Quora: How should paternity leave be arranged for a gay man with an adopted child?

Orignally posted to Quora.

Q: How should paternity leave be arranged for a gay man with an adopted child?

Should he get paternity leave, which is usually shorter, or maternity leave? If he gets maternity leave, doesn't this suggest he is the 'mother' in the relationship, which is offensive to many people? What if both men in the relationship are given maternity leave by their respective companies? That's unfair as most couples don't enjoy such treatment. Should a gay couple be asked to specify which of them will be the primary day carer for the child and that person be given 'maternity' leave (under another name) while the other only gets 'paternity' leave?

My Answer:

I think you might be making incorrect assumptions about how maternity leave works.

I live in the USA, and at my former company, "maternity leave" was extended and paid for under the company's short term disability insurance benefit. Basically, they considered giving birth to a baby to be a short-term medical disability, and paid a percentage of your salary while you were "disabled." (12 weeks for a natural childbirth and 14 for a c-section). You needed your doctor to sign off on this and declare you as "disabled."

As an adoptive mother, however, I was completely ineligible for my company's paid maternity leave because I didn't give birth and therefore was not medically disabled. All fathers, gay or not, are in the same situation.

So, I got same amount of paid maternity leave as the dads did for paternity leave. A whopping 2 days.

Fortunately, I was able to take 12 weeks off, although unpaid, under the USA federal FMLA law. Both men and women, gay and straight, are eligible for the same amount of FMLA leave when a new child joins their household, be it a biological, adopted, or foster child. But it's unpaid.

Sue Raisty

Product management geek, born-again engineer, adoptive mother of boys, coach & mentor, mountain trail runner, tinkerer, no-bull communicator, wannabe writer, room mother & compulsive researcher.

Silicon Valley, California http://blog.sueraisty.com