Is it time to start planning for kids?

Paid maternity leave: NZ, Australia, UK and Canada compared

It’s really hit me that one of my best friends will most likely be off overseas post PhD – quite probably for good. ALL THE SADS.

I’ll miss him dearly, and he would be such a rad uncle, it’s painful to think he’ll miss out on that.

Aside from a few months back there when I was still on a post-travel high, for most of my 20s I’ve been sure I wanted kids. That’s really ramped up in the past few months. I can only assume it’s largely driven by the ever growing number of people around me getting pregnant and having babies – we’re entering that phase in life, I suppose.

I ain’t got baby fever yet … but to be quite honest, if our circumstances were different, I think I’d be just about ready to try. (Cannot believe I just admitted that.) It is so weird – like a switch flipped almost overnight.

But it’ll have to wait till we get many practicalities ironed out, which is still a while away, since I like being free of money stress a shitload more than I like, well,  just about anything else in life. (Yes, I know, there will never be a good time to have kids, but right now is definitely down the bottom of the charts. Regular readers know.)

I wholly believe reproducing is a privilege, not a right. That said, I was pretty horrified to realise that New Zealand does pretty poorly on the paid parental leave front – some other countries put us to shame.

Here, to the best of my research, are the parental allowances for NZ, Australia, UK and Canada compared. It’s all super confusing, so any corrections/clarifications gratefully accepted. (And yes, of course there are employers here and around the world that offer additional benefits privately – this is only the minimum allowances as per legislation.)

Parental leave - NZ, Australia, UK and Canada compared

** I don’t know any women here who haven’t taken at least a full year off

Sources: NZ / Australia / UK / Canada

The older I get the more I realise NZ doesn’t actually do very well on this whole welfare state thing. But I’ve known that ever since 2009, when T’s employer went out of business. I was a student making maybe $15-20k a year between student allowance and work, absolutely nothing in a city like Auckland, yet he couldn’t get unemployment. There was no way I could support a partner too on that kind of money, but basically if one person is working at all, the other is SOL. (Thankfully he got a sympathetic case manager and something was worked out.)

Anyway, circling back to my original point… The prospect of kids is still terrifying in oh so many ways.  But I’m starting to feel ready to tackle it. If nothing else, this was oddly reassuring.

Choose both. Choose the career AND choose the baby. Don’t put off one for the other. Choose both now and later and accept that you’ll be juggling for years no matter what you do. Even if you never have a career, you’re going to feel like you’re juggling. Parents juggle. Why not juggle things you love? Sure, you’ll have to work hard and make some sacrifices. Accept it and move forward.

 

The hysteria around these choices is off the charts. People will say, “Oh lots of parents regret having kids, they just don’t tell you about it.” Or “Working women are miserable” or “Kids with working mothers are anxious and unhappy” or “Kids will destroy your career” or “If you can’t give your children every ounce of your energy you shouldn’t have kids at all” or “You can’t be a real artist and have kids” and all kinds of other completely black-and-white, fearful, conflicted nonsense. I’m not inside other people’s heads, but the close friends I have who are in good marriages (like yours) and have kids AND engaging careers are some of the happiest people I know.

23 thoughts on “Is it time to start planning for kids?

  • Reply Kara May 26, 2015 at 07:59

    In Canada, the maternity and paternity can be combined, so that’s how moms can get 50 week of paid leave. (There’s a 2-week “waiting” period after you give birth where you don’t get paid but are still on leave.) So, the 35 weeks of “shared leave” can be taken by mom OR dad, but they both can’t off of work at the same time collecting benefits.

    I’m pretty sure that just confuses things more. 😛

    • Reply eemusings May 26, 2015 at 11:29

      The 35 weeks is total right? Or is it *each*? And so they can’t both be off, paid, at the same time, but say one parent could take 20 weeks and then the other could take the following 15 weeks?

      Uber confusing.

      • Reply Leigh May 27, 2015 at 10:02

        It’s a total combined 35 weeks with a time limit they can be taken in. Both parents cannot receive payment at the same time.

        They also have lots of rules. For example, I had my baby after 5pm in a Monday – so it was considered I worked that full week by service Canada and thusly the money I would have earned (but didn’t) was taken off dollar for dollar from my EI benefits.

        To call to speak to someone about this took over three months calling everyday

    • Reply Cait Flanders May 27, 2015 at 15:09

      I have friends who have both been off at the same time (mom and dad) and been covered – but it eats into the mat leave time. So instead of the mom taking 1 year off, she took 11 months off because the dad took 1 month off (which came out the full year).

      • Reply eemusings May 27, 2015 at 19:50

        Cool, I’m gonna leave the Canada line as is. Mat leave column is for mat leave only, pat leave for pat leave only, parental for shared.

      • Reply Leigh May 27, 2015 at 21:52

        Hi Cait,

        Where they in Quebec (as the program is different for that province)?

        Or is it tricky wording? I was led to believe before my leave that both parents using the Service Canada program (ie not any employment benefits) are subjected to taking leave chronological.

        Here’s what it says online (and suggests that both parents cannot be off at the same time) “Can both parents apply for EI parental benefits?

        Yes, but they have to share the benefits. In total, there are 35 weeks of parental benefits available to eligible parents of a newborn or newly adopted child.

        There are many ways you can decide to use your parental leave. For instance, one of the parents can take the entire 35 weeks of benefits, or both parents can share them.

        Examples

        If the biological mother wants to return to work after her maternity leave, the other parent can then take the 35 weeks of parental benefits.
        If one spouse decides to take only 10 weeks of parental leave before returning to work, the other spouse can use the remaining 25 weeks of benefits.
        If one spouse decides to return to work after taking a few weeks of parental leave, but then realizes a few weeks later that he or she would prefer to stay home with the child, he or she is still entitled to the unused weeks of parental benefits, as long as the 52-week period after the birth or adoption placement has not expired.”

