I’ve had a few people ask me if I was planning on taking a few weeks off work before giving birth. That kind of surprised me as the thought had never crossed my mind. I’m planning on working right up until I go into labor.
Part of my reason for that is that I do not get any official “maternity leave” at my job. I can take FMLA leave (which in this country, guarantees you 12-weeks of job security, but not necessarily with pay) and I can use accumulated sick leave and/or vacation leave during this time so I’ll still be paid. I have a lot of sick leave accumulated, so I plan to use that first and foremost, trying to avoid dipping into vacation leave if at all possible.
The irony of this is that my husband gets 3 weeks of paternity leave. Yes… his job provides more leave dedicated to becoming a new parent to the father than my job gives to a person who actually has to go through the labor. It just strikes me as incredibly… unjust.
I’m glad he gets the leave, especially if we can successfully space it out over more than 3 weeks (allowing time for my mom to come hang out with me for the second week and my mother-in-law to come visit and possibly even have my dad come spend time here, but he’d probably cook Spam with pork and beans for me to eat or something gross like that.*) I realize that most men don’t get any paternity leave, and those that do are often unsure or unwilling to actually use it. [Source]
Anyway, the issue of maternity leave in the US in pathetic. The US is one of only 4 countries in the world that doesn’t have a national law that requires paid time off. (The other countries are: Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland. [Source])
I took a Postpartum Survival class (perhaps I should post about that one too) and the instructor recommended a “babymoon” period. Not the way most people think of a babymoon (a last-chance trip before the baby arrives). No, this babymoon more closely mimics the idea of the word it is based upon – honeymoon. This is where the first week after the baby is born is just for mom, dad and baby. Hopefully you’ve got the freezer/fridge stocked with meals, but you spend this first week as a new family unit feeling things out. The mom and dad are in peace to figure out how to bathe or change or feed the infant without having others around saying, “This is the way we did it.” It lets you create your own way. I thought this was a really cool idea. But if the dad doesn’t have any leave for this, it’s not really possible.
I also thought it was interesting that in other cultures (especially more primitive ones) the new parents/family are given that time, yet there is also an “it takes a village” mentality adopted where all the surrounding family and friends bring meals or take care of some tasks/chores… but relatively leave them alone to bond.
I did tell my boss that I thought after two weeks I would start checking and responding to emails and then work to add back my daily hours from there. He stopped me and said, “I think you should take that time with your baby. You’ve got the leave, we’ll try to make it through. If not, people can wait.” That was nice… however, the Type-A in me still feels nervous that taking too much time off will leave me with a mess to deal with when I return to work. But right now I’m planning to take 6-8 weeks off full-time and then try to work part-time for a while longer. Maximize my leave… while also delaying the need for childcare as much as possible. (Another topic I should write about!)
But you know what… it’s hard to make these plans when you’ve never done this. You just have to guess that you’re doing the right thing for you, your family and the job.
*I love my dad. But yes, one time he did make Spam with pork and beans for my brother and me. I was appalled until he told me he would buy me a tank of gas if I just tried it. I was 16… I wanted the tank of gas, so I tried it. And did not enjoy it. That’s my one and only and first and last time to ever eat Spam.