5 Things All Single Moms Must Know about Maternity Leave
The US is the only high income country in the world, where paid maternity leave is not provided, as a distinct right. For single mothers, the time interval after the baby is born is the most difficult, because they can face weeks on unpaid leave, before they can get back to work, and start making money again, to pay for the new demands of the extended family.
There are several things single moms should know about maternity leave, so they can prepare in advance for the challenges that wait ahead. Here are 5 of the most important.
See if you qualify for unpaid maternity leave under FMLA
In the US, maternity leave falls under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, known as FMLA, for short, but the benefits offered are very scarce. 12 weeks of unpaid leave are guaranteed, but only for women working in companies (public or private) with more than 50 employees within 75 mile radius. Also, the worker has to be with the company for one year, at least, or have at least 1,250 working hours on record. For single moms who do not make the cut, the situation can be dire.
According to official figures from 2013, however, only around 60% of the workforce in the US qualifies for FMLA. Besides unpaid leave, you are also provided with a guarantee that you will get your job – or your job equivalent back – when you are ready to work again.
Check the local laws and regulations regarding maternity leave
There are just a handful of states where paid maternity leave is provided for short periods of time. In California, the paid maternity leave is six weeks, and the mom receives 55% of her regular pay. District of Columbia regulations demand employers to provide workers with paid days of absence, but the actual figures can vary from one case to another. If you live in New Jersey, you are entitled to six weeks of paid maternity leave, while receiving 66% of your regular pay.
If you live in Puerto Rico, you are luckier, because you will receive eight weeks of paid maternity leave, at 100% of your regular pay. In Hawaii, the percentage is 58%, while in New York, it is 50%. As you can see, the compensation and the number of weeks of paid leave vary greatly, so it is recommended to check with your state’s laws and regulations first.
Work towards accumulating paid leave for the time interval after birth
One tactic used by single moms in the US is to work towards accumulating normal paid leave days to cover for the time interval they need to be close to the newborn baby. However, this requires a lot of planning, and an unexpected pregnancy is likely to catch the mom unprepared.
Another solution on the same trail of thought is to save as much money as possible to cover for at least the 12 weeks of unpaid leave provided under FMLA. If you combine these weeks and the ones you are entitled to, under normal circumstances, you may be able to stretch the time next to your baby to four months.
See if you qualify for WIC support
WIC stands for Women, Infants and Children and it is a program that offers federal grants for food, health care and nutrition education for low income women and children up to the age of five. You can ask for more information at the local WIC agency in your area. Even if what they offer is not that much, it is worth giving it a shot, as they do offer help for pregnant women during pregnancy and six weeks after the baby is born.
Check TANF and other support programs
If you have low income, it is also advisable to see if you qualify for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), Medicaid, and other support programs available in your area. Actually, if you apply for more programs and you qualify for one, you increase your chances for automatic income eligibility with the others.
Getting by as a single mom, especially right after the baby is born, is crucial for your well being and your baby’s well being. Do not hesitate to ask your family and friends for help, to get over the most difficult part.