Moms and Kids Benefit from Washington’s Paid Maternity Leave

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.

Read the rest of this article in the full digital issue below.

Learn more about Washington State’s Paid Family and Medical Leave here.

Maria Halcumb is a teacher, writer, reading specialist, and mother of two. You can find her reading books, being active in nature, minimizing her life and spending time with family and friends in Vancouver.

Comments (4)

  • Jessica Cortese

    Great article! Thank you for writing about this! It’s so important that people understand the struggle (for even middle class) moms, and how just one financial shift can quickly mean the difference between feeling stable and being plunged into financial insecurity.

    • Maria

      I totally agree. When I wrote it, we had just found out about a job loss. We have since rebounded (thanks to the maternity leave), but in the moment it was frightening. I thought about editing that moment out, but then I realized that perhaps another mom would relate to this feeling of hopelessness and that programs like this one can be a helping hand.

  • Sara Halcumb

    Really great article! Although I am not in the baby rearing phase anymore, I have some great information for my mom friends who are!

    • Maria

      So glad you found it informative. I have offered my knowledge on the program to many mothers in WA state. One of the biggest qualms is the delay in processing, but since it is the first year, I am just grateful to have the time.


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