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The Navy just tripled its paid maternity leave to 18 weeks. Here's why that's a game-changer for me — and other military moms.

3. It means the military might be able to better retain the talented women in its ranks.

The Navy just tripled its paid maternity leave to 18 weeks. Here's why that's a game-changer for me — and other military moms.

A few days ago,Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced the increase of paid maternity leave for the Navy and Marine Corps from six weeks to 18 weeks. This tripling of leave for new mothers doesn’t just align the Navy with most of the public sector, but it surpasses the 12 weeks of unpaid leave required by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). And that move, U.S. News and World Report notes, "makes the Navy the first of the military services to provide more than six weeks."


Go Navy!

I have served in the Navy for eight years as a Naval Flight Officer flying P-3 Orions (maritime surveillance aircraft) around the world. And even though there are few women in the role, I love what I do.

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I am also a dual military spouse, as my husband serves in the Coast Guard. With both of us on Active Duty it has been a challenge to find time to start a family that fit in with our careers and allowed both of us to be home during the first few years. But in May our daughter arrived, and so for me, the maternity leave policy change isn’t just poignant, it actually is going to extend the time I get with my child this summer. I’m so grateful.

“When the women in our Navy and Marine Corps answer the call to serve, they are making the difficult choice to be away from their children — sometimes for extended periods of time — so that they can do the demanding jobs that we ask them to do,” Mabus said. “With increased maternity leave, we can demonstrate the commitment of the Navy and Marine Corps to the women who are committed to serve.”

Balancing military life with starting a family is a challenge for most women in the military. Before having my daughter I honestly didn’t think six weeks of maternity leave was too short, but fellow service women who were moms all suggested taking at least two weeks of personal leave on top of the six weeks of maternity leave. In the past few weeks I have come to realize how short six weeks really is, and how I wished I had more time with my daughter before returning to work. And once I’m back from leave, our family will continue to face challenges balancing my Navy career and the demands of deployment and relocation, with our growing family.

Here are four reasons why the Navy’s policy change is so significant to sailors and Marines:

1. It’s an amazing baby gift for Navy moms who gave birth in 2015

The Navy’s new Maternity Leave policy applies to all women in the Navy and Marine Corps who have given birth after January 1st of this year and allows them to take the paid leave whenever the service woman chooses to within the first year after her child’s birth.

This could not have come at a better time for me since I was four days away from returning to work when the policy was announced. I will probably take a few more weeks now, while saving the rest for later in the year when I see it fit best for my family. Most likely, this will happen during my husband’s two-week Reserves duty, so that our daughter doesn’t have to go to daycare.

2. It shows that the Navy respects women

The birth of a child is a different experience for each and every woman. Some have easy births with quick recoveries, while others do not. Six weeks doesn’t give a mother who has had a C-section enough time to fully recover, let alone bond with her child and get into a good rhythm with breastfeeding, if she so chooses. Eighteen weeks will helps to give a new mom time to fully recover from childbirth and bond with her child, which is highly beneficial to both child and mother.

Numerous studies show that granting extended maternity leave to women is an investment in the long-term health and happiness of moms and babies. I’m glad to see the Navy recognize that these new short-term benefits will have lasting impact on our families.

3. It means the military might be able to better retain the talented women in its ranks

I see this policy as being a game-changer for women’s retention in the Navy and Marine Corps, as family friendly policies like this will help keep women in the military. Not only does it make the private sector’s comparatively generous leave policies look a bit less appealing, but it also says to women we value you and your family. Most women I know in the military love to serve their country, but also desire to have children. If they have to choose between the two they will likely choose having a family, which in the past meant leaving the service. Now they have the support needed to try and make both work, which in turn will keep more women in the Navy.

4. It’s just another reason to GO NAVY!

Those of us in the Navy have a friendly competition with service members in the Army and the Air Force, and the policy change gives us yet another reason to celebrate the difference. I’m rooting for all branches of the military to extend the same kind of leave benefits to women that was just extended to female sailors and Marines, but until then: GO NAVY!

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    Why right now is the best time for a drivable getaway

    Flexible schedules mean more vacation options. 🙌

    Looking back now, last winter feels like a lifetime ago. At the time, my husband and I were eagerly planning our summer vacation just as we've done in years past. You know how the next part goes: COVID-19 came into the picture and changed our plans not only for vacationing, but for so much else in life.

    In the time since then, we've gained a truly valuable new perspective on what matters—and realized we don't have to look so far to make beautiful memories with our kids. By exploring getaways within driving distance of our home, we've developed a new appreciation for the ability to "pack up the car and go."

    Of course, that isn't to say that travel is the carefree adventure it once was. With COVID-19 still a very big part of the equation, we've become much more diligent about planning trips that allow for social distancing and exceed cleanliness standards. That's why we've exclusively turned to Vrbo, which helps us find nearby accommodations that meet our new criteria. Better yet?

    Thanks to the money we've saved by skipping air travel and our remote-friendly work schedules, we're able to continue with the trips throughout the fall.

    Here are a few more reasons we believe it's a great time for drivable getaways.

    Flexible schedules allow us to mix work + play.

    After months of lockdown, my family was definitely itching for a change of scenery as the summer began. By looking at drivable destinations with a fresh set of eyes—and some helpful accommodation-finding filters on Vrbo—we were able to find private houses that meet our needs. (Like comfortably fitting our family of five without anyone having to sleep on a pull-out couch!)

    With space to spread out and feel like a home away from home, we quickly realized that we didn't need to limit our getaways to the weekends—instead we could take a "Flexcation," a trip that allows us to mix work and play. Thanks to the ability to work remotely and our kids' distance-learning schedule for the fall, we're planning a mid-week trip next month that will allow us to explore a new destination after clocking out for the day.

    We’re embracing off-season deals.

    With Labor Day no longer marking the end of our vacationing season, we're able to take advantage of nearby getaways that mark down their rates during the off season. For us in the Mountain West, that means visiting ski-town destinations when the leaves are falling rather than the snow. By saving money on that front, we're able to splurge a bit with our accommodations—so you can bet I search for houses that include a private hot tub for soaking in while enjoying the mountain views!

    Vacationing is a way to give back.

    If we've learned one thing this year, it's that life can change pretty quickly. That's given us a new appreciation for generous cancellation policies and transparent cleaning guidelines when booking trips. By seeing both of these things front and center in Vrbo listings along with reviews from fellow travelers, I feel confident when I hit the "book now" button.

    Beyond that, I know that booking a trip through Vrbo isn't only a gift to my family. On the other side of the transaction, there are vacation home owners and property managers who appreciate the income during these uncertain times. What's more, taking getaways allows us to support our local economy—even if it's just by ordering new takeout food to enjoy from our home away from home.

    While "looking ahead" doesn't feel as easy as it once did, I am confident that there will be a lot of drivable getaways in our future.

    This article was sponsored by Vrbo. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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