Why I’m saying no to maternity leave

Guest post by Ashley
By: Brooke - CC BY 2.0
By: BrookeCC BY 2.0

Last month, I read a particular article with interest. It was an article about Yahoo’s new CEO Marissa Mayer and her open decision to take what she called “an abbreviated maternity leave.” Of course, this threw the Internet into chaos, with many weighing in that if she did not want a full 12 weeks with her new baby, she shouldn’t have a child at all. And it gave me pause, because, frankly, I feel for her. I’m not going to be taking any meaningful maternity leave either. Not because I don’t feel like I can, but because, well, I really don’t want to.

Let me give you some background about me and my job. I love my job. I am a public interest attorney at a legal aid organization. We do varied work, but my practice focuses on advocating for and representing the elderly, immigrants and people with disabilities. All my clients are low-income, are facing serious issues (domestic abuse, immigration woes, discrimination, etc.). I am the only attorney in my office fluent in American Sign Language (ASL), and one of two Russian speakers and the only Gaelic speaker. I actively decided after law school to pursue public interest law. I’ve voluntarily accepted a lower salary than others and the hard work because I believe in it and really enjoy it.

Now that my husband and I are expecting, of course the issue of maternity leave has come up. I think I initially just thought that a standard 12-weeks would be assumed. I have so many friends who wish they had more, who would tell me “after the baby comes, you won’t want to go back to work!” And I tried to believe that. Really, I did. The problem was that I never, ever felt that way.

I know that at my job, I’m the only person who handles certain matters. I’m the only one who can speak to certain clients (such as our deaf clients). I kept thinking about the clients I have now and the ones who will be coming (trust me, there’s never a lack of clients in legal aid). And here’s the thing — I think I care about those clients and my baby equally. I love this baby so much, but I have love and care for these people I meet too. I feel their anger and want to make stuff right for them if I can. I cannot see myself ever NOT doing this job.

So, I decided that I did not want a full maternity leave. I settled on, not foreseeing any medical issues, a leave of between 1-3 weeks (with the ability to work from home for those few weeks I’m out of the office).

My husband and I are blessed that this is possible for us. His place of employment is actually a family-run business (his brother, mother and father all work there too). They’re happy to have the baby come to see them every weekday. My parents are semi-retired, so some days, the baby will be with them. And I did compromise and agree with my husband that I’ll make every effort to delegate more and try to work more 8 hour days.

I know that many people will read this and say “why have a baby if you want to immediately go back to work?” Well, here’s the thing: I really dislike the idea that compassion and caring are finite resources. They’re renewable resources! The fact that I still choose to devote time and energy to people who I consider to be deserving of it doesn’t mean that my child has lost anything. I can still love and care for him or her fully. And I dislike the gender essentialist view of that argument. My child will have an entire family around him or her all day. I wouldn’t want to have a view that pushes my influence while excluding our very large (and very multi-cultural) family. I won’t worry about my child when I’m not there, because I know that he or she is surrounded by the best possible people for them.

Then there’s this: I never want to build my whole identity around my child. That sounds harsh, maybe. But it’s true. I love my job. I worked hard to get it. I work hard in it. It has provided me with some of the proudest moments of my life. I don’t want to lose that, ever. I can be both things at once, and nobody will be the worse off for it.

I just don’t buy the arguments that women must totally rearrange or give up every other joy, source of satisfaction or goal they had before. Besides, I justify it this way: I want my child to be proud of me. I want them to know that even when Mommy isn’t home, Mommy is out doing a job that is trying to make the world a little better for everyone — including them.

I know this isn’t a much discussed topic — most of the mothers I know wished for MORE time off with their babies. Those who would privately admit to wanting to return to work generally took the full 12 weeks but were happy to return. There’s not a ton out there for moms who want to get back in the office as quickly as possible.

Am I in the vast minority for wanting this? I have no clue, honestly. But I think if supporting mothers is a noble goal, then there should be support for all moms — those who want to stay home all the time, those who want to work at their own pace, as well as those of us who just wanna get back to work.

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Based on reader feedback, the title on this post has been changed.

Comments on Why I’m saying no to maternity leave

  1. I’m very curious how you will feel after the birth of your child. It’s impossible to imagine how your life will look like after the birth. You have all these ideas, dreams, fantasies, but the truth mostly is less pink and fluffy. For most of us, at least. To speak with Lou R: it’s the beginning of a great adventure 🙂
    My advice would be: take it one day at a time. You have the luxury of choice. See how you feel, how your body feels, how your little one is doing.

    In the Netherlands, we have 16 weeks paid leave. 4 to 6 weeks before the due date, 10-12 after the birth. It’s the shortest leave in Europe, except for Bulgaria. It breaks my heart that new mums are forced by circumstances to work just 2 weeks after giving birth. Our grans stayed in bed for 2 weeks!

