Should Moms Crowdfund Their Maternity Leave?

You probably see crowdfunding requests on social media all the time. It might be a friend who needs help with medical bills, a couple who’s hoping to adopt or a teacher trying to buy a new learning tool for her classroom.

It’s pretty cool being able to lend a hand – even if it’s just a few dollars – with a simple click of the mouse, but some say certain crowdfunding causes go a little too far. The latest example? Maternity leave.

Crowdfunding mom or dad’s time off after baby’s arrival is an idea that seems to be gaining traction among parents-to-be who don’t have paid leave through their employers. When Buzzfeed published an article in March on the topic, it noted that a search for “maternity leave” on GoFundMe.com brought up more than 1,200 results. Today we see more than 1,400 results.

Only 12 percent of Americans have access to paid maternity leave and most people in our country have less than $1,000 in emergency savings, Buzzfeed reports. So it makes sense that expectant parents need a little help paying for time off, right?

Well, not everyone agrees.

“I think it’s better if parents like that wait until they can actually afford to have a baby instead of asking strangers to fund them,” Angelo Snoeker commented on the Buzzfeed article.

In response to a story on TheStir about a mom who used crowdfunding to pay for her maternity leave, user Ari asked this: “Why should people pay for you to have a child? It’s a lifestyle choice.”

But as user sh93 points out on TheStir, “maternity is a necessity for most people” and the mom profiled in the article didn’t force anyone to contribute.

“She asked people to give what they could, if they wanted to. Society helping out when our government refuses to,” the comment continued.

And it’s true: Our government really does refuse to join the rest of the world when it comes to paid leave. According to a recent story in Forbes, the only other country that doesn’t guarantee paid leave for new moms is Papua New Guinea. That’s despite overwhelming research that links paid maternity leave to better outcomes for moms and babies.

What about FMLA, you might ask? The Family Medical Leave Act only provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave and only under certain conditions. As it turns out, more than 40 percent of American workers don’t even qualify. Even if they did, how many people can afford 12 weeks of unpaid time off?

Saving up for the time away – in addition to all those copays and deductibles for your prenatal care and delivery – is simply unrealistic for many families. Most parents I know used up every vacation/sick day they had (while hoping not to actually get sick or need any other time off for the next several months) and still barely scraped by, usually taking less time than they really needed. And we wonder why postpartum depression is so prevalent?

Asking relatives, friends or strangers to help pay for your maternity leave isn’t ideal but it’s a last resort for many families and I give them credit for having the courage to try. Some may call it tacky – I call it creative. If you ask me, every new mother and father in America without paid family leave should start a crowdfunding campaign. People would be so inundated with requests that maybe it would spur some action on the issue.

So should moms crowdfund their maternity leave? We’re probably asking the wrong question. Why should they have to?

What do you think of crowdfunding maternity leave? Would you ever consider it? Tell us in the comments.

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