Ten years ago, I walked into the OutsidePR office for the first time. Back then, our office was a skeleton crew that consisted of Gordon Wright, Kelly Blake, a few office dogs and as of that morning, me. I was a new hire and had much to learn about the outdoor industry. Kelly and Gordon encouraged me to get involved with the people and pursuits that made this industry pulse. They both were also instrumental with my involvement with the Outdoor Industry Women’s Coalition (the OIWC, which is now Camber Outdoors.) Through this organization, I became connected with and influenced by incredibly inspiring women who worked not only in the trenches, but also at the helm of so many companies I respected. The OIWC was one of the only voices for women in a very male dominated industry and I jumped in wherever I could help. I started writing articles and press releases on the group’s behalf. This led to holding meetings and helping run the OIWC booth at Outdoor Retailer. My experience with OIWC inspired me to try to make an impact not only in the industry, but also for the current (and any future) women and families in our growing company. And although I had no immediate desire to start a family of my own, I knew OutsidePR needed a formal maternity plan. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that a decade later I’d be the first person to use it.
In the 10 years that have passed since I wrote that plan, I’ve been at a few different agencies, but always managed to find my way back to OutsidePR. About a year ago, I called Gordon from my front porch in New Jersey and told him I was looking for a job. Fate found its way again — Gordon needed an account manager. A few months in, I found out my husband and I were expecting our second baby, I immediately checked the baby-stroller reviews to get something for him.
Evelyn was born 7 weeks ago and has been the most delightful addition to our family. Her big brother, Frankie, is in love with her. However, juggling two kids in diapers, sleepless nights and a husband who balances a full time job with law school means our life is chaos. Our calendar is a meticulously scheduled, multi-tabbed excel document. Weekly doctor appointments, babysitters, conference calls, etc. are blocked out and color coded, because quite frankly, I don’t have the time or bandwidth for anything less than max efficiency. Welcome to the life of a working mom.
The only thing that was completely seamless about our transition to a family of four was my maternity leave. And that wasn’t just because our maternity plan is generous. It was also because my boss wasn’t trying to make my life hell. OutsidePR is a wonderful place to work for many reasons, but especially if you have a family. Our policy, in a nutshell, grants up to six months off with 80% pay. I don’t know of any US company with such a progressive plan. The next best thing would be to live in Europe.
In the State of California, the main pregnancy leave of absence laws are the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), California Family Rights Act (CFRA), Pregnancy Disability Law (PDL) and the Fair Employment & Housing Act (FEHA) and they apply to most employers. But there are a few stipulations and requirements that need to be met in order for employees to benefit from these laws, which provides any healthy vaginal pregnancy and delivery with 22 weeks of maternity leave (24 weeks if delivered via C-Section), not all of which is paid.
Since I work part-time from home in NJ, I didn’t qualify for any California state maternity laws. Quite frankly, I wasn’t expecting any maternity leave as I work part-time and from home. But Gordon offered me our company’s full maternity leave package. (In full disclosure, I did not take the full 6 months of leave. I asked for 6 weeks off at full pay, to which Gordon graciously obliged. As I write this, I’m working from Panera, enjoying a latte with my baby sleeping in an Ergo on my chest.)
But had Gordon not given me maternity leave, I would have had to turn to NJ’s state benefits. I’ll be the first to admit that there is much to gripe about living in NJ. But maternity leave is not one of them. I live in one of the three states in the United States that guarantees women a partially paid maternity leave under the state’s Family Leave Insurance program, which is provided under New Jersey’s Temporary Disability Benefits Law. But because I did not lose any wages, I did not apply for any of these programs. However, understanding my state laws and knowing what I am eligible for is a paramount part to becoming a parent. This information ensures that my family would be financially covered if my company didn’t offer me maternity benefits.
Working in a family-friendly environment is something I will never take for granted. I nursed my daughter during our company’s conference call last week, which was conducted on Skype. Even though I turned the video off, I can say with confidence that it wouldn’t have been an issue if I hadn’t. I am incredibly lucky to have the situation that I do. We aren’t in any serious financial strain, I have a healthy baby and had an easy pregnancy and delivery. And I am so glad to have a supportive company and a brilliantly written (ahem) maternity leave program that safeguarded my family and will help support the other families that will grow alongside OutsidePR.