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August 29, 2006

Moms Walking the Work/Life Tightrope

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Two new pieces in the Washington Post cover the persistent problem of work-life balance, and in particular, the difficulties that face pregnant women, new adoptive parents, and - pervasively, across the board - all working parents, with children of any age:

Check out Amy Joyce's Sunday column this week: "Too often, Family Leave leaves much to be desired."

And the transcript of yesterday's live web chat with Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of the Families & Work Institute.

A few takeaway tidbits from both:

"The United States lags behind most of the world in providing paid parental leave. Of 168 countries in a 2004 Harvard University study, 163 had some form of paid maternity leave. The United States, in other words, is on par with Lesotho, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland when it comes to maternity leave."

"There is no nationwide policy that promises all parents time off after the birth of a child for care, recovery, or bonding purposes. And there is no nationwide policy that provides paid leave for new parents."

"The Family and Medical Leave Act requires companies with 50 or more employees to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave to those who have worked there for at least 12 months. . . Some states have more generous laws. But mostly, maternity or paternity leave is up to a company or an employee's negotiating skills."

"Only 7 percent of companies provide any pay beyond disability leave for mothers."

"If parents made it clear to policy makers that solutions are need for this issue [of maternity/paternity and adoption leave], financially, there would be change. [But] given today's realities, how can you best plan?

1) See if your company provides disability leave - some portion of your salary for the period of pregnancy and childbirth disability, usually lasting for six to eight weeks after childbirth. Almost half of companies provide this, and it is required in five states.

2) See if your company is one of the companies that provides some pay beyond disability.

3) Can you use paid vacation days or sick days?

4) Does your company have a leave bank where other employees can contribute paid time off to other companies? This is more common in the public sector than the private sector.

5) Start saving as early as possible, and monitor costs.

6) Press your legislators for change."

For moms who are going back to work after a stint - long or short - as a stay-at-homer, check out Gallinsky's "Moms in Transition: Tips for Going Back to Work" article on the Families & Work Institute website.

Posted by Sarah at 9:57 AM.