I was on the bus last week with a neighbor of mine, heading to work. He said he recently met someone who works for Microsoft and found out they offer their employees 6 months of PAID maternity leave! That sounds AMAZING.
I took the typical maternity leave route of applying for FMLA, and draining my accumulated paid leave time in order to still get a paycheck while out for the (maximum) 12 weeks of leave. Twelve weeks is just shy of three months and not nearly enough time, if you ask me.
Technically my body had (mostly) healed from giving birth and I was capable of working again. I even felt somewhat ready to face the world and be more social and get out of the house. But jumping back into an 8 hour work day? More importantly, leaving my teeny tiny 12 week old baby for 8 hours in daycare? It was ROUGH.
Like I mentioned in a previous post, she was colicky in the beginning and had a hard time laying down to sleep. 12 week old babies are just so helpless, and with 7 other babies in the room and only two adults between them, I knew my precious little baby wouldn’t get a whole lot of attention.
Why is it that other developed nations have figured out how to let new mothers (and fathers) stay home with their new babies for a full year before returning to work?
Furthermore, many of these nations have affordable, or even free, daycare options!
For a nation that claims to value babies and families, we really don’t act like it.
As in all things, actions speak louder than words.
When we say we care about children, but struggle to continue to fund CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) we are showing where our priorities really are.
When we say we care about children, but block LGBT parents from adopting children who are otherwise stuck in foster homes we are showing where our priorities are.
When we say we care about children and pregnant women, but we pull out of the Paris Agreement and de-fund the EPA we are allowing excess toxins into our air and water, babies and pregnant women being the most vulnerable to toxins, we are showing where our priorities really are.
When we say we care about children, but no meaningful gun laws have been passed, and at least 1000 more children have died by gun violence, since the Sandy Hook shooting. We are showing where our priorities really are.
When we say we care about women, but 1 in 3 women are physically abused by an intimate partner. We are showing where our priorities really are.
When we say we care about women, but actively work against their best interests and block their ability to get the healthcare they need. We are showing where our priorities really are.
These are just a few examples of how we fall short of caring for our women and children in this country. So it is really no surprise that we don’t care about a child and mother in the first year of the child’s life.
Our actions speak louder than words.
I have also been disappointed to hear older women complain that we have it so much better than they did. We do. I am so grateful for the fact that my employer couldn’t fire me for getting pregnant and taking leave. But aside from being guaranteed a job to come back to, we really don’t get much more help. Some of these women seem to feel some resentment toward the women of today for getting it (slightly) easier than they did. But I think we can do better. We can hope that it gets even better for the next generation after us, and not feel resentful when our nation shows progress.
Seriously though, if you Google image “women today meme” you will see a slew of sexist, violent, hateful memes that make me want to vomit. Clearly we’ve come a long way.
But I digress…
I will say that there are many, many ways that I was lucky during this time. I acknowledge that even having access to daycare and the ability to go back to work is not something every woman has the luxury of, even today. My work was also flexible with me, so I was able to do a bit of work from home during the first couple of months, so I didn’t have to leave Dolly at daycare for 8 hours straight. Also, daycare was in close proximity to my work and I was also able to visit her on my lunch break to breastfeed her.
Even with all of these luxuries, it was still HARD. I didn’t want to be a stay at home mom. I wanted to return to work and I am very glad now that I did. I think it’s better for both of us. I also know it would have been hard no matter how old she was. But there is a huge difference between 12 weeks and 6 months. If European countries can give a full year, why can’t we be HALF as accommodating?
We can do better. We must do better.
Mothers out there, what was your experience like? How soon did you go back (if at all) and how did you cope?