I think I might have mentioned in a previous post something regarding how fickle maternity leave is for post-docs (or maybe anyone in the academic science community?). I've talked to women (and I guess a few men, as it related to their significant others) who have mentioned that they had little to no maternity leave available when a new baby arrived. There was the story of a woman, who, as a post-doc could only take a couple of days off (the time she was in the hospital) before she had to return to the lab. She mentioned that her newborn took up residence in one of the filing cabinet drawers of her office. Another that I remember hearing about had adopted twins, and could only take off a short amount of time (vacation time) before losing whatever seniority she had within her department.
My first "maternity leave" was pretty simple...I was teaching at the time, and I was due in July (when classes were out of session). So, technically, my department heads at the university and the community college didn't even really need to be the wiser about the fact that I was pregnant at all (my department head at the community college only realized that I was pregnant when I came in for my end of class review in May). I got "lucky" in the sense that my son was born ten days early, so he ended up being just over 6-weeks old and able to go to daycare when classes started again in the fall. I wasn't getting paid over the summer, so I didn't have a paid maternity leave, really (I did qualify for unemployment, but that's another story/fiasco all together).
My second maternity leave was a bit more calculated. When I was interviewing at my present place of employment, one of the questions I asked HR was what is the policy on maternity leave. Luckily (and I say that without sarcasm this time!), it's covered under short-term disability. I was thrilled, especially since my last leave wasn't paid, and I know it would be difficult if I was unpaid after the birth of another baby. I had 6-weeks and 1 day off of work, and I can honestly say that I wish I could have had another couple of weeks (maybe with #3 I'll have more saved up time off?).
So now I'm going to end this with a statistic and a little picture I found on the inter-webs, because I really am trying to make a point here. Maternity leave in the U.S. kinda sucks. Having had both scenarios play out (paid and unpaid leave), it's kind of pathetic that there isn't more time. Especially when you compare it to other countries. It makes me wonder what the statistics for other countries look like specifically for those in the life science/lab research fields.