Change happens for us all every day. We do not always realize how much change hits us on a day-to-day basis, often because of how we handle the change. At some level we all have a bit of dislike to change. Some individuals are more flexible than others, some are more set in their ways or routines, and yet others relish the freedom and excitement of having things constantly changing in life.
Whatever level of tolerance we have for change, we often do not have a choice of if it happens to us. Whether that means changes at work, at home, with our family, there is change that happens by choice and change that we would rather not come close to with a ten foot pole. These past few weeks for me have been emotional to one extent (thank you hormones) and a little nerve-racking on another level. I know I am not the first woman to have a baby, and I know (because everyone tells you) that my life is about to change in numerous ways. Some of those changes will be amazing, and some will knock me on my ass.
I have to say that what has been hardest (besides my body no longer being mine, the endless peeing, and little to no sleep because of the endless peeing) has been being a professional woman with a team. When you read about others that go on maternity leave, they talk about the baby side of it, but what they do not really talk often about is what it is like for the working mom. I have been working since I was 9 years old. I had a paper route, and babysat kids in the neighborhood. This means that I have been working non-stop for the last 28 years. The most time I have taken off (other than a period when I was laid off), is the two weeks I took for my wedding/honeymoon. I have never not worked for a longer period than that.
Now, judge me all you want, as I think some mothers might — when I say it is going to be hard for me to be away from work. There are some pretty involved and intense projects happening in the coming months and, while I have the most amazing team, it does not make it easy for me to be away from it all. I have poured my heart into the work and my team, and having a child does not necessarily change my dedication to my work. Sure, some of my priorities will change when I meet Mini Conk, but I also want to raise a son that not only understands the importance of hard work, but also sees that I have an identity that is different from just being a mom.
Folks rarely talk about how hard it is for a working mom, instead I see more judgement that my place as a mom is at home with my son. Why should I have to choose, and why should I be judged for how I want to live my life? As more and more women have leadership positions at companies, not only do the rights for women having children need to change, so does the behavior for how we treat women that work and want to do both.
I admire this guy. I really do. As I plan for my maternity leave, it is hard to decide what to do. I have read a lot of articles over the last few months about maternity and paternity leave, and I am still aghast that we have such shitty laws in the US, and that larger (and smaller) companies are so slowly coming around to supporting their pregnant workforce (and father’s as well). It feels like a slap in the face.
Regardless of what the laws are for the US, I have found it to be quite frustrating to navigate the entire process. Somehow no one tells you the steps to take, you have to navigate on your own, and talk to other women who recently delivered babies to see how it worked (or didn’t) for them. Did they deliver early? Did they go on reduced hours before delivery? Did that start short-term disability? What are your rights and are those at your workplace an advocate for you, or do they only answer your questions, and not attempt to help you understand the complexity of the situation. Things like: if you do not take the right steps, you can basically eat up all your vacation days before you deliver, and then have to take unpaid leave after your short-term disability is done. Crazy that they make it so complicated for women. Is it just about money?
So this guy works for CNN and sued them based on their parental leave policy. He won both for paternity and maternity leave AND he kept his job. Somehow I feel like it might be an anomaly — that most individuals that would sue their company would end up out of a job. He took a risk and he won. Think of all the other individuals at his company that will benefit because he spoke out. We all need more that will speak out. Husband’s for their wives, wives for their husbands, and those that might be in same-sex marriages or partnerships. Parents deserve to be home with their new babies to bond, and get the hang of how to take care of a little one.
I love those days when I find similar articles, ideas, and inspiration from different sources. If you have read my blog over the past few months you will see a trend of blog posts about women not being given paid leave after having a baby. It was not something I knew much about until my sister and friends started having babies and didn’t resonate as much until Chris and I started thinking about having a family one day.
As I get older and older, a certain political issue may have a different meaning to me. Once you own your own home you start to look at different laws and legislation differently then when you rented. As you endeavor towards different aspects of your life, your world view expands or maybe contracts (although I hope it only expands). Our country’s unpaid maternity leave standards is something that I still do not understand. How does it show a woman (aka a mother) that not only does her contribution at work matter, but it matters that she (and her husband) take time to take care of their newborn and not worry about paying the bills for those first few ever so important days and months of their baby’s life?
This is why I loved finding these two videos today as a response to Mother’s Day and unpaid maternity leave. The first is actually a clever campaign video from Hillary Clinton. She is right when she says: “It is outrageous that America is the only country in the developed world that does not have paid leave.” and “We can do a lot if we do it together.”
The below video, from John Oliver on Last Week Tonight, gives his take on America’s unpaid leave policy for women. Itis quite hilarious. He shares different examples of women and when they go back to work, and the fact that they get 12 weeks of unpaid leave. I love his comment about the woman who had a baby on Friday and went back to work on Monday. He says: “You have definitely got everyone’s bullshit ‘what-I-did-over-the-weekend story’ beat.”
Another great line is at 10:30 into the video: “Get the f#$% back to work. Seriously. Because you can’t personally afford to take the time off you want, we are going to need you to bring your exhausted ass back to work and show us that can-do attitude that moms are famous for.” It makes a statement while also being funny.
My sister shared this article yesterday and I had to share here. Maybe the topic is close to my thought as I listen to what my sister and friends have to go through to ensure their newborn, infants, or toddlers receive quality, educational, and appropriate care while they work to support (or share in the support) their families. Depending on what city you live in, for some cities (especially larger ones) that requires both parents to work in order to pay their bills. And, that can even be before having children. Once you add children into the mix, costs only increase exponentially.
The article she shared: “What Stalled the Gender Revolution? Child Care That Costs More Than College Tuition” discusses the cost of child care. It can range anywhere from $1200 a month to $2100 a month. Childcare can be similar or twice as much of some families mortgages, and that can be for one child. If you have two or more young children it can increase even more. How do these families make it work? How about families that are lower-income and do not make enough to cover their bills and childcare?
It reminds me of my recent blog post: “We are in last place” that discusses maternity benefits in the United States compared to other countries. Do we at all value women, mothers, and the place of families? We give little to no “time off” to bring the little one into the world, and then when a woman decides to go back to work, or has no choice, the costs can be mind-boggling.
Please read the above article. It is well written on the conversation that needs to happen on affordable childcare. I know I was in the dark on the topic, and only when it impacted people close to me did I better understand the depth of the need.