Deciding whether or not to go back to work after my child was born has made me a less judgmental person

Guest post by Bea Barrow
By: Robert SheieCC BY 2.0

In the United States a woman who has a child can take up to 12 (unpaid) weeks off under FMLA. Today is the start of my 13th week. I was supposed to go back to work, but I stayed home.

We looked at our new budget, and visited several child care centers, and came to the realization that the cost of returning to work simply wasn’t worth it. My paycheck would have to cover child care, gas money, work clothes, and the “convenience cost” that comes when mommy has only had 12 hours of sleep in the past three days and cannot summon the energy to pack her own lunch, or cook dinner that takes more effort than programming the microwave. After all that, there would be precious little left. I simply decided it did not make sense for me to return to work.

It’s a difficult choice, and I think almost every woman who works and wants kids struggles when she finds herself at this point. And there is so much judgement that is either implied or explicit when we talk about ways that women can contribute to the workforce and to family life. I know I’ve read way too many headlines about “mommy wars.” Enough of that can make a girl feel judged and worried before she even sees that second blue line. I’ve worried what people would think of me for abandoning my career or my baby.

And I worried (still worry) about so many other things. Am I setting a good example for my daughter? Am I teaching her my career matters less than her father’s? Or that there are more important things than having more money? Am I jeopardizing my family’s financial security? Am I pulling my weight in this household? Am I doing this for the right reasons? What would the “right reasons” be anyway?

So many women, including my mother, were here before me; and so many women, likely including my daughter, will be here after. That’s one thing that helps quiet my worrying, knowing that so many have joined me here. Some of us have more choices than others, all of us have our own unique set of priorities, but we all pass through the same place of hope and doubt.

Working American mothers all have to make a choice about the thirteenth week. I made mine, but along with it, I’m reaffirming another choice I made in parenting: that I wouldn’t let my choices make me defensive or jealous of other moms. Maybe you work, maybe you stay home, maybe you do a combination of these things.The line in the media seems to be about “having it all,” but there’s no such thing. We all make choices that close us off from other ways of living. These choices can separate us, make us feel “other” and that leads to judgement. Instead, I’d like to focus on the fact that, regardless of where we go from here, we all were the same in the moment where we made a choice and followed our hearts.

Comments on Deciding whether or not to go back to work after my child was born has made me a less judgmental person

  1. I am having major anxiety about this same decision.

    I guess I always assumed I’d stay at home with my kids because it seems like the most hands on connection I could get. But now that I’m pregnant with our first and dealing with real finances I’m wondering if that’s a realistic dream.

    I had a conversation with my boss yesterday about setting up a plan for my leave. I will be out 12 weeks that are our busiest of the year. She tried to convince we to only take 6 weeks (all unpaid) OR work from home the whole leave. Working from home may seem like a nice compromise but I deal with very sensitive data entry and with the sleep deprivation I hear about I don’t see this as a possibility.

    Ugh. I truly dislike my job so it doesn’t help me want to go back. I just have nightmares that we become impoverish and lose our house.

    What pros and cons made you finally make your decision?

  2. Here we get about 14 weeks paid leave, at 100% of your salary or a set cap, whichever is lower.
    Since I am currently contracting, they dont have to hold my job for a year for me either, which is the biggest pitfall of having fallen pregnant while not employed!
    So now I have to prove to the govt that I am self-employed, and hope the paperwork sorts itself out in time for me to get some of the leave thats available. Then I have to consider HOW I would go back to work when there is a 1 year waiting list for our local childcare centre. Gah, nightmare!

  3. 12 weeks? that’s it? That is awful. In Canada we get 12 months at 55% pay. The mother takes at least 3 months of that and the rest of the year can be split up by the parents however they like. I think it is a lot easier to leave a one year old in child care than a 12 week old.

    • I have a Canadian friend here in the U.S. who’s American wife recently had a complicated pregnancy and birth of twins. They felt that even though the leave is longer and paid, it did not make up for what they belive to be superior medical care.

      • I have used the health care system in Ontario a lot and it is quite good. Free is pretty awesome too. Nova Scotia was not so great in my opinion. There were long waiting lists. I think it depends on what province you live in.

