I work part time. After the birth of my first child, I received $170 a week from the New York State Temporary Disability Insurance program (TDI). Although the amount was laughable, every little bit helped. In order to take a whopping two weeks off, my husband had to use his paid vacation time. I had a c-section, and I went back to work after six weeks only because I was able to bring my baby to work with me. He had a predictable & easy personality, and they made me a little nursery. Although it was still very challenging to juggle our work/family balance, it worked until he began to move around.
My experience with our second baby was completely different. My work environment changed, and so did the “perks.” I was compelled to go back to work after the 4th week, and struggled to maintain any continuity in my work schedule because of the challenges associated with caring for a newborn. I needed the income, and they needed my skill set, so we did what we could to make it work, but bringing the baby into work was no longer an option. I hired a childcare provider which was a huge challenge and incurred a hefty expense. To compound this situation, we were also displaced after Superstorm Sandy, and were forced to dip into our rebuild fund to make ends meet and pay rent. Also, our FEMA rental assistance maxed out at the very same time.
By the birth of our second baby, my husband had a new job in which he had access to Paternity Leave. He was able to take an unheard of four weeks off and receive 80% of his total income after a seven day waiting period. Although this benefit was amazing, our income still suffered and we dipped into “rebuilding” money in order to get by.
One of the reasons my husband didn’t take all his Paternity Leave all at once was because his company was having an off-site meeting that he did not want to miss. Another reason was we anticipated needing time together to settle into our new house once it was complete. There was further financial help we could have applied for in terms of Sandy funding, but with a pre-schooler, a newborn & sleep deprivation, aside from the stressors of working with contractors & rebuilding, we were just too overwhelmed at that point to fully realize that there was more we could have done. Now it’s just too late. Passing a paid family leave benefit in New York State that also incorporates an increase to the state’s TDI cap (which has been stuck at $170/week for the past 25 years) would have drastically improved our quality of life and made a stressful time easier to bear.