Career Advice for Women Looking for Work Life Balance #WMW16 @moneycrashers

Career Advice for Women Looking for Work Life Balance #WMW16 @moneycrashers

Women wear hats. A lot of hats. So many hats, in fact, that one could say that they wear more hats than any other group in society, including ball players and construction workers. Women’s hats include the mom hat, the wife hat, the friend hat, the daughter hat, the sister hat, and the employee hat.

With so many roles that women have to play, the role of career often becomes rushed, half-hearted, or interrupted. Women have so many demands on them that they cannot always live out their dreams in the workplace. Working can become a burden, instead of a way to fulfill ourselves.

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Saving for Maternity Leave and More (#WMW15 Roundup)

Here's the second round-up of #WMW15 Posts:

Coming home with a baby

I have countless birth announcement emails from friends. They’re all cuddling their freshly born babies, sleek hair framing a tired but smiling face (is that MAKEUP??), painted nails, even classy jewelry.

Me? If I wasn’t already flattened I’d have collapsed into a pile of jelly legged oh my GOD is that over, really? face haloed by a wild nest of hair that could substitute for Medusa’s wig. Hands clasping the new LB that had been too swollen to wear my rings for months. Elegant, not so much. But realistic.

A Guide to Saving for Maternity Leave

In my opinion as soon you decide to have children, (no matter how far into the future that day may seem), you should start setting money aside for the big day. Think of having a child like any other big financial goal in life. You know you need to save to buy a house, a new car or to travel on an exotic vacation, so why not save to expand your family?

The sooner you decide to save the larger that sum will swell. If you don’t earn a lot of money set aside a little bit each paycheck. You’d be surprised how quickly those numbers can add up over time. Set a big goal for yourself. Imagine you don’t know where you’ll work a few years from this point in time and whether or not maternity pay will be offered. You are married and want a family but you aren’t certain when. Start a savings account dedicated to financing your maternity leave.

Not Qualifying for FLMA

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.

Maternity Leave - How Much is Enough

Planning for maternity leave sucks. When I found out I was expecting my first child I sat down with a calendar and mapped out the days and weeks until I would need to return to work.

My son was due in late October and I ran all sorts of calculations to determine the maximum amount of time I could spend at home. Since my vacation hours reset in the new year I wondered if I could take STD, a week or two of vacation, then maternity leave and take another two or three weeks of vacation after that.

FMLA Pays How Much?!

It comes as a pretty rude surprise to a lot of people that even if they qualify for FMLA, it's not what they think it is.

FMLA itself is unpaid. Meaning, no paychecks. Meaning, no retirement contributions and no PTO accruing. Meaning also, your employer is not required to pay your non-salary benefits. If they provide health insurance, for example, they are required to keep up the policy but they are not required to pay for it. So, you might get a bill for your portion of the premiums during the twelve weeks that you are also not earning any money. Yes, this is legal. (Most employers simply deduct the amount owed from your paychecks after you return to work - but if  you don't return, you might have to write them a check!).

How to Save Money (And Your Sanity) on Maternity Leave

So your beautiful bundle of joy has arrived and you’re brimming over with happiness.

Ten perfect fingers. Ten perfect toes. You spend hours staring at your baby, memorizing their every tiny expression and gesture. You wait by their side, anticipating their every need and want just so you can be close to them.

Okay, maybe that’s not actually what happens. In real life, this probably never happens. If your experience is anything like mine was, you walk around in a sleep-deprived haze desperate for a twenty-minute shower without interruption from your pint-sized problem-creator. You love your child but there are probably times when everything seems a little overwhelming – both emotionally and financially.

What’s it Like To Be a New Dad During Parental Leave?

If you are part of a couple with plans to start a family, chances are that you’ve begun to ask a series of potentially life-changing questions. Are you emotionally ready for a baby? How about financially? What kinds of plans, financial or otherwise, are required before the baby is born? And perhaps the most pressing, who will take time off to raise the baby?

Traditionally the mothers stay home to be with their newborns, while the fathers work, even work overtime, to support the family. Canadian labor law does allow parents to share or split parental leave, which does give new fathers the option to take time off from their own jobs.

How to Prepare Financially For Maternity Leave

Many women wait until they are in their second trimester before telling their employer they are expecting.  But you can start saving for your maternity leave long before that.

Once you know you are pregnant, start saving. Begin setting aside some money from your paycheck.  Sell some things you no longer need to raise some extra cash.  Cut back on any unnecessary expenses.  Save every penny you can.

How I Negotiated for 4 Months Paid Maternity Leave

When I found out I was pregnant in the spring 2011, one of the first things I did was investigate my maternity leave benefits. I pulled up my employee handbook on my computer and scrolled to the parental leave section.

I was appalled by what I saw: I was entitled to 2 weeks of 100% paid leave. (The US, which requires 0 weeks of paid parental leave, has the absolute worst maternity leave of any developed country in the world.)

That’s two weeks to recover from childbirth. Two weeks to bond with my new baby. Two weeks to master breastfeeding, pumping, and bottle feeding. Two weeks to get into some kind of sleep schedule that left me with enough brainpower to function at work.

Determined to fight for more leave, I got to work right away. In the end, I negotiated for 16 weeks of leave, 8 of it paid at 100% of my salary, an additional 5 weeks paid at $500/week through short-term disability insurance, and used 2 weeks of vacation and 1 week of unpaid leave.

Here’s how I did it.

Step 1: Explore Your Options

Unfortunately, most women in the US have to cobble together whatever leave they can in order to spend more than a couple of weeks with their newborn babies. The first step is to look into any kind of leave you think you could pile up -- vacation, disability insurance, sick days, holidays, floating days, you name it.

Read your employee handbook. Write down any questions you have for HR. Spend some time googling the different kinds of leave women have put together for their maternity leave. Not everything may be explicitly outlined in your employee handbook, especially if you work for a small company; short-term disability insurance wasn’t mentioned as part of parental leave in my employee handbook. I brought it up with my HR person and, together, we called the insurance company to figure out my options. It turned out I was eligible for short-term disability.

Mom with Daughters
Mom with Daughters

Step 2: Do Your Research

I worked for an international organization with offices in countries around the world. I researched government-mandated leave in those countries and made a chart outlining the amount of leave to which women working in our other offices were entitled vs. the amount of leave I would get under the current US policy. I laid out the reasons the US maternity leave policy should be improved, including that it didn’t align with the organization’s progressive values.

In your case, you might instead do a competitive analysis of sorts of similar companies in your field.  This article is a good place to start your research. Do whatever you think will make the most compelling case to management at your organization.

Step 3: Put Your Ear to the Ground

See what information about maternity leave you can gather around the office. Talk to colleagues who have recently taken maternity leave. Ask them how much they took and whether they have any tips for navigating the system or getting more leave. I was the first person to take maternity leave at my office, so I made my own path, which had its advantages and disadvantages. I know moms-to-be who have gotten great tips from colleagues about how to approach the leave conversation.

If you have a good relationship with your supervisor, start a conversation with him or her and see if you can get a sense of how flexible the policy is. Your supervisor understands how valuable you are to the company and might end up being your biggest advocate.

Step 4: Craft Your Proposal

Once you’ve done your research and talked to colleagues, figure out what you want to ask for. I recommend keeping any kind of formal proposal to 1-2 pages and including charts and/or graphs and bullet points to make it easy to read. Summarize your research (including competitive analysis), state what you want, and make a case for why it will be good for the company -- and for you -- to get more leave. Make sure you keep the focus on how it will benefit the company; instead of saying, “My family can’t make it 3 months without my salary” (even if it’s true), say something like, “Company values family and hard work. When I return after 4 months of paid leave, I will be energized and ready to jump back in, which will be good for me and for Company.”

Be sure to include information about the preparation you will do before your leave starts -- cross-training a colleague or temp, outlining processes for your work, etc.

Step 5: Negotiate

Women often shy away from negotiating, which can contribute to their getting paid less -- and getting fewer benefits -- than their male counterparts (women in the US earn 79 cents for every dollar men earn). According to a 2013 article in The Atlantic, men are four times more likely than women to enter salary negotiations and 20% of women say they will never negotiate -- even when it’s appropriate and expected.

Benefits and salaries are almost always negotiable. When you ask for more, the worst thing that can happen is that your employer will say no. It’s worth the risk. It might make you uncomfortable and it might feel unnatural. That’s okay; it will be worth it. A simple negotiation around parental leave can mean you get to spend one or two more precious months with your new baby. Prepare for your negotiation by reading this advice for women from master negotiator Margaret A. Neale and by practicing with a friend or spouse. Don’t be embarrassed or intimidated. Negotiation is part of all work environments and the payoff can be huge.

Step 6: Be the Change

Even if you don’t get everything you’re hoping for during your maternity leave negotiation, remember you are still making an impact. Every woman (and man) who asks for -- or demands -- better parental leave is one more reminder to management that family leave is essential. The message to companies is clear: If they want to keep good employees, they’re going to have to start improving their parental leave policy. When you talk start a conversation about maternity leave, you force your company to confront reality and consider positive change.

Good luck!

How have other moms and dads negotiated for parental leave? Share your experience in the comments below.

Photo credit: donnieray

Canada vs US Maternity Leave - One Family's Experience and More (Roundup)

We've had some amazing stories come through for Women's Money Week 2015. Check out some of the great posts below: Canada vs U.S. Maternity Leave: Here’s Our Experience With Both at the Dough Report

When Radhika and I moved from Toronto to San Francisco two and half years ago with our toddler, we knew it would be an eye-opening experience. We’d travelled to the Golden State many times, but you know what they say: to really get to know a place, you have to live there.

