It might be Women's Money Week, but paternity leave affects women too. FMLA covers family leave for men AND women, but few men take full advantage of it, even when they qualify. There's a lot to be said about the sexism exposed by punishing employees who take all the leave they are qualified to take when they have a child (or are caring for a sick spouse, or other things that FMLA covers), but that's not something I'm taking on today.
Today I'm going to talk about what happens if you aren't covered by FMLA.
Peanut's employer is very small - there have been about a dozen employees during the four years he's been there. Their size means they aren't required to offer FMLA to their employees - so basically, Peanut was legally out of luck when it came to job-protected leave when our children were born.
Luckily, the fact that it's a small, close-knit company has some other benefits. In his case, employees are trusted regarding their PTO - there's no formal record keeping involved for vacation or sick days, and the owner of the company trusts his employees to be at work when they can be. Peanut wanted to be at home for a little while when both of our children were born, and he was able to do that without it counting against his regular days off. With Pickle, I seem to remember that he was home for two full weeks and then took a day off each week for the next eight weeks to help me take her and her 25 pounds of medical equipment to our various appointments. With Baby Bear, he took a few days off right at birth (two maybe?) and then stayed home for two weeks (which happened to fall during the holidays), and has also taken a few random days off here and there to help me out since then.
We're lucky that this small company is family-friendly and that he was able to take this time without repercussion or even using up vacation days. There aren't a lot of families among his coworkers yet, so I like to think that we are blazing a trail of expectations regarding a man's time off at the birth of his child as well. Peanut had an honest conversation with his boss about what would work best for our family, and that has served everyone well in our situation. If your employer doesn't offer FMLA, try asking for leave anyway - they may not be legally required to provide it, but they might be willing to do so anyway.
If you're the parent giving birth, you really do need to take some time off. Even a vaginal birth requires recovery time, and if you breastfeed, you'll be unbelievably sleep deprived for at least four weeks, more likely six. And if you're the parent who didn't give birth, you should still take some time off if you can. Caring for an infant is mindnumbing work, but there are also beautiful moments of building a family during this time, and I'm glad that Peanut was able to be there for it.
(Now, that said, I will be honest: two weeks was the right amount of time for both of us to be home full time. Beyond that, people start getting stir-crazy and irritating to each other. Even when they love each other dearly.)
Next up: FMLA is unpaid - how does that work?!