Moms and Kids Benefit from Washington’s Paid Maternity Leave
By Maria Halcumb
A hot flash of anxiety flushed through me. My heart raced, and then a thick coat of despair seemed to rest on my shoulders. I had just been informed that my maternity leave might take another 10 weeks to process. For me this meant the hours, exhaustion and deadlines would continue at work, while I barely slept each night. My son was 5 months old and my husband had just opened his own chiropractic practice in Hazel Dell. On top of all this, I was working full time from home, running a local side-hustle tutoring business and doing my best to be the main caretaker of a preschooler and infant. If that wasn’t enough, my infant had just finally recovered from a two-night stay at Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland. The medical bills had just started arriving.
I’m a millennial middle-class mother. We’ve never hit extreme financial hardship even as I entered the workforce during the great recession. But, frugality has been a necessity on a teacher’s salary. With the medical bills piling up and a new business not yet making profits, the absent maternity leave I had been counting on left me in despair. I was the most exhausted I’d ever been and our family’s finances were vulnerable. Unfortunately, I’d have to wait 10 more weeks to be approved for maternity leave, which felt like an eternity when sleep deprived.
When the day finally arrived that my paid leave had been processed and accepted, I was ecstatic. The governor’s stay home orders to protect against the spread of COVID-19 were in full effect, and if my family was feeling financially burdened before the virus, we were now living with less, and barely scraping by. The paid maternity leave was an opportunity for me to finally catch my breath from my full-time job. I used it to reevaluate our budget, be present with my children, and continue to make ends meet by side-hustling with my now fully online tutoring business.
About Washington’s Paid Family and Medical Leave
In 2020, Washington State rolled out a paid family and medical leave program.
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