And come to know it we have: both the good parts, which are almost too numerous to list (weather, food, wine, etc) and the bad, which include an outrageously high cost of living, a byzantine medical system, and, as we learned getting ready for the birth of our second child, maternity leave that really does leave you wanting.
When my wife found out she was pregnant with our second child last year, we knew right away that we’d have to start researching, planning – and saving – for maternity leave, U.S. style. And now that our son is four months old, it's safe to say we’ve seen both the Canadian and American systems up close – here’s what we found.

My Parental Leave at Little Miss Moneybags

I was working when I became pregnant with my first child. We tried to time the pregnancy so that I would qualify for FMLA leave, and we planned for me to go back to work. As a quick refresher, FMLA provides 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for qualifying employees (you have to be employed full-time at your job for at least one year, and there are other criteria which you can find here - as you can see, it's very easy not to qualify for leave). My employer was required to offer FMLA leave, and I did qualify once I'd been there for a year. There is no additional state mandated leave where I live. I also had a disability policy that provided 60% of my salary for 6-8 weeks following giving birth.

Pickle was born unexpectedly 25 weeks into my pregnancy - 15 weeks before her due date. If you do the math on that, you can see that I didn't even have enough maternity leave to make it to what should have been her birthday before I had to go back to work.

Maternity Leave Laws Don't Effect Pay in Gender Inequality at Femme Frugality

It’s a never-ending battle:  to stay at home or return to work after having children?  The answer is different and difficult for every woman.  In the United States, it’s sometimes even used as an argument for discrepancies in gender pay equality.  It shouldn’t be.

 Are You Prepared for Maternity Leave? at Planting Money Seeds

Anyone with children knows that kids cost money. Having a new baby requires changes to your financial plan as well as to your lifestyle. When planning for the new addition to your family, it’s important to consider maternity leave.

Dealing With a Return to Work After Maternity Leave at Live Rich Live Well

There are a number of challenges women face when they return to work after maternity leave. In my case, it was fairly easy to transition back. I was 23 years old, and working as a cashier while I waited for my husband to finish his undergraduate degree. We couldn’t afford for me to take more than four weeks off, so that was the length of my maternity leave. However, being a cashier and taking leave doesn’t really mean problems for most people. All it means is that shifts are shuttled around.

Getting Ready For Maternity Leave? Don't Forget About the Money! at Lowest Rates

Congratulations on your pregnancy! Have you thought about how you're going to pay for it? I know that seems like a harsh question but trust me you need to think about it. I'm not trying to bring you down, I just want to make sure you're financially prepared for the next phase of your life.

Maternity/parental leave in California at A Gai Shan Life

SDI, FMLA, PFL, oh my! PiC and I are eligible for protected leave in various forms after Little Bean’s birth, not all the same, and not all equal, so it was a bit of a maze figuring it all out.

PiC is entitled to six weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave under FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act), and qualifies under the birth of a child. This has to be taken within one year of birth.

His employer also pays for an amazing six weeks of parental leave to be taken during the year following the child’s birth.

9 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Becoming A Work-At-Home Mom at Early Bird Mom

Having a new baby is often the impetus for a mom to look into working from home. A home-based job usually offers lots of perks for parents- perhaps flexible hours, part-time work, no commute. But working from home also brings a lot of challenges.

Whether you’re continuing on in your current job from home or you’re starting up a new venture working from home, be prepared for a lot of changes.


Traditional Careers and Jobs: Posts Round Up

After yesterday's posts on part-time work and Wednesday's articles about non-traditional jobs, it's time for the posts round up on traditional careers. Check out the posts below: From Planting Money Seeds: Market Yourself: Transferable Skills for Any Job

From Break the Sky:  Traditional Careers and Jobs

From Little Miss Moneybags:  Traditional Careers and Jobs (Opting Out, That Is)

From Breesha Jewelry & Books: Make Money from 5 to 9!

From NZ Muze: Career progression and climbing the ladder


Earning More through “Non-Traditional” Work: Freelance, Business Ownership and more Roundup

Welcome to the third day of the third annual Women's Money Week. We have some more fantastic posts today on the topic of earning more money through "non-traditional" work: From Planting Money Seeds: Start a Home Business to Boost Your Household Income

From the Thrifty Issue: 101 ways to make money from home

From Free From Broke: How I Made the Switch from Traditional Employment to Freelancing and How You Can, Too

From Thursday Bram: Non-Traditional Work is the New Tradition

From One Frugal Girl: Blogging for Money

From Break the Sky: Earning More and Non-Traditional Work

From Little Miss Moneybags: Women's Money Week: Non-Traditional Work

From She & Money: 3 Signs That You Shouldn’t Be In Business