Motherhood is hard. But motherhood while managing a business during a pandemic is nearly impossible. That’s why it is so important to know your maternity rights as a mompreneur!

Entrepreneurs and Maternity Leave

Mompreneur on maternity leave sitting next to baby crib
Mompreneur on maternity leave sitting next to baby crib

I was recently talking to a friend of mine who is 5 months pregnant. She was telling me how stressed out she is because she has to plan everything out around her pregnancy, on top of figuring out finances. She runs her own small business that was forced to close because of the pandemic, so she took on a full-time job on a military base in Southern California to support herself and her family. My friends told me all about her specific maternity leave and let me tell you…I was shocked. I had no clue how messed up the system is that most mothers don’t have a paid leave, especially those who are mompreneurs.

In short, many businesses out there consider maternity leave to be an added expense and don’t want to give new mothers a paid leave. Even though it can be seen as a bonus because most mothers come back with a paid leave, not everyone sees it that way.

A business does not have to provide a mother paid maternity leave. According to the Family and Medical Leave Act, employees who are a part of a company with at least 50 workers are able to go on a 12 week leave, but it is unpaid. Different states have different policies, so depending on where you live determines how long you can be on leave and if it is paid or unpaid.

Paid Family Leave

Pregnant mompreneur talking with son in kitchen
Pregnant mompreneur talking with son in kitchen

In California, mothers part of a company with at least 50 workers get an unpaid, 12 weeklong maternity leave. Now, this leaves mothers and mompreneurs in a bit of a pickle. They are either forced to work up until their baby’s due date, or they have to just figure it out with the help of the father. Don’t get me wrong, 12 weeks is nice. But if you really think about it, even if you have a healthy and safe pregnancy, you will take off work a week before the due date and you will have 11 weeks to heal and bond with the baby before you have to return which isn’t that long if you really think about it.

And what happens if you have a complicated birth? What happens if your pregnancy requires you to be on bed rest for 3 weeks before the baby is born? Not only do you not get paid, but you get less time with you baby and less time to heal from the trauma your body just endured. And for all you mompreneurs? Not only does the pandemic make it hard for small business owners to earn any income at all, but it leaves mompreneurs in a tough situation. Sure, they can apply for unemployment, but what if they already had when the pandemic first started?

Well, according to the Employment Development Department in the State of California (again, it may be different in other states), you can receive a paid family leave. This leave will give you 8 weeks to birth, bond, and heal from pregnancy. However, you get way less time to heal and bond with your baby, even if it is paid. After those 8 weeks, you still have to deal with the struggles that the pandemic is putting on your business.

After knowing all of that, my friend was worried about her leave and how she was going to survive. But despite all the odds being stacked against her, she still counts her baby as a blessing. The complications of maternity leave are messy, but knowing your rights and figuring out a way to support you and your family is all that you can do as a mother and as an entrepreneur.

What advice do you have for women in the workforce who need maternity leave? Let us know down in the comments.

This article originally published on GREY Journal.