  4. Hurray for Quebec`s public 7$/day daycare system. Yep that means my 2 year old`s daycare is a whole 140$ a month. The government actually breaks out even with this program because more parents go back to work = more income tax. It seems like such a no brainer. My sister in Ottawa has two kids in daycare and pays 98$ a DAY.

    My son was 4 months in the hospital after birth. I was able to delay the year of paid maternity leave until he was released. I was able to get sick leave during those 4 months.

    What people don`t get is it`s not the employer who pays for the leave. It`s money that was accumulated off your paycheck for such purposes (ie for unemployement, parental leave etc). If you haven`t accumulated enough to be covered, you`re not, end of story. I understand it`s a strain on the employer to find a replacement but they are not paying your salary in the mean time so they save money.

    I lived in the US and it`s true I paid less income tax. But is it worth it to live in a place where government values families above all else heck yes. hurray for social democracies

    • I’d love to move to Canada if I could. I hear it’s difficult to become a citizen. And I hear pit bulls are illegal, and I have those 🙂

      • pitbulls are not illegal in all of Canada, just in some provinces. I know they are illegal in Ontario (which is stupid because when properly trained they can be good dogs). It is hard to become a citizen here. It used to be easier but we have had some unfortunate changes by our recent conservative government. It sucks because immigrants are great. They really help boast the economy and create lots of jobs in Canada.

        • Interesting. I had read that all of Canada had BSL and anit-pit laws. It’s nice to know that’s not true. My pitties are love bugs 🙂 I’m not a fan of strict immigration laws…I wish we could just share the world!

  5. When I had my daughter 7 years ago, the job I had offered no paid leave, no vacation time, etc. I wound up staying out for 6 weeks because thats all I could afford to loose out on income. My daughter’s father and I had worked out a way to alternate our work schedules so one of us was always home with the baby. We wound up never needing a babysitter or day care. We were quite lucky. He and I have since split and I am married and expecting baby #2. I love my job and am finally working in the field I’ve been trying to get into for years, but I again do not get paid maternity leave or any paid time off. My husband was recently laid off ( awesome timing) and surviving on one income is proving difficult (unemploymemnt doesn’t provide for much). He will hopefully be back in work by the time the baby is born, but I doubt his new work schedule and mine will allow for the flexibility to alternate like I did before, and daycare is soooooo expensive! We also live paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford to have 1 income only… clue what to do :-/

  6. I am due in 2 weeks and have been struggling with what I’m going to do after my daughter is born. On one hand, my boyfriend and I have plans to move in a couple years and with BOTH of us working we’re having a hard time saving money. If I don’t go back to work, even though I barely make over minimum wage, it will be even harder. But if I do go back to work we will either need to find day care, or my mother has offered to watch our daughter, but she would be driving an hour and a half (one way) to get to our apartment, or my boyfriend and I would have to change our schedules where one of us will be home during the day and the other at night which means we would never see each other. In a perfect world, I could find a job where I can work from home… but I work at Starbucks right now and no one is going to pick up their Latte from my living room.

    As for the leave, I have only been working at Starbucks for 6 months and they deny any leave under FMLA unless you have worked there 12 months or 1250 hours before applying for leave. Needless to say, I have no idea whether or not when I go into labor I’m going to have any legal time off or if I’m just going to have to hope I don’t get fired for not being on the schedule for 6-12 weeks.

  7. I know that it’s now months later, but I’m currently going through this process and I wanted to say how much it helps to know other mothers are going through the same thing. Sometimes I feel my Mama emotions so strongly that it seems like I must be the only one who could possibly feel this way.

    I am in Canada so I (luckily) was entitled to a full year off. In some ways I think it makes it easier to go back to work, in other ways I think it makes it much harder. I know in my heart of hearts that home with my son is where I should be and want to be, but financially we just can’t swing it. I’m even tempted to get pregnant again now (because the sooner my second maternity leave starts, the sooner I know I don’t have to leave my children full-time anymore). But, given that I am overweight and set on a VBAC, I need to wait and lose weight. Anyway, yeah, it’s just the toughest time.

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