Two weeks of paid maternity leave. That’s all I received from my employer for giving birth to my son last October. I know two weeks is more than many women in this country get for maternity leave, but I’m a teacher. You would think in a profession dominated by women and backed by unions, I would have received more, but no. Just two weeks. The remainder of my 3 months at home with my baby boy was covered by my own sick and personal leave, and when that ran out in December, my husband and I lived off of his paycheck and our savings. Thank goodness I didn’t have to leave the house! (It was winter, I had a C-section, and I had no desire to venture out into the germy world with my newborn.) That saved a lot of money.
So what was it like?
Lesson #1: Mastering the Art of the 3-Minute Shower. I’d sneak into the bathroom while my son slept in his bassinet, quickly wash the “essential areas”, get out, and get dressed. Notice I didn’t mention anything about combing my hair or putting on lotion.
Lesson #2: Listen to Anyone Who Tells You to Sleep When the Baby Sleeps. It’s the reason I never really felt sleep-deprived (until I got back to work…more on that later).
Lesson #3: Caesarian Sections are NO Joke. Though it was a bit nippy outside, my hubby, baby and I did venture out to my favorite store (the one with the bull’s eye) on a few occasions when we had to go out for a doctor’s appointment. In the beginning weeks, it hurt to take a simple walk from the car to the store’s entrance. After walking down a few aisles, I was done. Now, I tell every C-section mommy I know – take it easy afterwards!
Lesson #4: Enjoy Every Moment. When my son was born, we were beginning to prepare for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Before I knew it, it was MLK Day and almost February (when I would have to return to work).
Surprisingly, leaving my son was not so difficult because my husband had saved up enough leave to stay at home with him another 3 months (thank God for that). I was sad to go and afraid I’d miss some big moment. It was bittersweet though – my husband says that time with his son created a great bond that he would never have experienced.
When I got back to work, it was like I had never left. I went right back to planning lessons and teaching a group who challenged me each and every day. What did change, though, was how my thoughts were no longer all about me. I wondered what new things my boy was doing while I was away, whether he missed me, and whether his dad was holding him and playing with him enough. I just wanted to get home as quickly as possible to check on my baby. Now, as my son approaches one year old, I’ve learned to back off some (especially because he’s been in day care since six months old, loves it and learns so much there). But I still rush home to see him when my work is done each day.
I wish all moms (and dads) could be given sufficient paid leave to bond with their newborns. Thanks to Working Mother for helping all us parents in this struggle. And thanks for the current issue. I’ve decided it’s time for a change – to something more flexible for me as a mom.
Gail J. Zuagar