Paid parental leave does not exist in the U.S., which is why one California couple has resorted to crowdfunding to help cover the mom-to-be’s maternity leave.
Charles Webb and Rona Luo, who live in Oakland, are expecting their first child in July. While the U.S. does offer up to 12 weeks of “job-protected leave” under the Family and Medical Leave Act, it is unpaid and only applies to those who work in companies with 50 or more employees.
As a result, Webb and Luo, a video game writer and a self-employed acupuncturist, are looking to their community for help to fund Luo’s leave of absence.
“Your support will allow Rona to take a three month unpaid maternity leave so that she can fully recover before returning to work,” the couple’s YouCaring fundraising site reads. “Your funds will also help us procure baby gear items like a car seat, stroller, diapers, changing table, nursing supplies and more.”
According to Webb, his partner thought crowdfunding would be more beneficial than a baby shower, as the money could help support the family while they only have one source of income.
“Rona struck on the idea that in lieu of a baby shower, we should reach out to our friends and family for help directly,” the dad-to-be told HuffPost Canada Parents. “Money for diapers and to help with her leave are more valuable than clothes which we could get as hand-me-downs or limited-use things which we could find second-hand.”
Luo also added that she was inspired to crowdfund for her maternity leave after she campaigned with two friends to start a collectively-owned business in 2014. “That perhaps primed me towards being open to asking for community support and generosity,” she said.
Since launching their fundraiser on Monday night, the couple has already raised $881 of their $4,500 goal. “We've been touched by the positive responses and our community's generosity,” the expectant mom said.
“Money for diapers and to help with her leave are more valuable than clothes which we could get as hand-me-downs or limited-use things which we could find second-hand.”
Luo and Webb aren’t alone in their fundraising efforts. Back in April, Today.com reported that crowdfunding is now a trend among parents trying to help cover costs of parental leave.
Virginia mom Jennifer Warren Baker, who also crowdfunded during her pregnancy earlier this year, echoed Luo’s sentiments about turning to the community for support. “People are crowdfunding everything else, why can't I do this?” the mom-of-four told Today.com.
In the past, GoFundMe has hosted over 5,000 fundraisers for people looking to fund their maternity leave or child care, says spokeswoman Kelsea Little. Additionally, YouCaring has also seen dozens of people start similar fundraisers on their site.
“Ideally universal parental leave benefits would mean we would not have to fundraise like this.”
The U.S. is one of three countries that do not provide parents with any paid parental leave, which is why so many have resorted to fundraising.
“For workers without paid family leave, taking time off to care for a new baby or a seriously ill loved one can have devastating long-term financial consequences, ranging from racking up credit card debt to raiding savings to bankruptcy,” Dina Bakst, co-founder of A Better Balance, an agency that fights for flexible workplace policies, told ABC News.
Luo agrees that U.S. parental leave policies are troubling. When asked what she thought of the U.S. not offering any leave to new parents, the mom-to-be said: “I believe paid maternity leave should be universal and available to low-wage workers, as well as the growing population of self-employed, freelance or independently contracted workers. Ideally universal parental leave benefits would mean we would not have to fundraise like this.”
In Canada, maternity leave policies are strikingly different compared to the U.S., as both parents are offered up to 35 weeks of parental leave combined. In addition to this, new moms can also take up to 17 weeks of maternity leave.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST: