In the six months that I’ve been pregnant with our second daughter, I’ve been asked approximately 500 times if I’ll be returning back to work after the baby is born. In the same six months, my husband has been asked this question exactly zero times. The assumption is that I’ll stay home (because hello: DAYCARE COSTS) and that he’ll continue to be the breadwinner. Well, you know what they say about assumptions…
The current plan is for me to return to work after this baby is born – despite those pesky daycare costs. I want to still be able to provide the medical benefits for my family and keep Kate in her wonderful daycare where she’s most definitely outlearning us. I want the new baby to have the same learning opportunities that Kate has had because of my income. Plus, I enjoy working. It keeps me fulfilled and happy. It’s what I need right now, and it’s what’s right for my family.
I don’t feel like anyone should have to explain their reasoning behind staying at home with the kids or choosing to head back into the workforce. It’s a very personal decision, and my simple answer of, ‘Yes. I will be returning to work after the baby is born’ should be enough of an answer for anyone (outside of my employer/boss) nosy enough to ask the question. But in typical human nature, it’s never enough. The follow-up question is always, “How much time will you be taking off for maternity leave.” And most recently, the follow-up question was, “How much time will you be taking off for maternity leave,” followed by, “because it just seems to me that so many women get so lazy if they’re allowed too much maternity leave and then they just never come back to work. They get used to having to no responsibility.”
Yes. This has actually been spoken in my presence. I wish I could say that I’m joking, but I’m not.
With my first daughter, I took a 10.5 week maternity leave. I worked up until a few days before she was born and went back when she was 10 weeks old. I don’t consider ten and half weeks to be a long maternity leave by any means, but it’s certainly far longer than many parents in the US get today. And I can absolutely promise you that those 10.5 weeks did not make me lazy. Actually, I’m pretty positive that anyone who has taken a maternity leave will tell you that a vacation void of responsibilities it is not.
What my ‘extended’ maternity leave actually did for me was this:
- It allowed me time to heal. I recently had a waitress who mentioned that she had just had a baby two weeks before. I can assure you that I was not completely healed at 2-weeks postpartum. I was an emotional wreck who was still bleeding and trying to figure out how to nurse her child and get more than an hours’ worth of sleep at once. There is no way I would have been able to return to my desk job 2-weeks after having a baby, let alone do the job that the waitress I met was doing.
- It allowed me to really get comfortable with nursing and pumping and build up a stockpile of breastmilk before I returned to work. Nursing for that entire first year was really important to me and being able to take the time in the privacy of my home to learn all the aspects of it allowed me to meet that milestone plus a few months.
- It gave me some time to enjoy my newborn and get adjusted to taking care of another little person. I had zero experience with babies before having one of my own and heading straight back to work after a couple of weeks would have been a recipe for disaster. I would have been completely overwhelmed, and I’m not sure continuing in my career would have worked.
Being able to take the time that I needed with no pressure from my employer to return any sooner than what I was ready for set us both up for success. I was healed and comfortable with nursing. I had an idea of what it took to take care of my baby and keep our family life running smoothly. I knew how to very efficiently use that breastpump, so that I was taking minimal amount of time away from my work. It allowed me to continue to do my job well despite such a huge life-changing event. My employer didn’t have to fill an empty position and then spend time and money training someone new. I didn’t have to stress about my financial security.
I knew my job would be there and waiting for me after those 10.5 weeks – or longer if I had wanted it. I went back when I was ready for it and at a time that made sense for my family.
And when I was ready for it, they regained an even more loyal, re-energized team member who just also happened to be a new mom.