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Having children in US, how does it work?

  1. Aug 7, 2008 #1


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    My girlfriend and I have started thinking of the possibility of moving to US (probably New York city) after finishing our PhDs, which should happen in about two years. We are then in the age when it is time to start reproducing, and this is indeed a major concern I am having about our plans. Not that I have anything against living with children in NY for some years, but I'm more worried about the whole "parental situation" in the states.

    In Sweden we are rather spoiled when it comes to parental benefits, and I am aware there exist nothing alike in the US. To give you an idea of what I am used to I will quote some lines from the webpage


    of the Swedish "Forsakringskassan" (should be translated to something like the "Agency of social securicy").
    To clearify, the days of parental benefit is assured by the law, and your employer cannot fire you for using them. Using a majority of the days is the standard.

    During days with parental benefit you recieve an amount based on your current sallary. For a majority of the days (390) the income will be 80% of your sallary, up to a maximum annual sallary of approximately 50k USD.

    If your child gets sick you have the right to stay home with temporary parential benefits:
    Also, there is some extra free days for the father in connection with the birth of the child:
    As you see, having children in Sweden is not much of a big deal...well, at least not when it comes to the economic and job parts. You don't have to leave your children at day nursery during (at least) the first year and you are able to stay home with them when they are sick, all without ruining your economy or loosing your job.

    As I have understood, the US law provides basically no such protection for parents, but all such things have to be negotiated with you employer. I have also understood that there is nothing like "getting payed while staying home with children". If you manage to get some days off it will certainly be without any sallary.

    However, it is not the economic part I find problematic. (After all, I expect a higher sallary in US compared to here.) Instead I worry about how to have children without one of us having to give up his/her career (which is not really an option). As I guess a lot of couples must have been in this situation I hope for some good advice.

    How can one manage to both have careers and children in the US?
    Is the only way to leave the children to (expensive) day nursery basically as soon as they are born?
    How much (unpayed) parental leave has one legally right to without having to negotiate with the employer?
    Is there any private insurancies one can get to improve the situation?
    How sympathic is a "typical" US employer about their employees having children?
    Do companies sometimes/often arrange day nursery themselves for ther employers?
    And so on...I hardly now anything about how this works in US and don't really know what to ask, so please share your experiences!
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 7, 2008 #2


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    Any benefits or leaves of absence with pay are based on your employer, average is 6 weeks after the birth of a child. There is a non-payed leave that you can apply for called FMLA which, if it is granted, they cannot fire you during that time, but they can fire you as soon as you return, but that is usually only granted in the eevn of a medical reason such as a sick child or parent, even yourself if you do not have any disability time.

    What parents here do is put the child in a day care facility while they are at work, unless you have a family member that can keep them.

    There are no firm answers for your questions as it depends on your employer. I was able to work at home while raising my children which was ideal and I worked for one of the world's largest companies at the time.
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2008
  4. Aug 7, 2008 #3
    Great title for a thread. I'm pretty sure that part works the same as in Sweden. My kids were born in Japan, so I can't help for the rest.
  5. Aug 7, 2008 #4


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    Thanks Evo, hope your arm is better!

    I guess that only includes the mothers, or does that father usually get an additional 6 weeks?

    Do people really put their children in day care when they are just 6 weeks old? I think that would feel a bit strange.

    I understand there are no firm answers, but different solutions from family to family. Thanks for sharing yours. Can I ask you wheter your arrangement was a standard one for the company you worked for, or did you have to negotiate? (If the later, did you do the negotiation when you signed the contract, or first when you got pregnant?)
  6. Aug 7, 2008 #5


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    I was just waiting for it...
  7. Aug 7, 2008 #6


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    A father should be able to apply for leave also. I've never known both the father and mother to take newborn leave at the same time, but if they work for different companies, it could work.

    yes, quite common.

    For my position, the option of working from home was mine, they set up a remote office in my home.

    Most companies here do not have "contracts" per se. Most states are "right to work' states or "employment at will", this means that you or your company can terminate your employment at any time, without notice, and without cause. Exceptions would be if you were a private contractor or perhaps working for a university, MB could probably explain how that might differ from corporate America.
  8. Aug 7, 2008 #7


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    Well, I was more thinking of the father staying home an additional 6 weeks after the mother had used her's. But maybe the 6 weeks usually need to be used directly after the birth, or?

    Ok, I better get used to the idea then. Btw, what is the "typical" cost of day care? (I mean, I have no idea whatsoever. Here it is almost for free, but I guess it can be rather expensive in the states.)

    That sounds great.

    If we go there we'll probably work in companies. However, if postdoc positions can offer better arrangements it might be worth thinking of.
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