While I was pregnant, my husband and I decided to move closer to family. My due date was February 2017. I had planned to use my six weeks of paid maternity leave from Vanderbilt University (where I was an attending), complete the academic year, and start my new job in July of 2017. Then I had a miscarriage…
After the miscarriage, it was impossible to conceive again, deliver a baby, and complete maternity leave before July 2017. However, I already had two job interviews set up with that timeline in mind. If I took a new job and was pregnant, I would give birth before working a full year. That would mean no Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protection for unpaid maternity leave, and forget paid leave. I called to cancel both of the interviews. I believed it would be better to stay at Vanderbilt, where I had already earned paid maternity leave.
The first job interview was at a community shop that did not offer benefits. I called and tried to explain I could not leave my job with paid maternity leave for a job with no benefits and no maternity leave. I thought my reason for cancelling the interview was clear, but my contact asked me to further explain my concerns. The conversation went something like this:
“I cannot come pregnant to a job that is going to pay me $40,000 less while I make partner, that will cost an extra $13,000 per year for health insurance, and leave behind six weeks of paid maternity leave, which is a $30,000 benefit.”
Now they understood the dollars-and-cents of the situation. I doubt this predominately male group had ever been confronted with these issues before and therefore had never thought about them or needed to address them.
The second job interview was at another academic institution. Again, it would be a pay cut, but I would have fantastic health insurance. I would get six weeks of paid leave, but there was a catch. There, women accrued paid sick days for maternity leave. It takes about one year to accrue six weeks of leave. I would be allowed to use sick time I had not yet accrued. Then as I earned sick time, it would be used to pay back my maternity leave debt. However, if I got sick after the baby was born and needed paid leave, there would not be any available.