Something more substantial later, I hope, but first this piece from the Washington Post about the U.S.'s maternity leave policies.
Two things to mention, just in terms of personal data points:
1) Shelley Johansson, who is quoted at the top of page 2, is a good friend and the one who sent the link.
2) I've been lucky in terms of maternity leave. With kid #1, I was working for a small paper whose powers-that-be didn't have a problem holding my job for three months. They did, however, have a problem with paying me for any of my leave once my vacation time was used up and I had to continue my insurance through COBRA, which was mind-numbingly expensive. How sad is it that I consider myself lucky given the circumstances...
Anyway, kid #2 was a different kettle. He was born during the summer, which is when I'm not teaching and I'm technically unemployed, despite the fact that I have a whole other income from writing. My benefits are carried under my husband's insurance via the NY State Employees system. Given when the boy was born, I went back the semester started about four weeks into his life and I went back to teaching, otherwise I would have had to sit out the entire fall semester, which would have been a financial impossibility.
Again, I'm in a great position -- white collar, middle-class, college-educated in a flexible, family-friendly field. I can't figure out if we'd be in better shape dollar-wise if we had less income and could rely more on federal programs. I also can't figure out if it would be an advantage to make more money. I do know that just in a bottom-line analysis, it would be to our advantage for me to not even try to have a career and to stay home with the children 24/7, which would mean I'd either have to write after they went to bed (and get even less sleep than I do now) or give up on that part of my life for the next 4ish years.
And, no, I can't write while they are home. Anyone with kids under the age of 5 can explain why not.
Would the world weep if I never wrote another word? No, probably not. Nor would it notice if I never taught another class. Our bank account would be slightly happier if I did this. Is that what is of primary importance? If it were, we'd only have the one kid. But I wish there were a better equation to judge my worth against.
Clearly, the Hub and I have made the choice we feel most comfortable with given the circumstances we're currently in. Remember -- we are lucky to have the options we have.