Friday, October 9, 2015:

Time for Parental Leave Changes

I recently read this article about the struggle many parents feel about returning to work after baby.

The fact that most women are only offered six weeks of maternity leave is shocking.  I could go ahead and pull all of the data that suggests how this is detrimental to both mom and baby.  I could identify the countries that have better parental leave policies.  But that's been shared before.  Since this is my blog, I figured I'd share my personal experience.

I always knew I was going to be a stay at home mom.  I just didn't see myself being comfortable leaving my child with another caregiver everyday while I did the 9-5 shuffle- and I am incredibly lucky to have the option to be home.  But the truth is, I really didn't want to leave the workforce.  I was afraid of the isolation that comes with SAHparenthood.  Sure, we can do playdates and mommy & me classes, but at the end of the day, you are on someone else's schedule (and that someone else has a cruel sense of humor when it comes to naps and feedings...).

I desperately wanted to work in some capacity and not a day goes by that I don't think about what my life would be like if I had something outside of my home- just for me.

Somedays I am certain I'd be more patient.  Maybe I'd yell less.  I'd like to think I'd take advantage of the snuggles more often instead of running off to do another load of laundry (but as I type this, I realize working parents have laundry to do, too.  And sometimes it just has to get done during snuggle times).

I wonder if I would be more engaged with my kids (vs. blogging as they play around me and make a mess of our "office").

I still question a lot of my career/life choices, but the only thing I know with confidence is that I was NOT ready to return at six weeks nor was I ready to return at 12 weeks.  Why?  Because I didn't even know what day of the week it was, let alone was I able to shower and get myself dressed and out the door along with my infant son (with diaper bag, breast pump, car seat and all of the other stuff that parents have to lug around with an infant).

Around six months I had the opportunity to work part time- two days in the office, one day from home.  And it.was.perfect.  It was for a great company that was right in my "baby and me" wheelhouse.  The people I worked with offered the daily stimulation I craved.  This three day week afforded me alternating days of being the SAHM and the working mom.  And the best part, one of those days we kept our sitter late so that my husband and I could actually eat dinner together and catch up on life.  And another "best part"- I actually would sit at my desk and eat breakfast, sipping coffee as I checked emails and caught up on current events.  Oh, and another plus- I had topics to contribute to the conversation outside of diaper changes, playdate activities, and tantrum stories.

Gosh, just reflecting on this makes me realize how amazing that set up was....

The problem with my ideal three-day-a-week office job....It didn't last.  There was pressure to come on board full time.  And once again, I just wasn't ready to surrender the daytime care responsibilities to someone else.  So I walked away.  I am certain that it was the right choice for me. But it doesn't mean I don't miss work.

Some people without kids might be reading this, rolling their eyes saying, "EVERYONE would like a three day work week.  Not just parents".  Well...this article isn't for you.  Because regardless of what side of the "mommy war" you fall on, I think most parents agree that working out of the home isn't a three day work week when you spend the remaining days caring for your kids.  It's all work.  So unless we agree on that, this article won't be relevant.

If the parental leave landscape was a bit different- a bit more accommodating to new parents- would I have made a different choice?  If I had an entire year to spend with my child, would I have felt better about returning to work?  Or if I had an opportunity to stay part-time, would I have stuck with it?  I think so.  And somedays it is tough to swallow that.  The "if's" when it comes to parenting....

I am plugging away in a new direction. I miss work- I miss the paycheck, the friends, the stimulation and sense of fulfillment.  But I do my best to find balance.  I write when the kids are engaged and during nap times (which are not always guaranteed).  Or, as mentioned, when they are sticking playdoh between my toes, but, otherwise engaged.

Some days are super intense and just not how I imagined SAH parenthood.  Other days are very rewarding and I am grateful to see and experience my children's growth.

And yet, as I sit here writing this "ho hum" post, I am struck with the fact that I am one of the lucky ones.  I am one of the parents who chose to go back despite having the ability to stay home (not that a single income has been easy).  I am one of the parents who had the option to give up her job when the pressure to choose became too much.

The expectations we are setting on new parents is just too much.  The workforce is losing valuable, highly efficient workers because it can't bend to accommodate the work/life balance that is so necessary for a happy family.   And people who don't have the choice are forced to plug away to make it work.

When will company's stop ignoring the serious importance of work/life balance and start practicing it?

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