Crowdfunding is no longer just for kick-starting creative projects and entrepreneurial endeavors — it is now helping support mothers and families during maternity leave.
Since employers are not mandated to pay for family leave, expectant mothers are finding it difficult to take the necessary time to heal from birth and bond with their baby before returning to work. To help pay for some of this unpaid time off and avoid credit card debt, many mothers are turning to crowdfunding to help raise funds for things like diapers and formula.
Expectant mothers will often hoard vacation, personal, and sick days as soon as they learn they are pregnant to help stretch their leave once their baby arrives. Some mothers who may not be as fortunate to have a bank of saved time off, nor a cushion in their savings account, opt to go back to work after a few short weeks, often relying on family and friends to help take care of the new baby. Mothers with no savings or close family must bite the bullet and rack up debt.
None of these scenarios are ideal, so many families have turned to their communities and even strangers through crowdfunding campaigns to help financially support them for lost wages and new expenses while on leave. According to crowdfunding site, GoFundMe, there are over 1,500 results when you type the phrase “maternity leave” into its search bar. Requests mostly include support for diapers, formula, rent, and other monthly expenses.
It should be no big surprise that maternity leave campaigns are so numerous. A recent survey by Bankrate shows that 63% of Americans may not have enough money in savings (about $1,000) to cover unexpected expenses, let alone pay for the care of a baby.
How unfortunate that with one of the most advanced economies and most progressive thinking in the world, the U.S. continues to lag behind its counterparts in yet another category: mandated paid sick or maternity leave for workers. In countries like Canada, Denmark, Germany, and Japan, new mothers can expect to receive 10 to 20 weeks of paid leave. And in Sweden, they’re experimenting with shorter workdays consisting of only of six hours, a shift that would be quite beneficial for mothers.
In the U.S., through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees are allowed to take up to 12-weeks of unpaid leave in one 12-month period to care for family members (maternity leaves are included under this act). This protection allows employees to keep their jobs while they are on leave and enables them to return without having to go through a rehire process. Some smaller businesses only allow for a 6-week leave. And spouses have even less time as parental leave is often capped at a week.
However, some places in the U.S. do provide more supportive family leave programs. In California, the state pays 55% of a parent’s salary for six weeks, and proposed legislation in San Francisco would mandate that businesses employing at least 20 people pay the remaining 45 percent – making the city the first in the nation to cover 100% of earnings for a six-week leave. It’ll be interesting to watch if other cities follow suit.
But change needs to happen on a national level and at a much faster pace. In the political sphere, maternity leave has become a hot topic. But whether the talk will turn into action soon is anyone’s guess.