I’m 35 weeks pregnant and just got laid off from the tech company where I’ve worked for two years. One of the reasons why I took the job in the first place was that it offered great benefits (including 18 weeks of paid parental leave) and we were thinking of starting a family. Now, of course, I won’t be getting any of that. Instead, I got eight weeks of severance as part of my exit package. (Which I know most people don’t get, so I should consider myself lucky.) Technically, I haven’t signed my severance paperwork yet, but my colleagues who have pushed for more money have so far been unsuccessful, so I’ll probably just take what’s offered.
I was good at my job and my department did well; I know that my layoff wasn’t performance-related. I also know that what they did was perfectly legal. I wasn’t let go because I was pregnant — I was let go because they needed to downsize.
I’m devastated and anxious and so upset that we’re in this position at a time that should be joyful. My husband, thankfully, is still working, but I made more money than him and his work is less stable (he runs his own business). He was planning to take some parental leave, but now it looks like he won’t be able to because we need the income. I’m not sure how I’m going to manage job-hunting while also taking care of a newborn without his help. We have some savings, but I didn’t want to use all of it this way — we were hoping to buy a home in the next couple of years.
Do you have any advice for how to budget around a layoff and a new baby? This is horrible timing.
First of all, I’m so sorry you’re in this position. It’s never a good time to be laid off, but this scenario is especially terrible. I imagine that you’re experiencing a kind of mourning for the life you planned to bring your child into — one with more security and certainty and comfort. Don’t pressure yourself to find silver linings or try to “fix” things; what happened to you really sucks, and you have every right to be upset and take time to process it.
Before you do anything else, I encourage you to rally your support system and lean on it hard. Your family, your friends, parenting groups, a therapist, your obstetrician, former colleagues who were also laid off — reach out, keep in touch, and let them know how you’re doing. As a relatively new mom myself, I assure you that many people will surprise you with their generosity. Accept more help than you think you will need.
(The same goes for free stuff. Tons of parents are constantly looking to offload valuable things that their kids have outgrown — don’t be shy about asking around for specific items instead of buying them.)
In the meantime, it sounds like you’re a planner, so let’s break your next steps into manageable chunks. There are a lot of big things outside of your control right now (your employment, your baby’s birth), so it will ease your mind to focus on where you can take action.
For starters, hammer out a health-care plan. If it makes more sense to stay on your former employer’s health-insurance plan through COBRA, make sure you know what it will cost and that you can add a dependent (your baby) to the plan after you deliver.
Your hospital bill is probably the biggest expense on your horizon, and it can vary a lot based on your insurance and what type of delivery you have. You do not want this to be a stressful surprise. “Ask the finance department at your hospital or doctor’s office to give you an estimate of what you should expect to pay out of pocket,” says Jamie Bosse, a financial planner and author of Money Boss Mom, a book about managing money as a parent. Later, once you get the bill, you can often negotiate with the hospital to lower it.
Next, do an inventory of your regular expenses and how you expect them to change after your baby arrives. “This can give you some peace of mind as to how long your savings will last if you don’t find a new job right away, and helps you figure out which expenses you might want to cut or change during this time,” says Bosse. She also recommends keeping your severance in a high-interest savings account so that it’s accessible but earning at least some interest.
I understand that you don’t want to dip into your long-term savings, but if doing so will buy you some extra time to enjoy your baby and allow your husband to be more present during the first months of your child’s life, it sounds worth it to me. That’s a personal decision, though, and one that you’ll need to feel out as a family.
Meanwhile, it might be worth trying to negotiate for a more generous severance package, says Merry Kogut, an employment attorney based in Washington. “If you had an employment contract, read through it carefully to see if you were promised anything in the case of a layoff,” she says. Better yet, have an employment attorney do it — you can find ones on nela.org who will do a 30- or 60-minute consultation session to outline your options.
One could even make the argument that you should receive at least part of your maternity-leave benefits, says Kogut. “If your company had already agreed to your parental leave, then you’re in a better bargaining position to ask for it,” she explains. It’s not guaranteed — employees often lose any leave they’ve acquired when they’re laid off. But in other cases, companies want to save face, and laying off a very pregnant employee is a bad look.
Another priority is to file for unemployment right away, says Kogut. Receiving severance shouldn’t interfere with your eligibility for unemployment benefits, because severance technically relates to work you’ve done previously. However, if you receive your severance in installments (also known as “continuation pay”), then you may not be able to get unemployment benefits until those payments end. For that reason, if you have the option to receive it as a lump sum, choose that. (The only potential downside is that a lump-sum severance payment can have tax implications, so if you’re concerned about that, consult a tax professional.)
Finally, start your job search right away. “It usually takes three to six months to find a new job, so go ahead and get into the pipeline now,” says Bosse. “Use the next couple of weeks before the baby comes to update your résumé, update your LinkedIn page, and lean into your network. Maybe you can get a couple of interviews lined up before the baby is born, or let recruiters know you are on the market and when you’ll be available.”
Remember, you don’t have to tell any potential employers that you are pregnant when you’re interviewing. But even if you do, it’s illegal for them to discriminate against you in the hiring process.
I know that this isn’t the way you envisioned your transition into motherhood. I wish that we had better support systems for workers. None of this is ideal or fair, but it’s also not your fault. I hope that creating a plan and — most importantly — fostering a strong support network will help ease your anxieties in the coming months. Remember: Nobody does this alone.
The Cut’s financial advice columnist Charlotte Cowles answers readers’ personal questions about personal finance. Email your money conundrums to email@example.com.