Maternity Leave Sucks: An Ode to the Working Parent
It is definitely no secret that some maternity leave policies, well, they fucking SUCK.
It is so shocking to me, how quickly post-delivery, you are expected back at work. What really is even more devastating, is that many women do not have the option to delay their return or not return to work. This could be because now, women are working to afford the things that come with having a child, such as daycare.
When my mother was pregnant with me, almost 30 years ago, her employer gave her 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. As I just recently gave birth, I was introduced to just how drastically maternity leave policies have changed. *Spoiler alert: things have not progressed in a good direction. They've gotten worse.
Since I opted for elective induction at 39 weeks, I knew the exact day of my last day at work, and when my leave would start. My employer’s policy is either six or eight weeks of Short-Term Disability (STD), depending on the type of delivery, which is paid at a percentage and not full-pay. If I wanted to extend my leave past that time, it would be unpaid (but protected) leave, up to a maximum of 16 weeks.
Since I had a healthy, vaginal delivery, my STD ran for six weeks, as opposed to the eight weeks for a caesarean section. Let me just say that the six weeks absolutely flew by. I genuinely could not even imagine returning to work, as I barely feel like I’ve had adequate time to bond with my child.
Not only that, but a woman’s body is certainly not back to normal after six weeks postpartum. I had a third-degree laceration, which my gynecologist JUST confirmed was fully healed this past week. Meaning, it took me the full six weeks for my body to heal. It could even take a few more weeks for me to full like I have returned to my “old self.” So how could I possibly imagine returning to work, pumping, and sitting at a desk for eight hours a day?
Along with that, does anyone really mention the absurd postpartum bleeding, where you have to wear maternity underwear and ridiculously large maxi pads? I don’t know about you, but I have no desire having diaper butt at work.
Forget the fact that we are to return to work so quickly after delivery, but we barely have any time to get to know our baby. Even with my son, I am continuing to learn about him every single day. He and I are learning each other’s rhythms and schedules, so I would feel like we are such strangers, without having enough time to really get to know one another.
In my own situation, I am extremely fortunate that I do not have to return to work after my leave ends. Unfortunately, this is not the situation with many new mothers. They do not have the financial stability, in many cases, to move to a one-income family or they are single mothers. With insurance being so expensive, leaving an employer that offers health insurance, sometimes leaves families without the option for insurance.
Once women must return to work, they sometimes are left without options for childcare. For those that send their children to daycare, you know how expensive that can be, so you’re basically returning to work so you can actually afford the daycare. This article by Raising Savers discusses this same issue.
It really doesn’t make any sense to me why this country cannot get it right, when there are so many European countries that have wonderful leave policies. According to Business Insider, Finland, for example, offers women the opportunity to begin their leave seven weeks before they are due. The government also covers 16 weeks of paid leave through a maternity grant, along with eight weeks of paternity leave. In Serbia, mothers get 20 weeks of fully paid leave after birth, initially. After that, they can take an additional year of leave, however, their pay does diminish the longer leave they take.
Reading this list, is unbelievably disheartening. It really goes to show that this country does not put a large emphasis on the wellbeing and bonding between mother (or father) and child, whereas the European countries understand the importance of this after birth, and the positive results it brings.
What are your thoughts on the lack of maternity leave in the United States? Did you return to work after your leave ended? If you did, did you utilize childcare?