had this time (I feel like I’m perpetually riddled with arthritis, a bum hip, a bad back and the list goes on), my emotions are all over the board. Laughing one minute, crying the next, irritable after that. Hubs is supportive, but at a loss. The boys I’m sure are sick of it. I am proud to say that I’ve at least managed to keep the tears to a minimum at work- or been able to shut my office door! My apologies to all caught in my emotional crossfire.

This time around it’s been different, perhaps due to my roller coaster of emotions, but the engagement by others is just not the same. I’m guessing that it’s probably my less than cordial, don’t touch my belly unless I know you well or you’re invited, demeanor? Who knows? But sometimes it’s a little sad because I feel like maybe I’m just not as welcoming about receiving questions. I was really feeling bummed about this. I mean, we’re having our first girl and I can only shoot daggers at anyone inquiring? That doesn’t seem celebratory on my part.

Apparently that only applies to adults. I was recently at Target (sans kids!) picking some items up, one of which was diapers. I’m browsing the diaper aisle, befuddled as usual at the fact that they have every single size of the diaper brand/style I want, except the size I need. I’m digging around the shelf looking in case some got buried. There was a mom also nosing around looking for diapers as well. She had a little baby boy and a pre-school age girl with her. The girl I notice keeps looking at me. I smile at her and go about digging around for diapers. What happened next melted my heart, and I believe horrified her mother.

Girl: “That’s my baby brother”, she states his name and points to the little boy in the cart.

Me: “Wow, that’s great! I bet you like being a big sister?”

Girl: “Yes, and I have a bigger sister too.” She gives her name too.

Me: “That’s great. You’re lucky to have a sister and a brother.” I’m amused at this point but also don’t want to get too personal because that would be weird and you never know how people will react. I notice she keeps looking at my belly. “I have 3 big boys at home and now there is a baby girl in my belly!”

Girl: “I bet she makes noise. Mom I can hear her baby making noise.” At that moment, she skips over to me and places her ear on my belly. “Mom, I hear her baby moving!” Her mom is beyond horrified, apologizes, and tells her she needs to always ask permission.

Me: “Not even an issue. In fact, that made my day.” I couldn’t stop smiling. I really wanted to be able to reassure the mom as much as possible that it really was okay. But, I get it because I know some people that would not be okay with that. But for me, I loved the innocent enthusiasm. It was a welcome change. So, when I have my ridiculous instants of emotions, I go back to that moment and the joy she had to “hear the baby” and am happy I was able to be part of that moment, and that my baby girl could be as well.

Grandpa Green

This may not be a normal “working mom” post, but we all have loved ones we lose, working moms or not. I really don’t know another way to honor my grandpa- besides making choices that wouldn’t have him hollering “Judas Priest”!

People that knew grandpa before grandma died knew he was a goofball. Not one ounce of him cared what people thought. He was always in the moment, enjoying life. He retired from the post office when I was 4, so I really only knew the “retired” grandpa. I can’t speak to how grandma and grandpa were as parents. I assume they were fine- my mom and her siblings turned out to be successful, productive people. But, I can tell you, he loved being grandpa.

He was very passionate about taking care of his home and yard. You knew better than to touch the walls going up and down the stairs at their house. I laugh because my parents wouldn’t say boo about the boys touching the walls. If they did that at grandpa’s house, they would for sure get one booming warning before getting a good ol’ fashioned lickin’. You didn’t mess with his grass either- that was his summer hobby. He liked woodworking too. He even built custom Barbie furniture for his granddaughters. Of course he painted them bright green- that may have been the only paint color he had now that I think of it…

As much as he loved us, you didn’t mess around with him. When he said something, he meant business. I, being the oldest, of course had to test the waters with him. My most vivid memory was when he and grandma were over watching me and my brother. My mom had explicitly told me to not go to my friend’s house a block over. I, thinking grandpa was too old to catch me, decided to run over there. I mean, what was he really going to do?? Well, he chased me all the way to their porch (he ran way faster than I thought possible!). He carried me home, dangling me by one arm, swatting my butt the whole way. In today’s society, someone for sure would have called CPS. I’m pretty sure people in our neighborhood just looked and said “good for him”. Seriously though, I thought that he was going to beat me senseless.

