In Canada we parents have the benefit of maternity and parental leaves. Our jobs are protected by law while we are on leave and we can collect income through Employment Insurance during our leaves. A mother who has given birth can use maternity leave and parental leave for a total of 52 weeks. Fathers and other parents, including adoptive can take up to 35 weeks of parental leave. These leaves are shared and any parental leave taken by one parent is deducted from the total of the other parent so that the time take by both parents combined cannot exceed one year.
I have some issues with how this is structured, but I greatly appreciate that it exists. Some organizations will top-up the payments provided by Employment Insurance so that one’s income remains relatively close to full pay during the leave period. Many, such as my current employer, do not provide a top-up.
When D1 and D2 were born I had the good fortune to work for an employer that topped up my parental leave EI to 93% of my regular income, which made it financially feasible for me to take leave. Since Laura wasn’t working when D2 was born I was able to take seven months off. It was fantastic. We had some good family and bonding time.
D3 is already two weeks old and here dear readers is a gratuitous baby photo.
As I mentioned above, this time I do not work for an organization that tops up the EI payments and as such it is not financially viable for us to have me take parental leave. I did however hang on to three weeks worth of vacation and after taking a full week and a bit off I am now back to work part-time for the next month or so as I spread out my remaining vacation time.
So yesterday I went back to work and I have to say that it sucked. All I really wanted to be doing was sitting at home with my daughter and helping out my wife. D3 of course decided it would be a good day for cluster-feeding and as a result Laura did not get much rest.
My partner generously allows me to go back to sleep at night after I deliver a freshly diapered baby to her and refill her food and water supplies. In exchange I am on deck to wake D1 and D2 up and get them to school for eight and then get me to work. I am also the primary caregiver during the day for all three girls – excepting breastfeeding of course – so that my partner can catch up on the sleep she loses during the night. So yesterday wasn’t such a great day for either of us.
I am fortunate to have a job that is flexible and where it is possible for me to work from home or the office and a boss and organization that is supportive of me flexing my time and work schedule to meet my family needs. I’d still rather be on parental leave though.
D3 is starting to be a little more interactive and she is spending increasing amounts of time awake and not crying. I want to be around for that. I want to take her for walks and I want to spend my time reading to her and talking to her like I did with the other two.
I can’t imagine what it must be like in jurisdictions where parents have to go back to work right away. I understand why people need to return to work immediately after the birth of their child since I have to do it this time and it is only because I saved my vacation time that I have some flexibility. Parental leave for fathers is a relatively new thing in Canada – only at 35 weeks since 2000. Wikipedia has a pretty comprehensive comparison chart of maternity and parental leave around the world.
We have it pretty good in Canada as compared to many other nations. I would however like to see each parent be allowed to take a full year without eating into the other parent’s time. My partner and I can each collect Employment Insurance for a year without impacting the other – and we have. I pay into EI with every paycheque. Eligibility is based on the hours worked before taking leave/collecting EI and that is not hours worked in total as a couple, it is calculated for each individual so I don’t understand why it is a combined benefit as opposed to individual. Anyway, that is a policy discussion that I need to pursue with people who can make those changes.
I have had some good baby-time today while my partner slept and I sorted through the 150 emails that were in my inbox to be dealt with now that I am back to work. Not as many emails as I had expected their to be, but I’d rather have more time off to let them keep accumulating…