    I went back to work almost singing and dancing after my eldest was born, I loved being part again of a non-diapered, non-breastfeeding world. My world was so small, the highlight of my day was the talk with the girls in the butcher shop.
    But I seriously underestimated the effects giving birth (the old fashioned way, as is still common over here) and the short nights would have on my, on our system. The after birth fog (they call it a ‘the pink cloud’ over here, pffft) only cleared after about a year. No, I didn’t suffer from postpartum depression, I was just adapting to our new lives. I never had imagined it would take that long.
    And now, about six years later, I’m a mother of two and I work, I work out four times a week, I run, I go out and I have never been as balanced a person as I am now.

  2. I completely relate to this post. Going back to work after 6ish weeks with my first kid saved my sanity. I had longer with my second kid (about 3 months) and it was way too long. If I have another kid I plan on starting to work part time after 2ish weeks. But I am also not a fan of breast feeding and don’t plan to do it beyond the first few weeks for any future kids. I think the option for a longer paid maternity leave is important but personally I need to work.

  3. I’m British and my first thought is ‘wow. only 12 weeks?’, we get up to a year off, 12 weeks seems like nothing! I’ve just gone back today, my son is 11 months old, I thought I would want to be a stay-at-home mum but I realised I wanted to work. I’m only working 2 days a week, not sure how I’d feel doing full-time but I am glad to be having the ‘work me’ back, as well as the ‘mum me’, definitely room for both.

    I would also agree with a wait and see approach because having a baby is a huge shock to the system, on many levels and I’m not sure I’d have been ready at 12 weeks (I appreciate that I am writing this from the position of working for a company who give 6 months full pay maternity leave, not everyone is so lucky) let alone earlier. Good luck and hope all goes well for you! And I really hope you guys in the USA get better maternity leave one day!

  4. A lot of people have pointed out potential problems with your plan. Let me try to say something constructive, based on my own experience. It is possible to get work done in the early weeks (provided both you and the baby are healthy), but you’ll need flexibility. You will have to work when you can, which is mostly when your newborn sleeps, which in the beginning will be a lot. A newborn does require you to be there all of the time, but it doesn’t require constant attention. Of course you’ll be tired, but if you’re motivated, you can still be able to get decent work done. If you can arrange to do a lot of work from home, and only come into the office on some days and for a few hours at a time, this would be great for the first few weeks (maybe six). Like this you can get a nap when you need it (you likely will) and take care of your baby when needed.

  5. I’m surprised that no one has mentioned breastfeeding here, and the author doesn’t really discuss it. If you plan to do breastfeed, the demands of a newborn are rough. I clearly remember having my daughter latched to me for over an hour several times, in addition to her needing to eat every 2-3 hours; sometimes they need you more often than that. The marathon feedings are one of those things no one seems to talk about until after the little one is born! And, if you plan to exclusively breastfeed, even if you plan to pump, it’s a good idea to offer the breast only for a three or so weeks because some newborns can develop nipple confusion. (For the record: I went back at 10 weeks and pumped at work until my daughter was a year old; my husband is a stay-at-home dad, she’s two now).

    I guess the upshot is, as others have said, do what is best for you but cut yourself some slack if the reality ends up being different than what you’re planning for at this point. Good luck!

  6. Call me crazy, but I don’t feel like I’m disavowing my identity as an employee whenever I take vacation time, a day off, etc etc etc

    You can love your job and also feel comfortable taking time off from it, no matter what the reason is. We’re just weird about presuming parenting has to be either/or, and that being a worker is also either/or.

    I mean, this sort of thinking is why Americans take the least amount of vacation in the Western world.

  7. While I enjoyed reading this piece, I do think it would have a lot more weight behind it if it were written after the fact. “Why I took” a short maternity leave, instead of “why I plan to take.” The best laid plans, and all that. I truly hope everything works out as the author desires, but I would hate for this to have a negative outcome because she was too strict with her plans. Please make sure you are physically and emotionally healthy before you try to do too much–recovery from birth can be more difficult than anticipated. Those newborn days speed by and are both precious and stressful. You can put work on hold (obviously if you have the luxury to do so),it will still be there whenever you return, whether at two weeks or twelve. But your baby will only be a baby for a bit. Not that I think you shouldn’t return to work if that is what you want to do, you should! Just be aware of how things may change post-birth.

    • It’s interesting to hear the reasons for making the plans that the author made…but the article just doesn’t have much weight or interest for me since it’s all still hypothetical. I think this would have been better held off until after the shortened leave actually happened. As it is now, it just made me shrug, and think “well, good luck with that.”

      • I totally agree. This could been an awesome article if it were written after she went back to work.

        Reading this hypothetical back-to-work plan reminds me of reading a birth plan.
        There’s a reason that birth stories are SO much more interesting to read than birth plans.