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Christmas was always a very special time with him. I think he loved getting the grandkids riled up on Christmas Eve telling us Santa was on the roof. We would plaster our noses on the window trying to look. Now that I think of it, that was actually one of the few times he didn’t yell at us about getting our fingers or faces on the window. Of course, he would usually do that after he had had a few adult beverages with the parents and neighbors. I remember Grandpa and his neighbor Tony having a great time together on Christmas Eve. The party didn’t start until Tony and Virginia came over. Even as a kid, I knew that was when things would get fun. Those memories of Christmas Eve are so nostalgic for me. I even told Hubs that this Christmas didn’t feel the same because that whole dynamic is different. But I suppose that is part of growing up.

Grandpa was always active too. He kept walking regularly even after retiring and managed to stay in pretty good shape (see above comments about him chasing me). He would often play Trac Ball with us in the backyard or ride around the yard on my brothers moped (that usually happened after a few adult beverages as well).

I remember when I told him I was dating hubs. He was not happy. Like many in his generation, plus from a smaller town, he didn’t quite understand the idea of an interracial relationship. I asked him to at least meet him and then to form his own opinion. So, when they met, I mentioned that hubs was a history major (this was well before med school) and that he was also in the Marine Corps (Grandpa was in the Navy and Army and very proud of his service time). Grandpa did manage to put him through the ringer a bit, he asked a lot of questions, but by the end of the day, they were swapping war stories and hubs was relentlessly picking his brain about all of his experiences. And of course them both being named “Robert” didn’t hurt! I joke with him that I think grandpa liked him more than me! I can remember going over there and they would sit for hours sifting through old documents while grandma and I would sit there and smile.

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The other thing he loved a lot was grandma. As an outsider you may not know it- they bickered ALL THE TIME. Grandpa yelling “Judas Priest June!” and she retorting “Oh shut up Bob!”. It often served as our entertainment growing up. Probably the most memorable moment was the Christmas before grandma died. We were all playing cards- all the grandkids, spouses, grandma, and grandpa. They started arguing about which way you deal the cards- do you deal to the right or to the left? I mean really arguing. Like we were laughing and peeing our pants because these two were so serious about which way to deal the cards. The best part is that we all still laugh about it. In fact, I don’t think we can all play cards without mentioning it.

When she died, honestly, he died with her. He really wasn’t the same again. He didn’t know how to function. So, for the last 9 years, we’ve had a different version of grandpa. Sometimes, he was hard to love. Sometimes, he was just plain annoying. Most of the time, he was just not the same. So, when he passed away earlier this month, I was surprised. Mostly because it’s what he’s been saying he wanted since grandma died and no matter how much he smoked and his health failed, he just seemed to be hanging on. So, I believe grandpa got what he wanted for Christmas, to be with grandma again. We just hope she was ready for him!

Maternity/Paternity Leave

Today marks my 2 year “blogiversary”. I thought I would “celebrate” by posting something a little different- but still related to being a working mom. I started this post over a year ago, long before my current pregnancy. I’m interested to hear feedback and/or discussion regarding this topic, although I know it can be sensitive, especially in our current political climate. So, for those that partake- enjoy, it’s my opinion and only supported by articles and blogs I’ve read online. Don’t expect it to be a thesis….

I don’t typically post controversial stuff on my blog. Well, unless you consider me working and having kids controversial, but then why read a working mom blog in the first place? Either way, I’ve noticed a topic that has popped up in the news on several occasions. No, I’m not talking about political candidate rhetoric. I’m referring to paid time off for the birth or adoption of a child. Now, I cannot speak about adoption because I’ve never gone through that process. However, aside from the fact that the baby comes from someone else’s uterus, you still have the emotional roller coaster, extreme lifestyle change and the “getting to know you” phase of a new person to take care of. So, it still applies. But, I’ll save that topic for people that have the experience to speak from that perspective. And for my male readers- I’ll cover my thoughts on paternity leave, just be patient, I’ll get to it.

If you look at the recent companies that have changed their policies regarding leave, the bulk of them are tech or “trendy” companies. They are looking to attract and keep, good talent. When talking with people, especially those that live outside of the US, most are appalled by our current leave policy- or lack of policy- in most cases. I’ve heard conversations on both sides of this- and have read the many comments on some of these articles which include valid arguments on both sides, along with ignorant, troll-like responses. So, because I can only speak about what I know, here are my thoughts on paid leave for parents.

