I got the inspiration these past few days to continue my last post on mothering the mother with an awesome post written by Michelle over at the Moms in Maine website and titled Wake Up Moms – You’re Fighting the Wrong Fight. I really love Michelle’s voice because it reminds me so much of my own!
Just like I mentioned in my Mother’s Day post about our need to focus on what really matters–not the infighting of who is “mom enough” and not knowing (or caring) what the term attachment parenting meant (because ultimately, how you choose to parent is up to you and you shouldn’t care how others parent or what term they choose to give it), Michelle writes:
The article associated with the now notorious cover (which became a hot topic even before the actual edition of the magazine hit newsstands) discusses a style of parenting called attachment parenting and, by extension, mothers nursing their children for extended periods of time. I’d go into more detail on the theory and principles behind attachment parenting if I had more time, but I’m sorry – I’m busy perfecting my “style” of parenting. I just like to call it “parenting” and it involves me making sure my child stays alive. It’s working out pretty well for us so far.
I say Amen to that! And then she goes on to say:
It’s true though, we mothers are in the middle of a war. But, the battle isn’t attachment parenting against plain “just-make-it-out-alive” parenting. It’s not stay-at-home moms versus working moms. It isn’t whether it is better to breastfeed for 6 months or 6 years. It isn’t about bed-sharing versus the crib. These petty wars, which pin Mom against Mom in a competition to win society’s crown as “Super Mom,” are a diversion from the real problem. And if you’re an American mother, you need to wake the f*ck up.
And then she goes into how the real problem at hand is the lack of paid maternity leave in this country, one that she points out is “one of the only industrialized nations that does not provide a mandatory maternity leave benefit.” She points out the paid maternity leaves in other countries, including Canada, the UK, Sweden, France, and Germany, range from 14 to 50 weeks. And by total coincidence, while writing this article up tonight, I happened to check Facebook, and this illustration of paid maternity leaves around the world pops up in my newsfeed. How fortuitous!
Michelle asks in her article “Why is it this way?” Well, the answer is quite simple. The U.S. of A. is a capitalist nation, not a socialist one. We are out to make money, not care about the people working to help companies make money. We can long all we’d like for our nation to follow in the steps of the UK or Sweden when it comes to putting its people first, but the socialist model does not fit in with where we are today. Not sure if it will ever be possible. But one can only hope….
I was fortunate enough that I was able to take 12 weeks off (paid) via the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Michelle points out how one would be qualified for FMLA leave, which has specific criteria relating to length of employment, number of employees and distance….and “It’s too bad, so sad” (as some of my colleagues love to say all the time) if you don’t qualify and you happen to get “knocked up.” The attitude of management of certain companies who “can’t afford to have women taking time off on their dime and so have a strict policy of not hiring women, period” is disturbing, to say the least. At the same time, I can see how small companies with, say, a dozen employees or less would not be able to keep the place going with one or more women taking maternity leave.
All this is just a reflection that IT’S THE GOVERNMENT that should step in and do something about paid maternity leave for all working mothers, regardless of length of employment, how big the company is, and how many employees are within X number of miles from each other. That way, you don’t have management resorting to hiring postmenopausal women or no women at all….yes, believe it or not, I did see a reference to this effect in one or more comments made by managers in the 320+ comment chain.
However, you are always going to have single men and women–those who don’t have children and don’t ever plan to have any–who will resort to nasty ol’ comments saying that it isn’t fair for women to take such “vacations” when childless individuals don’t have such “benefits.” Not sure what the answer would be to that except to send those folks to empathy training.
As for managers of very small companies (i.e., less than 15 people) claiming they are exempt from equal opportunity rules (i.e., hiring women) because they say they fall under special rules for small businesses …that’s a total crock, an EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that’s been around since July 2, 1965) violation. That’s outright discrimination on the basis of sex, and this one individual has fessed up to it in writing! He may be thinking he’s grandfathered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (with companies employing fewer than 15 employees not governed by the discrimination policies), but he’s greatly mistaken. Note: Click here for employers and their need to be cognizant of caregiver best practices and how NOT to discriminate by making assumptions (which, say it with me now, make an a$$ out of you and me).
Our government SHOULD be concerned about its people.
It SHOULD realize that having paid maternity leaves could lower the the stress levels of new moms and thus, lower postpartum depression (PPD) occurrence among new moms. For those of you who fail to make the connection between stress levels and PPD rates, click here. With fewer moms with PPD, there would be fewer moms needing outpatient or even inpatient medical and/or mental health treatment (hence, a decrease in insurance costs). Also, we need to keep in mind that there is a correlation between the risk of depression occurring in children of moms whose depression lingers and goes untreated. Click here and here for past posts for more on this correlation. We hear about the increased rates of depression and suicide in this country. If you fail to see the connection, then you need to open your eyes. It’s time to put an end to the vicious cycle! It’s time we realize the importance of mothering the mother!
Telling people to simply not have children–as per some idiotic comments in the comments chain–is NOT the answer.
I can’t even begin to imagine having to be back at work at 6 weeks. With PPD taking over my life right at the 6-week point, I never would have made it back to work on time. I would have had to apply for long-term disability, at best. The stress and guilt of having to leave the baby you just gave birth to only 6 weeks before in someone else’s care, the overall lack of postpartum support and quality childcare in this country, companies that aren’t supportive to breastfeeding (leaving moms having to pump in bathroom stalls if they don’t have their own offices, or even, God forbid, getting fired?!?!)…….these are just some of the far-from-amenable conditions that a new mom is left to contend with, all while her body is still in the process of recovering from childbirth. It’s no wonder our PPD rates are as high as they are.
Michelle’s plight in having to return to work at 6 weeks postpartum….which speaks for most mothers with that short of a maternity leave:
I had to return to work before Charlie was even capable of sleeping through the night. I had to return to work before Charlie and I could establish proper breastfeeding. I had to return to work before my post-partum bleeding had stopped. I had to return to work before I was even cleared to do the deed again with my own husband. I had to pray every day that I didn’t get PPD because I was out of PTO. FML.
I was fortunate enough to be able to return to work on time, with no delays once my 12 weeks were up, even with the PPD and all. That is because I was fortunate enough that the Paxil kicked in the weekend before I was supposed to return to work. Not everyone with PPD is as fortunate as I am. My journey to motherhood has taught me many things about myself and about life in general. I learned what was truly important to me. I believe I was meant to experience PPD and come out of it stronger than when I went in, as it gave me a perspective I would not have otherwise had. It has given me a voice….and a strength I didn’t previously know it was possible to have.
So, since I had my daughter, if I had to work from home because she was sick and couldn’t go to daycare or school, I did just that. Initially, I had flex hours from 7:00 am – 4:00 pm all week. That slowly morphed to 3 days a week getting in at 8:00 am and leaving at 4:00 pm (my commute between NJ and NYC can take a while) so I could pick my daughter up from daycare/school before it closed at 6:00 pm, and 2 days a week dropping her off and getting in between 8:30-9:00 am and leaving between 5:30-6:00 pm. On the days I have to pick her up, I leave at 4:00 pm. On really busy days, I’d be all in a tizzy, stressed from having to rush out while I was getting tons of last-minute requests. Of course, I would get looks and comments like “Half day for you, eh?” But I let those comments go in one way and out the other. Do they know I will log in from home if I have something crucial pending? Do they know I answer emails after work and on VACATION?
My child comes first. If I have to pick her up, I have to pick her up. Period. End of story. But this is also probably why I haven’t moved up in my company. There is, after all, a price to pay if you want that to happen. Click here for my past post on returning to work.
I know what is important to me and to my family….and I’m just going to leave it at that.