        Sorry to hijack, I don’t want to be spreading false information if I am misinformed!

        • Reply Kara May 28, 2015 at 04:03

          Quebec has its own special rules for leave benefits! The “rest” of Canada follows the “normal rules” of mom & dad being able to split the 35 weeks of paid time off, with only one of them being allowed to collect EI.

          Canada is confusing, yo 😉

  • Reply Genie May 26, 2015 at 09:21

    You mean a woman doesn’t HAVE to have children?!

    Whenever I think about having kids, it feels like a tremendous burden. When I think about a life without kids, it feels like the most wonderful adventure and that burden is lifted. I know some women that are craving to have kids. I’m not one of those people. While I know I could be a wonderful mother, but I could just as easily have a wonderful life without kids. I feel like there is a stigma attached to childless women.

    I see people who have kids and I see the sacrifices they must make just to make ends meet and yet still they need help from the government. I keep thinking that there’s no way I could afford to have kids, but then I remember that many families can’t afford to have kids either. They have them anyway.

  • Reply Kate @ Cashville Skyline May 26, 2015 at 09:50

    It’s still shocking to me that parents in the United States aren’t supported with any paid parental leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act says companies are legally required to offer 12 weeks of unpaid leave, but that’s it! Hopefully, this next election cycle will bring major improvements. We’re totally behind on this.

    • Reply Jess May 28, 2015 at 03:21

      FMLA doesn’t even apply to all employers. Small businesses with less than a certain number of employees don’t even have to allow that. It’s crazy.

      • Reply Femme Frugality June 1, 2015 at 12:13

        Or if you haven’t worked there for a year at 26+ hours a week. And I know it’s already been said, but this isn’t even for pay. It’s just so the employer can’t fire you or cut off any benefits you may have.

  • Reply Linda May 26, 2015 at 11:21

    Wow, UK has some amazing benefits for mothers! Some private employers in the US (like mine) provide paid leave to a parent. If all possible paid leave options are used (short term disability + paid parental leave + PTO) the person could have 16 to 20 weeks off with pay. Paid parental leave is offered to a parent adopting a child, too, not just new mothers. Although, short term disability (which is about 6-8 weeks) is only available for pregnancy. (Yes, in this case pregnancy is considered a disability. Sort of odd!)

    So, like most benefits in the US, the poor or underemployed who don’t have the greatest jobs never get paid leave. Only the privileged people with top employers.

  • Reply That Blue House May 27, 2015 at 04:41

    You guys still have way more benefits than we do in the U.S. I think it’s 12 weeks unpaid and that’s it. In California, thank goodness we are a little more civilized. We get disability pay and I’ve found that I can take up to 4 weeks before the baby is born, and 18 weeks after the birth of the baby, but my health insurance benefits stop after 120 days. So for now I’m planning on coming back after 120 days of leave, and have my husband take paternity leave (he gets 6 weeks unpaid in CA) and I will work a reduced schedule. It really sucks about the time constraints, who wants to leave a three-month old baby?? But I also feel incredibly fortunate that Eric and I are in a position that we don’t have to worry very much about our finances because we have enough reserves to cover us.

    • Reply That Blue House May 27, 2015 at 04:43

      oh also!! My mother was a working mom, and I never once felt like she didn’t spend enough time with us or that we suffered because she worked. All of my friends’ moms worked so that was just how it was. That being said, I did see how stressed she would get sometimes because she would have to clean the house, or pay the bills, or do this or that. It was tough. But it takes a village, and I feel very lucky that we have a lot of extended family to help us out

  • Reply middle class May 27, 2015 at 07:20

    Just compare NZ to the U.S. and you’ll feel much better about NZ benefits.

  • Reply Manda | musicalpoem May 27, 2015 at 09:55

    I can’t even talk about maternal or paternity leave benefits with anyone outside the U.S. because everyone has it better than us. Well, except for Papua New Guinea, apparently.

  • Reply Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank May 27, 2015 at 21:57

    I think it’s time that NZ would have to consider patterning it to other countries with more leaves. We all have the same needs so we’d better get similar benefits.

  • Reply Taylor Lee @ Engineer Cents May 27, 2015 at 21:57

    American here. Zero paid maternity leave. Guess it’s time to move to England?

  • Reply Zenmoo May 27, 2015 at 22:38

    In Australia, that is the minimum available through the government. Additional paid leave may be available through your employer. So, for example I had 14 weeks maternity leave at full pay from my day job + 18 weeks of leave at minimum wage from the government. I took the rest of the year unpaid.

  • Reply Zenmoo May 27, 2015 at 22:42

    Oh and you can be eligible for the government scheme in Australia if you were working in New Zealand and became resident in Australia before the baby is born. (I know this because it’s what I did – there is a work test for eligibility for the Australian scheme and ‘working overseas’ counts)

  • Reply The Asian Pear May 30, 2015 at 15:51

    I’m so confused after reading all this. o___o?
    Also, I wonder what the US policy is like…

  • Reply Femme Frugality June 1, 2015 at 12:09

    At least you get paid something! US is crap for maternity leave policies. Our unemployment is not quite that restrictive, though.

    I like those comments at the end. It’s always a struggle and always juggling. But it’s worth it. And maybe for some people career is more important than family. But for us career is a means to propel our family. I’m lucky to have stumbled upon a career that I mostly love, but the people in my personal life, most of all my kids, are the most important thing to me. Above my work. Above any independence I may have sacrificed. Above everything.

  • Reply sherry @ save. spend. splurge. June 4, 2015 at 11:50

    I keep hearing from people that in Quebec it was a full year paid and way more generous than in other provinces. No idea if this is true.

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