When I hear about the maternity leaves offered in countries such as Sweden, I even get jealous, and I'm Canadian! We definitely have a better deal in Canada, than you do in the US.
I'm going to take 1 year off. During this time, I collect employment insurance benefits for 50 weeks (15 weeks maternity leave + 35 weeks parental leave) which I admit is nice as there is some financial support which after taxes (isn't it funny that your government benefit is taxed!) I will be bringing home $410/week. The thing is, I don't work with an employer who offers a top up so I'm losing a significant portion of income that I contribute to my family. We can make it work, but it's definitely tight in our budget, and we've had to do lots of cutting. I think we will end up with $10 extra per month in our budget after we account for all of our fixed and variable expenses.
While on maternity leave, my organization is moving to another city. I've been given the opportunity to work remotely. I'm not quite sure I'll take that on, but it's nice to know that I'll have a job to go back to as I won't have any employment insurance to use. I'm not the main breadwinner in our family, DW is, however, I make 2/3 of what she does. Our incomes combined means that we have a really great lifestyle. DW would say it's tight, but I would say we don't want for anything. For a young family with a mortgage, kids and the need to save for school and education, the fact that we can do all of that, I think indicates that we're doing okay.
After my mat leave is up, I'm thinking I would like to work part-time or take on consulting. I could work part-time as a consultant and make more than I do now. DW is very opposed to the idea given that we'd have a fluctuating income and the risks involved in being self employed. I think with some discipline we could live off of one income. She feels way too pressured to be the sole breadwinner. So, for now, we're at an impasse. This is further complicated by the fact that many of the daycare programs don't start until 18 months and would eat up 50% of my salary.
Pattimomma, if you can afford the 6 weeks off unpaid, then perhaps you should ask for it. But, if you want/need to work and are able to make working from home arrangements, then I think that would work too. You know your employer best and what their desirable outcome would be.