Maternity Leave…What the U.S. is Missing.

According to an article by the Huffington Post, “When Australia passed a parental leave law in 2010, it left the U.S. as the only industrialized nation not to mandate paid leave for mothers of newborns. Most of the rest of the world has paid maternity leave policies, too; Lesotho, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea are the only other countries that do not. Many countries give new fathers paid time off as well or allow parents to share paid leave.

New parents in the U.S. are guaranteed their jobs for 12 weeks after the arrival of a new baby, thanks to the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, but they do not have to be paid during that time and exemptions apply for small companies. Only about 16 percent of employers offer fully paid maternity leave and many families take on significant debt or turn to public assistance around the birth of a child.”maternity leave
Is it just me or is this completely crazy? Why at most places of work is pregnancy considered an ‘illness’ which requires you to use short term disability and get paid for only a portion of your time off (and that’s even if you have and qualified for short term disability!) or like many new moms, being off without any pay but your saved up vacation days?!

I don’t understand how in the ‘land of the free’ we can be so restricting when it comes to this. Yes, this leave is to spend time with our newborn child(ren) but that in itself is more of a job than any other 9 to 5 place of employment. You don’t get to clock in, take an hour lunch and clock out. Ha! You’re lucky if you any food in throughout the day. So yes, we are working…we are RAISING A CHILD. We are KEEPING A HUMAN BEING ALIVE. And we are doing it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week not 5 days a week, 8 hours a day (I realize others work more but I’m using the typical 40-hour work week). We are child care providers and we deserve to be paid during this time! We are not at home laying around on the couch, watching Real Housewives and shopping online all day. We are feeding, changing, monitoring, cleaning and doing everything that requires our complete and utter attention, care, responsibility and love for this new person in our family.

I am pretty sure that motherhood is said to be the most difficult and under appreciated job and this is a great video that proves it:

Another favorite of mine is also this one:

Employers in the United States…WAKE UP! Do you have a mom? Because I’m sure you do (living or deceased). And did that mom take care of you? I’m sure she did. She raised you when women stayed home and fulfilled their role as the housewives. Now women work and when we need to be home for the first precious weeks of our child’s lives, we deserve to be paid for that time we are away from our ‘other’ job.

I really hope in the near future things change with regards to maternity leave because the beautiful miracle of birth shouldn’t ever be considered an ‘illness’.

The Juggling Game

Whether you decide or must go back to work after maternity leave, it is never easy. You become a juggler. You are figuring out how to work and how to be a mom at the same time along with doing all the other everyday things in your life. The first three months home is an adjustment period filled with no sleep (which truly tests your sanity), figuring out what to do with this new life you’re now responsible for, how to ‘be’ a parent with your spouse or significant other, how to still be a wife/husband/partner with your newly added family member and really just trying to survive each day while the time to return to work adds on a new weighted ball to throw up into the mix.

I had a relatively great pregnancy and despite my long labor, it was all worth it when I heard the doctor say ‘it’s a girl’ (we left the sex to be a surprise!). The first week home felt like the most exhausting and difficult time in my life. I’m a mom, now what the heck do I do and how the heck do I do it? I never felt more insecure and questioned my ability to anything and everything. It’s like someone dropping you off in the middle of the ocean and you trying to find your way to shore with your eyes closed. You don’t know what you’re doing but all you know is that you need to keep your head above water and swim and eventually you’ll get there. Eventually, I will get how to be a parent, or at least that’s what I keep telling myself!

So when it was time for me to return to work (I was lucky enough that my husband and I made the decision I would return part time), I wasn’t ready. How could I leave my three month old? How could I be apart from her for 9 hours a day when she hasn’t left my side since she was born? How could I focus at work when all I’ll be thinking about is how much I miss her, how is she doing, what is she doing, is she adjusting and will she be okay? It became an internal battle filled with guilt for leaving but also a little bit of relief to get a break from motherhood and back into the working world.

My first week back was awful. I cried at least once a day in the office. When someone would ask me about her my eyes would immediately well up and I found myself apologizing and feeling completely silly. However, I feel most people, parents or not, are sympathetic to the situation and understand that it’s hard to leave your child. I was eventually able to focus on work and it did feel good to be back, but a part of me still felt guilty as if I was abandoning my baby. I had to tell myself though that this is life and not many people have the ability to be a stay-at-home mom which I feel is just as difficult (if not more) than a working (at an office) mom. So, I checked in often (probably a little too much!) and told myself it will get easier (along with a lot of supportive mom friends who said the same thing).

And it did, it got easier. Now, I enjoy my time away from my daughter but can’t wait to see her when the day ends. Although my time with her on those days is short lived by the time I get home to when her bedtime routine starts, I cherish each moment. Of course I am completely exhausted starting those days at 5:30am and ending around 10pm when all the clean up is done, diaper bag is packed for the next day and bottles are washed and made but it’s worth it. She is worth it. And even though I still don’t feel like I completely have a grasp on this juggling game, I know time and experience will help me to get there or I’ll just fly by the seat of my pants and hope for the best!