American Vacation Benefits Suck

Econ-Mom: Last night, I was talking with DH about my vacation time at work. After working for over a year, I now have over 40 hours of vacation saved up. (To be clear, I have taken a couple short vacations – almost a week in total – so it’s not like I’m only earning a week a year.)

I want to continue to save up for a longer vacation next summer; however for the holidays, we only get Christmas Day and New Year’s Day off, which are on Wednesday. So of course I’ll probably be using a few vacation days off over the holidays as well.

I have two points I want to make here.

  1. DON’T BE LIKE ME!!!! Do not start a new job when you’re 38. If you live in America, stay in your first job forever so you can work your way up to having 4+ weeks of vacation a year. Otherwise, if/when you have kids, you will be hating life so much. Honestly, less than 4 weeks of vacation per year is just inhumane, I don’t even care if you have kids or not. Which brings me to my second point.
  2. While I was in college, I studied abroad in Australia. I remember one day they had some speakers come into one of my classes to talk about jobs. They said that private sector jobs START at 4 weeks, and public sector jobs start at 6 weeks! Can you even believe that?? I remember while I was there, I had a friend who worked as a detective. He had saved up some vacation so he went on a MONTH-LONG backpacking trip to Europe. I was like, “well, surely this is going to hurt his career. No one can take you seriously if you’re doing stuff like that.” But no! His career was totally fine!

We Americans are just getting completely screwed when it comes to vacation. Look at Australia! The standard of living there is very similar to America. No one is living in extreme poverty because people get more vacation time. Our lack of vacation time really hurts everyone, but I think it hurts families the most. It’s heart-sickening to think about how much easier my life would be if I had a few more weeks of vacation a year. I wouldn’t be stressing about running out of sick time for 2019 in September. (I have 2 days left everyone… fingers crossed!!!) I could easily take a day off here and there to volunteer at my kids’ school or (gasp) do something for myself!!!

Law-Mom: I have a lot I could say about this, Econ-Mom. Let’s remember that I spent nine years working for myself….which means I got zero weeks of paid vacation time. When I got two weeks of paid vacation time a couple of years ago (because I started working for a corporation) I thought I had died and gone to heaven. In fact, this is the first year of my adult working life that I have had more than two weeks of paid vacation! (I appreciate hearing that my work-life has been “inhumane.” Because sometimes, it feels that way. Which may explain why I feel the way I do about taxes, as you read further….)

While I do, for sure, agree with you as to your premise, I want to acknowledge that paid time off is really only a thing for large companies. It doesn’t exist for sole proprietorships or small business owners.

When I got pregnant with SC1, as the only female litigator in my 10 attorney law firm, my company did not have a maternity policy in place. My firm ended up giving me 3 months of unpaid time off, which left The Hub completely aghast. But I was like, “Well, I am 10% of their generated income. I bring in 10% of what the firm brings in. It’s pretty hard to pay someone while they are also losing out on revenue.”

Now, there are solutions to this problem (which I talk about on the Barbarian Noetics podcast) but without cooperative insurance policies in place, or taxing all of us even more (which, honestly, I’m not a huge fan of – call me selfish, but I work too damn hard to lose even more of my very hard-earned income) it’s not going to happen.

Once again, I find myself working for myself these days. (I will tell you all more about that some day.) While the benefits of that are palpable (when you work for yourself, you have constant work-at-home-flex time), I could bore you to tears as to the challenges that entails, too.

As I’ve often said on here: there is no “one size fits all” easy solution to these problems. But….but….I think having maternity/medical/parental leave cooperative insurance pools might be one way to help foster more female involvement in the workforce. And more sanity for all of us.

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