Last October, I told my boss that I was pregnant. Naturally, he asked about the due date. When I said that the baby was due two weeks after school ended, he said, “Perfect timing!” I sighed relief. When I was pregnant with my first child, my principal was not supportive; she suggested that I intentionally wanted to make everyone’s life difficult. Deciding when to pause work life to have a child is never easy. Unfortunately, no mathematical formula exists to calculate “the perfect time.” For teachers, family planning is more than finances and timing; we have the additional burden of considering our “other children.” How will our absence affect our students? Teachers sacrifice so much for the classroom, and if we wait for “the perfect time” to have children, we may never find it. With my first child, I didn’t know what to consider, and throughout my pregnancy, I doubted our decision to start a family. However, as I enter the final weeks of my second pregnancy, I am confident because my husband and I knew what questions to answer before making the decision. Every situation is diverse, and therefore, the best piece of advice is to do what’s best for you.
For teachers, family planning is more than finances and timing; we also must consider our “other children.” Click To Tweet
Know Your District’s Maternity Leave Policy: When I turned twenty-five, I had baby fever. Without researching my district’s maternity leave policy, I convinced myself that we should have a baby as soon as possible. If I had known of the maternity leave policy, I would have waited to start trying. My district allowed up to 12 weeks (under Federal Law), but it wasn’t paid leave; I had to use my allotted sick days until they ran out, and then I wasn’t paid. Fortunately, I worked with payroll to “buy” sick days; one day’s pay was withheld from every pay cheque. By the time I had my daughter, I had eight weeks saved. My friend’s district (in the same state) granted the mandated 12 weeks at 60% salary pay, so she didn’t lose any sick days. Some districts hold the teacher’s position for an entire year after the child’s birth (they hire a year position). Before I accepted my current position, I asked Human Resources to explain the University’s maternity leave policy to me. That knowledge contributed to our financial plan and timeline.
Plan Your Finances: Research short-term disability insurance. Most policies require you to pay into the system for at least ten months before the baby is born. With my first child, I used short-term disability insurance to extend my maternity leave; even though I ran out of sick days, I was able to stay at home with my daughter a little longer and not be financially burdened. Secondly, speak to your medical insurance company to project how much you will have to pay for prenatal care and childbirth. For this pregnancy, I switched to a PPO plan at the new year to better cover expenses. Finally, consider how to budget now (don’t wait until the baby arrives). With my first child, I decided to teach summer school because the extra money provided a cushion. My husband decided to postpone a career change because he would have taken a pay cut. For this pregnancy, we adjusted our monthly budget, so we could pay off our car before the baby arrives. Do whatever is necessary to arrive at financial peace, because new parents have enough to stress about without finances suffocating them.
Do whatever is necessary to arrive at financial peace; new parents have enough to stress Click To Tweet
Consider Options For After the Baby Arrives: Will you be a stay-at-home-parent? Will your child be enrolled in an in-home daycare or a daycare center? With my first child, we couldn’t afford one parent to stay at home, but our original plan for after the second child was to have my husband work part time. However, circumstances have changed. With both children we explored several options and ranked our preferences. We researched daycare centers and in-home options; we asked friends and family members for advice; we created multiple budgets. Eventually, we arrived at a plan that worked best for us and our circumstances. Last week, my husband brought a new option to the table, and we continued to research and revise. I’m thankful that we’re figuring all of this out before the baby arrives, because I don’t need additional stress.
Think About Your “Ideal” Time: Keep in mind that what works for your colleague may not work for you. Several of my teacher friends planned to have children in April, May, or June, because they wanted as much time as possible at home without having to worry about finances. They also wanted to reduce stress on the students (one transition instead of two). My first child was born late January, so I was absent for most of third quarter and the beginning of 4th quarter. I don’t think my students struggled with the transitions because I helped prepare them before I left and I kept in contact while I was on leave. Additionally, I was intentional with my maternity sub (a retired teacher) and met with her before, during, and after my leave. Honestly, I believe I had a harder transition because my priorities changed once I held my daughter. As previously stated, if I had researched maternity leave, I would have postponed trying by two months so that my maternity leave would have backed into the summer. With my second child, I was more considerate of time, because my role changed. As a first-year administrator, I didn’t want to abandon my staff mid year, so we planned to have a baby after the school year. However, we didn’t want to wait too long to begin trying because we wanted our children to be close in age. Once you’ve selected your ideal time, prepare to be flexible. When I first talked to my OB about getting pregnant, he explained to me that conceiving was like rolling dice: each time you roll, you have an equal chance of success, but some couples are “luckier” at rolling the magical number. Give yourself a window, not a specific month, because stress isn’t going to help you.
Considering these items brought comfort to me throughout my second pregnancy. However, even the best-laid plans may crumble. I’m full-term on the last day of finals, so there is a chance that I might be in the hospital before I complete my end-of-the-year tasks. Fortunately, my supervisors are exceptionally supportive and are working with me to create a backup plan. Research your resources and discuss options with your family. If you’re doing what’s best for you, then you’re doing the right thing.
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