Leave limbo

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Warning: I’m about to say some stuff

I’m still waiting to hear back from my employer on my request to take a 6-month unpaid leave of absence next winter, so I can get the hell out of Dodge.

My friends have been telling me that I should’ve pitched my manager a little harder on my leave request, spinning some tale about using the time off to fulfill my lifelong dream to backpack through the salt flats of Bolivia or what have you. I did nothing of the sort. I simply asked for the time off, gave the desired date range, and said “maybe I’ll travel a bit” on my way out the door. Frankly, that should be enough, and I’ll be furious if my request is denied. Like, livid.

I’m a woman in my mid-thirties who’s never having kids. I’ve never wanted them, I’m single, and I take a medication that causes birth defects, so it’s pretty firmly out for me. This means I’ll never take advantage of the amazing 1-year, paid maternity leave (EI + employer-paid top-up) my employer offers for each new child — a generous leave that can’t be denied or rescheduled. I’m not asking for even half of that. 6 months, unpaid, is my request.

Welcoming a new child absolutely warrants paid time off

I recognize how exhausting and expensive giving birth or adopting a new child is, and how parental leave provisions can determine whether someone chooses to have children or not. I also appreciate the value procreation brings to society as a whole (children as public goods), producing as it does the next generation of workers who will help pay for my pension and be my caregivers when I’m old, etc. (Hopefully they will also throw the brakes on climate change, bring peace where there’s war, and restore our natural environment, but that’s a topic for another day.)

Other dreams are worth pursuing as well

I think all employees should be able to take up to 12 months off at least once in their careers to pursue other things — clean up ocean plastic, volunteer for a political campaign, write a novel, learn a language, start a business, travel, or even hang out at home twiddling their thumbs if that’s their fondest wish. Many people have dreams that extend beyond having children and in my view should have the opportunity to self-actualize before age 65. They should also be able to take time off to care for a sick or elderly person.