As many of you know, I am having a beautiful baby girl in January 2016. We have been decorating the nursery, planning the maternity photo shoot and getting things ready for our new bundle of joy. During this happy time though, a big question mark has been looming over our heads in regards to maternity leave.
I am a small business owner and entrepreneur. I am the owner of Business Gypsy Web Design and have been in business for over 5 years now. I love all of my clients and I love my job, even though I do not have any protections when it comes to maternity leave. I am a 1099 contractor for all of my clients and there are about 10-15 of them. Some full time clients and some part time, meaning they email me when they need a small update to their website, usually on a quarterly basis. I do not have a normal job, so I do not receive a W-2 at the end of the tax year. I pay my own taxes, including social security tax and federal tax.
Because I do not receive a W-2, I do not receive the same protections that most 9-5 job holders have when it comes to maternity leave. Here in the United States, there is no guaranteed pay for maternity leave. That decision is held by your employer and they have the option of either paying or not paying you for your time off. Many women save up vacation days to cover their maternity leave and that sometimes only covers half of the 12 weeks. Maternity leave in the United States is covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which is a law “requiring covered employers to provide employees job-protected and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons” (Source: Wikipedia). This includes “personal or family illness, family military leave, pregnancy, adoption, or the foster care placement of a child” (Source: Wikipedia).
The FMLA allows eligible employees to have 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the reasons listed above. Sub-contractors and recipients of 1099 Forms do not have these protections. 1099 contractors do not have job security, for a client can drop the contractor due to their extended maternity leave. An entrepreneur and business owner like myself can lose clients because updates and work is not being completed due to taking maternity leave. There are essentially no protections for contractors and 1099 recipients when it comes to taking time off to take care of your new bundle of joy and recuperating from natural child birth or a c-section.
This is the boat I am in. I do not have any guaranteed protections during my 12 weeks maternity leave. During those 12 weeks, I can lose all of my clients and I would have to start back at square one. After 5 years of building my business, my maternity leave could be my undoing. In addition to losing clients during those 12 weeks, I will also lose my income. I pay for all of my own bills and help pay bills for the household as well. We cannot survive on my husbands income alone, so finding the income to cover my car bill, cell phone, utilities and more is pretty much impossible without getting some type of outside help or dipping into savings, which isn’t nearly enough to cover 3 to 4 months of maternity leave. Here are some ways that may be an option to help cover the cost of the bills during the 12 weeks maternity leave:
Rely on Your Spouse’s Income
This is an option for many women going on maternity leave, if you can swing it. Many people can rely on one income for the entire household for a couple of months to keep them afloat until the 12 weeks is up. Many times though, some of the bills suffer due to unforeseen costs, like trips to the emergency room, buying extra diapers, additional baby supplies and more. During this day and age though, two incomes are basically needed to run a household and keep all of the bills in line and paid for.
Ask for Help from Family Members
This is another option for many women and couples who are business owners and do not have the same protections that W-2 Employees have. If you are able to ask for help from family members, this might be your best option. Even if it is a loan from the family, it is better than taking out a loan with a bank, which will charge you high interest rates. If the family member is unable to give you a certain amount of money up front, ask if they can help you take care of the monthly bills, so they can factor in the cost of your monthly bills with their monthly bills as well, creating a doable budget for themselves.
Take out a Personal Loan
If you cannot rely on just a single income or help from family members, this is another option you can take. You can take out a personal loan for the amount you need to cover all of your bills for the next 3-4 months, while making sure to add in the cost of the loan for those 3-4 months as well. If you own a home, you may be able to take out a Home Equity Line of Credit, which will keep your interest rates down and build your credit all at the same time. This is not an option for many people though, due to their living situation, like families who move around from state to state, like myself and my husband, or still renting an apartment. In that case, you would have to go for an unsecured loan, which will hit you with high interest rates and will take you 3 years to pay off! 3 years for 4 months of maternity leave doesn’t seem like a fair deal, but that is what we are left with.
Asking for Help through Crowdfunding
This is another option that could help you fund your maternity leave and keep you afloat during your time off. There are many sites like GoFundMe, Kickstarter and GiveForward that can help you fund your maternity leave through the kindness of the internet. I have seen that people ask for 1 months rent, help with plane tickets and even medical bills. Start a crowdfunding campaign, ask your friends, family and social media connections to contribute and hope that your campaign is successful enough to get you through your maternity leave.
As for myself, I am still trying to figure out where to go from here. I may keep a couple clients on during my maternity leave to bring in some extra spending money, in addition to finding a way to cover my bills and expenses during maternity leave. If I was a W-2 employee with a company, I would have the ability to save up vacation days to use for my maternity leave while having a job to return to when I come back. Being an entrepreneur and business owner though, I do not have any protections when it comes to my job or any type of paid vacation that I am able to save up. It truly is a battle between Business and Baby when is comes to maternity leave for entrepreneurs and in the end, no body wins.