There are a few things I knew would be different when I moved to New York. I'd have to learn to tip, translate (rocket = arugula) and look right, left, right when crossing the street.
What I didn't anticipate was that my feelings about having kids would totally flip.
I'm one of those girls who've always known they want kids. When I've thought about having babies in the far, far, far-off future, there's always been a healthy dose of fear (Yes, Poppy, it's gonna hurt) and excitement (little booties!).
Then I moved to New York.
Fast forward a few years and instead of wondering if I'll still fit in my YSL pumps if I get pregnant, I'm thinking, "when would I tell my boss? How would I tell my boss? Will it ruin my career? Can I afford it? Does my overpriced health insurance even cover babies? How much leave do I get?"
I love New York; the people, the food, the dirt, the fashion, the humidity. Heck, even the long, freezing winters are pretty magical. But if I'm gonna be real, there's no way I'd stay here if I were planning to start a family. Thats right, knock me up and I'm schlepping back to Australia.
1. The U.S. has no paid maternity leave
Australia's paid and unpaid parental leave policies were something I totally took for granted.
The U.S. federal law only requires some employers to offer 12 weeks of unpaid leave, anything else offered from an employer is icing on the cake. Sadly, not everyone can afford 12 weeks off so it's not uncommon or unexpected for women to return to work just two to three weeks after giving birth!
Compare this to the Australian government's 12 month unpaid parental leave policy and up to 18 weeks paid leave.
Well played, Australia. Well played.
Of course there are some U.S. companies that offer paid parental benefits or extended unpaid leave, but parental benefits are one of those things that you really have to discuss and negotiate early on because there are no industry standards.
I love negotiating (weird, I know), but good luck getting me to bring up babies that I might have at some point while I'm trying to land a new job. I'd rather start my own business than have that conversation. It's no secret, women are terrified of jeopardizing job offers by discussing pregnancy policies.
Baby talk, denied.
That leaves the ball in an employer's court...
"In case you're thinking of having a family some day, let's go through how we help our employees combine kids and your career" said, No Employer Ever.
Not once since living in New York have parental benefits been discussed with me by an employer - mentors have even told me not to bring it up. Aside from the unpaid 12 week leave that's hidden in the depths of an employee handbook, it's been totally omitted from work agreements.
As Sheryl Sandberg highlighted in her best-selling book Lean In; although employers can't quiz you about family plans, it's not illegal for them to talk about pregnancy itself. Unfortunately, unless you work at Netflix, Google or Facebook, where they have paid pregnancy programs, the issue is usually swept under the rug.
By treating parental leave as something that both men and women need, Australia has shown it's leaps and bounds ahead of the U.S. in achieving gender equality in the workplace. Of course, there's still plenty of work to be done on the whole equality issue, but it's a start and an example of what's achievable.
2. I'm not a millionaire, so I can't afford it
Yes, there are lot of things cheaper in the US than Australia, but health care is not one of them. Give me a $5 coffee over a $7000 health insurance deductible any day.
Right now I pay about $200 a month for bottom of the rung health insurance, not exactly cheap.
I contacted my health insurance provider for details on how much it would cost for my far-off-into-the-future bun in the oven. Turns out I should start saving. Now.
I would be $7000 out of pocket just for the delivery services. Combined with annual insurance fees, that's already $9400! Breathe. Just breathe.
And if I didn't have health insurance? Well I could say goodbye to tens of thousands of dollars. Not cool.
America, I love you, but it's time to step up. Look after your Moms and Dads, so they can look after their kids and your future.
Australia, I love you too, and you're just two red lines away...