Would you crowdfund your maternity leave?

 It's come to this. Photo by Ryan McGuire

It's come to this. Photo by Ryan McGuire

Because apparently now that's a thing, according to this excellent BuzzFeed story. Couples and moms-to-be are using sites like GoFundMe and CrowdRise to raise the money they need in order to take unpaid time away from work. (Quick reminder that here in the U.S., FMLA requires companies with more than 50 employees to hold your job for 12 weeks of family leave—but it's up to individual workplaces to determine how much of that time, if any, is paid.)

Leave it to a pregnant, nesting, hyper-goal-driven woman to get things done, right?

The 100 women I interviewed for my book were all over the place in terms of time off—and I have to be honest, I worked hard to ignore my own biases and be open minded. You want to take 12 weeks? Okay. You want to take one week? Also fine. You want to take six months? Fantastic. All good. But the verb in all of those sentences contains the word "want." That implies a choice. The availability of options. It's the women I talked to who took far less leave than they wanted (or frankly, needed, physically and emotionally) that made me so convinced that this FAMILY Act for paid leave needs to happen, and fast. The waitress whose husband lost his job, who was back in her uniform in a week. The small business owner who was placating clients from the NICU. These women are scrappy as hell. But they shouldn't have to be. 

 Three of the nearly 1300 maternity leave appeals on GoFundMe.

Three of the nearly 1300 maternity leave appeals on GoFundMe.

So as much as I absolutely hate—hate—to see women and families panhandling, I hope the trend gets a whole lot of attention. I hope it's an embarrassment to this great country that has such a rich history of bootstrap pulling, of people doing everything they can to succeed and move up to give their kids a better life. Because a better life means having choices, not being so up against a wall that you're reduced to only one option: begging.