My last blog post regarding maternity leave in the U.S. was flooded with comments for and against maternity leave reform in this country. But it was this statement by my new buddy John that struck me most: “…Frankly, it’s really just easier to hire a MAN.”
And that, folks, is what we’re up against.
My previous statements might have given some people the impression that I was blaming my employer for my plight after the birth of my child. Granted, they only provided me 6 weeks of maternity leave – and it’s still up to question whether or not they denied me my legal right to FMLA. But, I want to be clear. My previous employer was actually pretty great. I’d even go so far as to say (up until I ended my employment), they were the best company I had ever worked for.
The owner of the company led his business based upon a great philosophy: If you aren’t happy and you aren’t healthy, you are no good to me. In short, he said, take care of yourself, take care of your family and then do your job well. If you don’t take care of yourself, and you can’t take care of your family, you probably won’t be able to do your job very well. A far cry from John’s small-minded, small business philosophy.
While I am disappointed with the leave I was given, I guess I do have to credit them for going above and beyond what was required of them based on their interpretation of U.S. law. My beef is not with them. I am not a disgruntled employee. I do not want small business to burn.
Best I can tell, the biggest retort to my call to mothers is the classic “Why should I have to pay for you to make babies? You chose to get pregnant, it’s your problem.”
Only in America can a plea for fair treatment be interpreted as a cry of entitlement.
In reality, working mothers are some of the most productive members of society. How so? We work full time, drive our kids to soccer practice, volunteer at our local shelter, head up the PTA, bake the cookies for the bake sale, and raise our kids – all with a smile on our face. We want to do it all, be it all, succeed at it all. You’d be hard-pressed to find a working mother that says, “Geeze, I would just love to find a way to leech off society so I could pop out a few kids and watch my soaps!” (Because that’s what moms do when they are at home, right? ::eye roll::) But, we just are not programmed that way.
So then, what’s my problem? Why am I whining? What do I mean by being treated “fairly”? Let me explain to you by my own example.
My pregnancy was relatively uneventful, until late into my third trimester. It was only then that I experienced stress-related anxiety attacks (a symptom my Doctor said was a marker for PPA/PPD), which could have presented a danger to the fetus. I opted to enter therapy instead of taking drugs that could potentially have done worse harm. This would have been fine, if I wasn’t already hoarding my PTO in order to extend my crummy 6-week maternity leave to 8 weeks.
A few weeks later, blood tests revealed that my blood platelet count was low. I spent a night in Labor and Delivery being monitored for HELLP – a life threatening and scary condition. I had to pee in a gallon jug – twice, had to undergo weekly blood monitoring, and waited with baited breath for the last 6 week of my pregnancy to find out whether or not I would be immediately induced after each test.
So, with all of this extra monitoring eating up my precious PTO, I was left with a choice. Continue therapy and only take 6 weeks leave, putting me back to work the week of Christmas. Or, drop therapy. I felt forced to take my chances, so I said good-bye to my counselor, keeping in mind that I’d need more time to spend in therapy if my PPA/PPD went full blown after my son’s birth.
After Charlie was born, we had some struggles with breastfeeding. Unbeknownst to me, I had something called Raynaud’s Syndrome which, to sum it up for you, feels like 100 knives shooting out of your nipples, all the time. I would have gone to a lactation consultant multiple times to get help, unfortunately, I had returned to work and we caught the notorious daycare flu 3 times within the first month. Having used PTO for multiple days in order to pray to the porcelain gods, I didn’t feel right asking for time off because I needed someone to take a look at my sore boobs. I didn’t want to immediately be “that mom.”
I know unequivocally that my scenario is a million times better than some other moms have had it. But tell me, how is it fair that I was forced to choose between therapy and my blood monitoring – both of which, if left unattended to, could have caused my baby to die in utero? Why was my chance to establish proper breastfeeding cut short because we caught the flu?
Oh wait, I chose this, remember? Didn’t I know that my dream to have a child would come with life-threatening conditions and hormonal mind games? Can’t our OB/GYNs look into our crystal vaginas and make predictions on whether or not we’ll have Gestational Diabetes, a C-section, or a third degree tear that literally goes from end to end and takes 4 months to heal. I’m sorry, if we had any vote in these things, please let us know because I think we’d like a recount.
I’d also like to remind all women: a criticism of my choice to procreate opens the door for society’s criticisms of your right not to. You cannot have it both ways.
I’m not asking for the U.S. to become Germany, or France, or Sweden, or Canada. I’m not asking to be paid to procreate. I’m not asking for small businesses to go under because their employees want maternity leave. I’m not asking for a handout. I’m asking for employers to acknowledge that I, as a woman, am a valued employee. I, as a woman, deserve to make my own choice to have children without being ousted from the workforce. I am asking employers to trust that I will return to my job and continue to work my ass off for them, if they just invest in me what I rightfully deserve.
I’m a mother, not a lawmaker. I cannot provide you a laid out plan and how we’re going to pay for it. I don’t have the perfect answer – what I do know is that I have a really cute 6-month-old who deserved a lot more time with me than he got. It’s finally time to stand up and make a change for future mothers in this country and give them the time that they deserve. If you do not value motherhood, tell me, what do you value? Without our mothers, we wouldn’t be much of anything – would we?
Sign the petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/paid-maternity-leave-for-all-u-s-women
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