For mothers with newborns, time becomes a very precious commodity, whether it is time to bond, time to recuperate, or time to figure it all out.
With Take 12, an online maternity leave registry, the gift of time is what Margi Scott of Plymouth wants to give to moms – and dads – as the clock to get back to work after childbirth starts ticking.
As a full-time working mother, Scott realized the true need for such a registry after the birth of her twins last February.
Having two older children, the Scotts knew the importance of saving for the 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave granted by her employer.
Scott determined she and her husband, Chris, would need to save $8,000 in order to supplement the 12 weeks she would take off from work when her son was born. And that would be “to keep the lights on,” she said.
Five years later with her last pregnancy, Scott was much further along in her career and was also the bread winner of the family. Pregnant with twins, she also found out she would have even less time to save and needed more money saved, since she developed acute liver failure. The condition forced her to deliver five weeks early, and her husband had been laid off halfway through her pregnancy.
On top of the mounting medical bills, Scott would have even less time to spend at home with her newborns.
Currently, the Family and Medical Leave Act “entitles eligible employees of covered employers” to take up to 12 weeks of “job-protected” leave, however, it does not require employers to provide pay. Any other benefits are at the discretion of the business.
“There are so many common misconceptions around the idea,” said Scott.
Mothers who go on bed rest for example, their 12 weeks of FMLA starts when they go on bed rest, Scott noted. “So for some mothers, that means they have no job protection by the time their baby is born.”
For those mothers who don’t have maternity leave, that’s when this issue really turns into a crisis,” Scott said.
The U.S. is the only country among 41 nations that does not mandate any paid leave for new parents, according to data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The smallest amount of paid leave required in any of the other 40 nations is six weeks in Australia and Portugal. The United Kingdom is at the top with 39 weeks of paid leave.
Scott remembers telling her mom in the hospital: “I don’t know how we are going to make it through these next 12 weeks. We are going to go into severe debt.”
Her mother suggested she start a crowd-funding page, not only to raise funds for the family, but to shed light on the issue.
Feeling embarrassed to ask for monetary donations, Scott declined to start a Go Fund Me account, but decided to look into the matter.
What she found from an online search was that she wasn’t alone in her struggles.
She found more than 2,000 women were crowd-funding for their own maternity leave.
What she also found were “a lot of hateful comments” from those judging the person seeking help.
“It’s socially acceptable for us to ask for stuff on our baby registries,” Scott said. “But for whatever reason … it’s difficult to articulate the help that we actually really need, which is time to spend with our families to recover and be prepared to go back to work.”
That was when she realized people need a safe, secure and supportive environment to feel empowered to ask for what they want and really need “instead of being chastised for it,” she said.
Rather than registering for burp cloths and outfits, Take 12 allows expectant parents to create a profile and register for gifts in increments of time to help supplement the unpaid maternity leave.
Some examples of gifts listed as “Times I will cherish most with my maternity leave” include $15 of snuggle time, $20 of nap time or $100 of neonatal visits.
“Gifts are nice, but having a little more security going into maternity leave outweighs any material item,” wrote one expectant mother in her Take 12 registry letter.
In a time where people are beginning to value experiences over material items, Scott sees this as a great alternative to more “stuff.” It also “a huge benefit for the gift-giver,” Scott said, explaining how convenient it is to purchase gifts of time online.
To ensure this is a safe and secure platform, Scott designed the site so only those who give gifts are allowed to comment.
Not only does Scott want Take 12 to be a resource for families, she also wants it to elevate the discussion of what maternity leave looks like in this country.
“Spending the time you need with your children shouldn’t be a luxury,” she said.
In certain cases, “women are risking their lives to keep their jobs to support their family,” Scott said, noting how some women go to work within 10 days of giving birth, which can be a potential health risk.
Sondra Doty, a doula and childbirth educator, said the pressure alone of going back to work right away causes stress. “The healing process doesn’t happen quickly,” she said.
The stress of not being mentally prepared to leave one’s baby also increases the likelihood of postpartum depression.
“As a doula, I’ve seen a lot of postpartum depression,” Doty said. If parents didn’t have to stress so much about returning to work, “the bonding would happen a lot quicker,” she said.
Scott would like to take Take 12 one step further by working with companies and their human resource departments to promote the registry to the employees as a way to make the gift of time even more accessible.
“It’s a way for companies to support employees taking the full leave that is offered, while not necessarily taking the expense on … because some companies can’t afford it,” she said.
For more information or to register for time, visit mytake12.com.
Contact Kristen Miller at [email protected].