Many teachers schedule summer babies
Ruth Wilson with Collins at six weeks old.
Like a lot of teachers across the country, Ruth Wilson returned to the classroom this week. She has been a middle school teacher in Jackson County, Georgia for six years, but this year she'll be teaching 10th grade students.
It's not the only change she will face this school year, however. This is also the first year Wilson returns to school as a new mother.
“She was born on a Friday,” says Wilson. "I missed ten school days and that’s all that I’ll be out.”
Wilson says her daughter, Collins, arrived right on schedule.
“Being a teacher, I knew I’d only get six weeks of maternity leave,” Wilson explains. "So my husband and I talked about it and because I wanted to be at home with her longer, we decided to start trying so that I would have her [at] the very end of school.”
Wilson says that allowed her to spend 12 weeks at home with Collins instead of just the 6 allowed under the Family Medical Leave Act. The timing also worked better for the family budget.
“Maternity leave makes your paycheck very, very small,” Wilson explains.
To take advantage of FMLA, mothers must use up any vacation days or sick days they have accrued. Wilson says that would have left her in a delicate position, should Collins need a trip to the doctor.
“And my husband’s a farmer and so it’s not like he can tell the cows, ‘Hey, I’ll be back tomorrow. I have a sick child,’” Wilson reasons. “He has to go to work.”
Wilson's friend and fellow teacher Leah Jones was also recently pregnant.
“We had three teachers pregnant at our school this year,” says Jones. “It was nice to know you weren’t the only pregnant woman walking the halls.”
Jones welcomed her son, William Henry, last month.
“It’s pretty consistent amongst educators to have their babies in April, May, June so that they have that time off. It’s definitely not a new idea,” Jones explains, laughing.
She points out that most teachers try to avoid giving birth around February because student testing takes place in the spring.
“It puts less stress on your peers and colleagues,” says Jones, who will be taking her maternity leave the first six weeks of school. “I feel that when I come back I will be able to step right back into the bulk of the instruction.”
There is no clear picture of how many teachers plan their families around the school calendar. The Georgia Department of Education does not track when or if teachers take maternity leave. But the practice does help the state and systems like Jackson County maintain the education budget. Substitute teachers cost about $160 per day.
Wilson said when she decides to expand her family again, she will try to play another summer delivery.
“Six weeks is a long time to be away from your students and I just couldn’t do it and not only that, six weeks isn’t enough time to be at home with your newborn,” says Wilson.