My Future, Revised: From Child Care Provider to Stay-At-Home-Mom

I am bound by both conscience and a confidentiality clause in my contract from providing any details. I really need to talk about one issue, though: pregnancy discrimination. There is a federal law against firing or demoting or otherwise discriminating an employee, but the federal law provides an exemption for businesses with fifteen or fewer employees. The state where I work has an even better law–you aren’t exempt unless you have three or fewer employees. Here’s the law, helpfully explained by the Connecticut Network for Legal Aid:

Q: I’m pregnant. Do I have legal rights to protect me in the workplace?

A: Yes. There are state and federal laws that protect you from discrimination because of pregnancy. If you work for an employer (private, public, or employment agency) with 3 or more workers, your employer cannot discriminate against you because of pregnancy, childbirth, or pregnancy-related conditions. A pregnancy must be treated the same way as any other temporary medical disability. This means:

  • You cannot be fired, denied a job or a promotion simply because you are or may become pregnant.
  • You cannot be forced to take a leave because you are pregnant if you are able and willing to work.
  • Employers (or potential ones) cannot ask you about your plans to have children or your pregnancy unless this information is directly related to a specific job.
  • In general, employers must not treat pregnant employees any differently from other employees. For example, the employer cannot provide health insurance that treats pregnancy and childbirth any differently from other medical conditions.

If I were not the only employee here, I would have a job waiting for me after a state- and federally-mandated maternity leave:

Q: Am I allowed to take a leave of absence?

A: Yes. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the state and federal Family and Medical Leave Acts (FMLA) and CT’s Anti-Discrimination Laws protect eligible employees who need to take leave during or after pregnancy (maternity leave). If an employer offers sick leave or disability leave to its employees, it must permit pregnant employees to use that leave for pregnancyrelated conditions. “Family and medical leave” allows an eligible employee (man or woman) to take an unpaid leave of absence (generally up to 12 or 16 weeks) to care for a child upon the child’s birth or adoption.

Because I am the only employee here, I have access to none of these rights. In New York City, I’ve heard, there is a union for nannies. I belong to no such union, but working conditions in New York really are awful. Access to basic workers’ rights is a problem for many nannies and domestic workers. I asked an expert once, and she had never heard of a maternity clause in a nanny contract. It seems utterly ridiculous counterintuitive to ignore the possibility that someone who loves children enough to take care of someone else’s kids full-time might want to have one or two of her own.

I’m sure you can piece together what’s happened over hear. Now, I find myself suddenly planning a future career as a stay-at-home-mom. I’m pretty excited about that. I’m already so attached to this baby; I can’t imagine leaving my child in someone else’s care while I go to care for other kids. I’m in shock, a bit.

I have no problem applying for WIC, food stamps (or SNAP, as the program is now called), or welfare/cash assistance. This is precisely what those programs are for. Unfortunately, I do not live in one of the small handful of states that offers short-term disability or unemployment insurance to pregnancy women. If I wanted private short-term insurance, I needed to apply for it before the pregnancy. And I just didn’t know that. It never occurred to me to check. We’ll make it. And it will be worth buying nothing new for ourselves and not visiting relatives outside driving distance. We can do all of that later. We will never get the first years of our child’s life back. And now, one or both of us will be there for every moment.

My mother-in-law has promised to drive up from Long Island to keep me company; I am carrying her only biological grandchild and married to her only son. But we’re friends. Dear friends. And I’ll have time to go to play groups and spend time with the friends I have met here. But other child care providers who work in private homes are not so lucky.

The discrimination I have encountered may be legal, but it is still wrong.

8 Comments

  1. Kate said:

    Best of luck to you!  I stayed home with my 2 boys, the first one until he was 3 and then went back to the 9 to 5, then for my second one, I’ve been home with him his whole life. It was by choice, but we still had to sacrifice some of the “nice to have” things. And it wasn’t all rainbows and hugs from grateful children.  Sometimes it really sucked getting no appreciation from the outside world or the one inside my home.  Still, I would not go back and trade my time for any amount of extra money or independence.  I was able to pursue some of my own personal goals, working within a different schedule and taking on more “me” time as the kids have gotten older. It’s always a balancing act.  I hope you find life at home as worthwhile as I have.  And I hope you keep writing, too!

    May 29, 2012
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    • Anne-Marie said:

      Actually, one of the things I am really looking forward to is keeping my time to write. If I were to stay on as the nanny here, the baby would become a toddler who would nap less and entertain herself with her own toes far less. As much as I really do love working with toddlers–they are so genuinely excited about the world! look, an ant! look, a block tower! look! look! <3 –they don't give one much down time. While my baby is tiny, I can write a lot. I hope to work on a memoir so that other women who have struggled with mental illness know that that struggle is not incompatible with motherhood. 

      May 29, 2012
      Reply
  2. Diana said:

    Remember that post I did on how almost every family I interviewed with asked if I planned on getting pregnant? And how mad that made me? Yeah. I understood, but I really wished it was different. 
    And I am sorry because I know you love your job and are great at what you do. If you ever want to go back, there are families I found who requested a nanny with a child. But don’t feel like you have to because being a SAHM is wonderful. :)

    May 29, 2012
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    • Anne-Marie said:

      I have kept in touch with a family whose kids are 8 & 12, because the mom is the one of the most admirable women I’ve ever met. She regularly goes to Africa to advocate for better reproductive health. I emailed her, and she said they might need help driving the kids around next year. She wouldn’t mind at all if my baby was in a carseat in the back, and the kids are lovely. They’d either want to play with the baby or would want me to leave them alone anyway. Short term, that seems like my best plan. I can’t think past next year, anyway. It’s awfully hard to imagine motherhood before I’ve given birth!

      May 29, 2012
      Reply
  3. As a former employment/labor lawyer, I can tell you that what goes on with pregnancy is pretty awful.  Great post.  Women should be educated about this. I tell my students all the time that if they are planning to have a family (The male and the female students, but really mostly the female) they should be very careful to understand the values of where they are working and watch what happens to other women who become pregnant.  It’s shocking what goes on.  What sucks is that you deserve to make that choice for yourself. And the PDA needs some major revisios, esp in light of how pregnancy is a very different thing these days.  The act at some point says “pregnancy and other related conditions” or something like that.  The question is does fertility count as a related condition? What if you have an IVF cycle? What about a vascectomy? Lots of gray area that currently runs against families and dignity.

    May 30, 2012
    Reply
    • Anne-Marie said:

      Exactly! Two things really shock me: how little employees know about their rights and how few safeguards there are to protect the rights of employees. I’m no lawyer, but from reading the laws, federal and state, it really seems like I’d have to sue if I *did* work for a larger company that wanted to do this same thing, or at least threaten to sue. 

      And then the other side of the coin, the other tragedy, is that women denied even the rights that the law spelled out rarely know that they can sue. It wouldn’t take much to add that to training sessions, along with the rest of the handbook!

      May 30, 2012
      Reply
  4. Misty said:

    A blessing in disguise maybe? Although I’m sure the experience has not been helping your anxiety. Glad to hear that you are still pleased with being at home. I am desperate to be at home with my kids after this one is born, but it would mean we’d have to sell our house, move to a small apartment, and basically change everything…such a tough decision!!

    May 30, 2012
    Reply
    • Anne-Marie said:

      We are blessed in that we have no mortgage, live in a tiny apartment, and this is our first baby. It is rare to be able to stay home with little ones, and I’m not complaining about that part! I am so lucky that this *is* a blessing in disguise, and that we can afford to make it so.

      May 30, 2012
      Reply

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