2009 has gotten off to a kind of rocky start. In addition to finding out that Husband’s change in funding source meant a net decrease in take home pay (and that he doesn’t qualify for his institution’s retirement benefits because he’s apparently a “new” employee), my paycheck dropped as well as our health insurance premiums quietly jumped 33%.
But the thing that really has me down this week was a more long-term stressor. Husband and I want to have a second child, and I’ve always been biased towards trying to space the children fairly close together. I was hoping for 2 years between babies, but with Husband’s job search happening a year later than we had hoped, we figured three years apart would be the most practical. Which would mean trying to get knocked up sometime this summer.
As we try to figure out where the hell we’re going to get the money for a second child, I tried looking into what the maternity leave policy would be now that I’m being paid by a private fellowship instead of off my boss’ grant. I couldn’t find any information on family leave in my Fellow’s Handbook, so I contacted the American Cancer Society directly. The response shocked me.
No paid parental leave. As in 0.00 days of paid leave following the birth or adoption of a child. Instead they offer to put the grant on hold until I return to the lab and extend the grant termination date.
I was really taken aback by their response. In 2008, the NIH extended their parental leave benefits from 30 paid days to 60 paid days of leave. Damon Runyon offers their fellows 12 weeks of paid leave. So I was really really surprised by the ACS policy of no paid leave.
It’s really frustrating. As a postdoc, you don’t accrue vacation days or sick leave or personal holidays. Postdocs are often in a weird unclassified vortex of suck. We’re not employees, we’re volunteers… who happen to have bosses and get a paycheck. We sometimes qualify for benefits. Sometimes not.
I know that I’m lucky to have a paycheck and health insurance and some stability in my employment. But I’m getting old here, people, and it’s frustrating to feel like I still don’t have a “real” job. Instead I’m still stuck in the confusing world of not-quite-an-employee. It makes me feel like I’m still a grad school.
I’ve contacted one of the officers of the Postdoc Association here at the University to see if I have other options, and I’m waiting to hear back. But I’m frustrated and grumpy.
I’ve also started reading “Nickeled and Dimed” to remind myself just how lucky I am.
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