A Friday Chat About Maternity Leave

Photo by Micael Widell on Unsplash.

NICOLE: Happy Friday!

MAGGIE: Happy Friday to you! Any exciting weekend plans?

NICOLE: I’ve got the Indie Bookstore Day event tomorrow and my float tank session on Saturday, plus it’s my dad’s birthday this weekend. How about you?

MAGGIE: Ooh float tank — I’m excited to hear about your experience with that. I’ve known a couple people who did it, and I’m so curious. As for my weekend — my husband and I have theater tickets tonight, and then baseball tickets tomorrow. Other than those (which sounds like a lot, but is not), it’s a wide-open weekend, which is really nice.

NICOLE: Ooooh what show?

MAGGIE: Waiting for Godot — we have a subscription to the Shakespeare Theatre in DC, and this is the last year I qualify for the under-35 discount. If there are other DC Billfolders who like theater, they should really take advantage if they’re under 35.

NICOLE: I used to go to the Shakespeare Theatre when I lived in DC and I can’t remember if I took advantage of that discount. I must have.

MAGGIE: It is criminally good — we always have seats right up front in the middle. But now that I’m turning 35 this summer, we’ll both be too old, but will still keep our subscription because we can and because we want to support a great institution.

NICOLE: As well you should. So you mentioned when you volunteered for Friday Chat that you wanted to talk about your maternity leave. First of all: congratulations, and second of all: what’s going on with that?

MAGGIE: Thanks! She’s super cute and sleeping pretty well (for people who would wonder). As for the maternity leave part — I’m now in the back end of my maternity leave, but since I’m a federal employee, it’s all self-funded. I get to take the time off, but I also have to use my own paid leave in order to have a paycheck during this time. And this is my last pay period where I’m “paying myself.” 😞

NICOLE: Which is to say that after this, nobody is paying you.

MAGGIE: Exactly — and like with the theater tickets, we are able to afford me going a few weeks longer without a paycheck, but having to budget and plan for all those things is going to be complicated. Mostly because we have separate bank accounts, and if I use what’s left in my checking account for regular spending over these last six weeks, it’s possible I’ll be really low. So communication about how I’m spending money on things like food and household stuff is going to have to improve a lot.

My husband usually defers to my judgment – and I’m sure he still will… I’ll just feel the need to justify whatever I might ask for him to pay for, even though it’s for all of us!

NICOLE: Right, food is for everyone!

MAGGIE: Exactly!

NICOLE: How do you and your husband divide household expenses?

MAGGIE: Uh… I wish I had a better answer for this. Since I do the grocery shopping, I tend to pay for the food and household supplies. He pays for a lot of the recurring bills — and I think that’s a remnant of when we were living together before getting married, and I paid him so there would only be one check going to the landlord. And then we split big expenses according to what we can each afford.

NICOLE: That makes sense.

MAGGIE: It feels very haphazard.

NICOLE: Eh, so much of personal finance turns out to be catch-as-catch-can! So I’m assuming you’re on FMLA for the back half of your leave. Are you taking the full twelve weeks?

MAGGIE: I am officially starting FMLA on Sunday (beginning of pay period). But since it’s only another six weeks until I go back, I’m only using it for that. Since I won’t have any sick leave saved up, I wanted to make sure I had something available (even if it’s unpaid) to get me through the end of the year with a new baby.

NICOLE: Wait, can you use FMLA on sick days?

MAGGIE: Not for myself — but if she gets sick, I can take off for that. I also have a Grandmother who is 101 years old, and… you’re allowed to use it for funerals? Which I hope I don’t have to do, but at 101, you never know.

NICOLE: For sure.

MAGGIE: So yeah. Not using it for myself, more saving the FMLA up as a “just in case” for family emergencies.

NICOLE: Well, I hope you don’t have any emergencies — and I hope you have a great weekend at the theater and the ball game! Are you doing the “pay for a sitter” thing, and how much is that going to cost you?

MAGGIE: Well, baby girl is coming with us to the baseball game, but my mom is coming by to babysit tonight. Hurrah for grandmas who live nearby and want to cuddle their grandbabies!

NICOLE: Hurrah!


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