PLYMOUTH, Minn. – As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention, exactly why on maternity leave, a Plymouth mom brainstormed a solution to the problem of unpaid parental leave.
Margi Scott, 31, of Plymouth, just launched Take 12, a maternity leave registry she characterizes as “crowdfunding meets baby registry.”
The United States is one of the only countries in the world that doesn't require paid time off for new parents. The Family and Medical Leave Act gives up to 12 weeks unpaid time off for new moms and dads, but many can’t afford to take unpaid time away.
Scott, a mother of four, calls the issue a crisis.
“Taking 12 weeks of unpaid leave is not realistic for most people. The issue then results in women going to work much sooner than they should, and it really creates a physical, emotional, mental and financial stress on young families,” said Scott.
Her idea for a maternity leave registry came after her third pregnancy when she delivered twins. After being diagnosed with a rare liver condition during pregnancy, Scott underwent an emergency C-section, delivering her twins 5 1/2 weeks premature. Gwen and Cameron, now almost one-year-old, spent their first few weeks of life in neonatal intensive care. She was commuting back and forth to the hospital, stressed about how the complications would affect her leave when the idea for Take 12 first entered her mind.
“I had this moment at the dinner table with my mom, where I thought to myself, you know, this really stinks, I have 12 weeks, the clock is ticking, and two weeks of it have already gone by and my babies still aren't home yet,” said Scott. “My mom said ‘you should start a crowdfunding page.’ I started looking into and it and found that there are over 2,000 women right now on the internet crowd funding their own maternity leave because of how severe this crisis is.”
Scott, who works as a sales manager, had seven weeks of short term disability pay, but the total unpaid time off left a significant financial strain on her family of six. She also has two older boys, ages 8 and 5, and is the breadwinner for her family.
“I didn’t need stuff as much I needed time with my baby and time to recover from my own health experience. So I found it for myself really difficult to articulate what kind of help I needed. It’s socially acceptable for us to ask for stuff, but what if we don’t need stuff, what if what we really need-- is time?” said Scott. “I wanted to create a place where it would be okay for women to ask for what they really need and for them to be able to register for time with their baby.”
On Take 12, mothers don’t register for baby gifts and gear, but instead, a profile features their story and need for more time. Their family, friends and loved ones can then donate in a secure way. Dollars bring moments for moms like Leigh Ann Wrinn, who is expecting her second baby and already registered on the website. Wrinn has received $175 in donations for an estimated $5,000 goal.
“As a working mom, my financial contribution to our family is not a luxury or supplemental income, it's vital. Like many moms I struggle with taking unpaid time off to bond with my newborn,” wrote Wrinn. “There is a lot to consider, my job, my family’s well-being, my partner, my community and charitable work, mothers’ guilt is a real thing.”
Take 12 has a guide of how much to save and what financial factors to account for during maternity leave and encourages mothers to take a full 12 weeks, especially if they qualify for the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Mothers like Wrinn can find an immediate solution, but Scott hopes to elevate a bigger conversation about the need for paid parental leave. When it comes to the gift of time, she isn’t wasting a second for a cause so close to her heart.
“My dream for other women is that we solve this crisis on a national level, and to take the full 12 weeks, it's important for your health, important for your baby's health, important for your career,” said Scott.
An estimated one in 10 American employees work for a company that provides paid leave for new parents, but U.S. employers are facing growing social pressures to provide paid parental leave. Target, General Mills, Thomson Reuters, Star Tribune, the University of Minnesota and the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis are among other local employers that offer paid parental leave.
“But there is a huge gap, with being able to provide women sufficient maternity leave, 25 percent of women go back to work as soon as 10 days after giving birth,” said Scott. “This enables working women to take control and take the matter into their own hands.”
The Take 12 website plans to expand to allow fathers to register for paternity leave, and Scott said it is also open to small businesses as well, as many small companies can't afford to give employees paid leave.
She hopes Take 12 will also evolve to include a non-profit organization. A portion of the fees collected for transactions will benefit The Newborn Foundation in St. Paul.