I was fortunate enough to work for companies where I qualified for FMLA (12 weeks of leave with job protection) and that paid me for 6 weeks at 66% of my salary. Now, don’t get me wrong, I say that I was fortunate because a lot of people I’ve read about worked places where they had far less time, were not under FMLA, and did not receive any pay. That is unfortunate. I often think about the idea that when you have an employee who gets the flu, you send them home. You don’t risk them spreading the virus to others which can cause a huge decrease in productivity when you have several people out. I get it, getting pregnant is not contagious. But, attitude and morale are- and maybe more so. If your employee comes back to work depressed, stressed, and tired, that does not help anyone. If the employee is worth keeping, it’s worth offering perks that keep them there.

I do consider myself lucky. I could have not gotten paid, and I don’t know about you, but coming out of college with student loans does not lend a lot of flexibility to “saving up”. Not to mention all of the new “grown up” things that were then added. Plus, how in the world do you know how much to save? I mean, you can save enough for your medical costs (assuming you have a perfect, no issue birth) and then several months of money to cover living expenses (again, assuming that nothing goes wrong while you’re off). But even then, it would have taken hubs and I, on our meager salaries starting out, years to save the amount of money to cover the medical costs (roughly $5-8K for Elijah which was the most normal birth we had) and the household expenses for 3-6 months. Yes I know, it’s our fault we took out student loans, had a car payment, mortgage, utilities, food, etc. We could not have afforded to have any more time off unpaid. I only took the paid 6 weeks off to not affect our budget any more than it already had been. I was also lucky enough to not have any lingering health issues so returning at 6 weeks, although still too early in my opinion, was more doable than having to go back any earlier.

So, there is the financial side of this argument. Sure I suppose you can prepare for that technically. But what you cannot prepare for is the physical side of the process. Forget about the pregnancy itself, morning sickness, fatigue, and any other ailments pregnant women often experience. Let’s talk about the actual delivery. A good delivery would allow a woman to go into the hospital, labor for a short period of time and then pop out the baby. No IV needed, no drugs, no stitches and minimal bleeding. But, let’s be real. How often does that happen? Going by the number of women that I’ve known who have had babies, deliveries seldom go that way. Think about it, you are pushing a baby- typically the size of a small watermelon (if you’re lucky), through a part of the body that is substantially smaller than that. There is bound to be some scrambling of things happening there. The body goes through extreme pain and contortion (it feels like that anyway) in order to get the baby out. If not naturally, you end up with an incision in your lower abdomen. So, stitches in your abdomen or in your lady parts, either way, not fun.

Hearing all of that fun, messy stuff, can we talk about the fact that it is really only a woman who can have the baby? I’ve heard the argument that it’s not a company’s responsibility to provide paid leave for their employees, it’s a privilege. That’s correct, it is a privilege. However, why wouldn’t a business offer paid time off for employees. Let’s think about this. We have to assume that the employee having the baby is a good employee- otherwise why are they still employed there? Not to mention, the only employee that can physically give birth, is a woman. So for those that argue that if you can’t afford the time off, then don’t have a baby: that would limit a LOT of women to having babies when they’re young before entering the workforce (again assuming there are no financial challenges- see my remark about student loans), waiting until they retire (hello biological clock) or heck, why not just stay home and not work? It seems a little sexist considering women are the only ones that can actually perform the process of birthing. Again- adoption aside for this particular argument. I even heard comments along the lines of “that’s why women shouldn’t work”, but I’ll save those for another forum. I’m not interested in entertaining thoughts from the 1950’s at this moment in time.

Having said all of this, I’m not saying it only applies to women. It should be the same for men as well. What better support system than to have your other half there to help you when you’re exhausted, sore, emotional, etc.? Besides, it really wouldn’t be fair to say that only women can get this benefit. Yes, they go through the bulk of the process (remember my watermelon example) but men should be allowed to also have that bonding time with the newest family member. There is value in having full participation from all parents involved.

What could the down sides be? Your worker, who again I assume is a good worker as they are still employed, will come back re-energized and ready to contribute? The partner of that worker comes back knowing they were able to be there for some irreplaceable moments with their newest family member? This has been a very hot topic with a LOT of opinions, I get that. But I do also recognize our society is changing in a big way. People are yearning for more of a balance in their life. They want a rewarding career but also are seeing the value of having a family and not waiting until they are in their 40’s. I also understand that there are some businesses that cannot afford to provide this type of benefit. Maybe it’s time to look at other examples across the globe to see what works or doesn’t work. I’m writing about this not because I’ve been through this 3 times, and am about to go through this again. But because I hurt for those that are having children without any resources, or want children, and cannot because we as the leading country in the world, cannot put ourselves in others shoes and show understanding or empathy for people in situations different than ours. We can do better than that, if even making an effort to discuss in a civilized manner. It has to start somewhere.