  8. Let me clarify a few things:

    1.) About planning for medical issues: I clarified with my job that if I need time to medicallt recover, I have short-term disability through my job. Maternity leave is unpaid, whereas disability leave is paid for me, because I paid into it. That makes more sense for us financially.

    2.) I think I plan for the best. Obviously, I get that stuff can go wrong and that I might need more time. Overall, my doctor says that I am extremely low-risk, mostly due to the fact that I went into pregnancy in very good shape (low weight, runner, martial arts, mountaineering experience). Pregnancy has been smooth. Overall, my doctor is anticipating a very easy delivery, as am I, but the plan is in place if that goes south.

    3.) I decided not to nurse. I have my own personal reasons for that, so it won’t be an issue.

    4.) I get the arguments for flexibility, I do. And my family does have that – the difference being is that the flexible job is my husband’s – not so much for mine. That is the thing I’ve never gotten. So much attention is paid to flexibility for mothers, when the best flexibility is for families so that all the members can do what works best. That’s always been my problem with maternity leave debate – because it tends to erase the options that lie outside of “how much time should mom take off?”

    5.) How will I know how I feel after the birth – this one, honestly, I don’t much get. I get that some women feel very different after their child is born. And honestly, I’ve considered that. But for me, I can say fairly surely that I’ve been ruminating on this for the last 9 months. I’ve thought long and hard, and come to the same conclusion every time. I want the job back as quick as I can, because it has been a source of profound satisfaction and joy for me, coupled with the ethical obligations I feel towards my clients. I can’t see that changing, even after birth. Besides, a part of me doesn’t want to deny my child the great formative experiences of spending their days with their aunts, uncles, and grandparents (and father). So hey, it works for me.

    • ” That’s always been my problem with maternity leave debate – because it tends to erase the options that lie outside of “how much time should mom take off?””

      I think that’s probably because most parenting sites are female-focused. Have you looked into any male-focused parenting sites or have you been mostly on women-centred ones? A lot of men I know talk about spending time with kids and how much time they can/will take off to spend with a newborn.

      • Yes I also disagreed that the “maternity leave” debate only centers on moms. It doesn’t. Actually in the US we talk about disability leave (to recover from pregnancy) and family leave which either parent can take. Some private companies may offer women’s only maternity leave, I suppose, but the public debate is about parental leave.

    • Personally, in regards to your last point, I just think people are wary of you making a final decision about how you KNOW you will feel, leaving no room for any other option. It’s great that it’s how you believe you will feel, but if, like many of the other women here, you have your child and there is a huge, shocking change to what you feel that you were not at all expecting, you may harm yourself mentally by feeling like you are not strong enough to “stick to your guns”, or physically by forcing yourself to remain with your decision even when you are not emotionally ready (and therefore potentially harming your clients as well since you may not be able to properly care for them, but of course I don’t know much about that).

      Anyway, please just realize that these women aren’t trying to you “You’ll seeeeeeee!” but instead they are warning you that, despite months of ruminating and being convinced things will be a certain way, they have had their feelings change. And this isn’t bad or good, it just is. You can plan on being back as soon as possible, and you can plan on feeling like that will be your priority after childbirth, but just remember to roll with the punches if that changes.

      • THANK YOU! You just said what I was thinking and feeling much better than I was able to phrase it in my head. There’s a huge difference between obnoxious ‘You’ll seeeee” comments, and genuine concern that the author is putting an awful lot of pressure on herself to feel and behave a certain way after birth, when she doesn’t really have any way of knowing how the whole process will impact her. Maybe things will work out exactly as the author has anticipated, and she’ll be back on her feet and thrilled to be returning to work 1 week post-partum, and if so, awesome! I 100% support her in her decision. But maybe she will find that birth was a lot more physically demanding than she thought, or that her feelings about returning to work right away will change after the baby is born, but because she is currently so adamant about going back, she’ll feel a huge amount of internal pressure to follow through with her original plan. I don’t think it’s judgmental to say you really can’t know how you’ll feel after the birth until it’s happened. It’s a huge, life-changing moment. Some people will feel exactly how they expected, some people will do a complete 180 and be shocked at how much things changed in such a short time. I think what people are generally getting at in the comments (with some limited exceptions) is be kind to yourself, don’t push yourself too hard, and allow yourself the flexibility to change your mind.

      • I completely agree. I absolutely loved my job and planned on taking 8 weeks off after my daughter was born. I didn’t go back, for many reasons, but it took me a solid year to come to grips with the fact that I was NOT a failure for not being able to leave my baby. I was absolutely shocked by the feelings I had that I never even knew existed inside me and truly didn’t know how to process them.

        I don’t believe that the experienced moms are trying to say, “You’ll see!” in a negative way. What they’re really trying to say is, “Holy shit, here comes a train!!!”

    • –That’s always been my problem with maternity leave debate – because it tends to erase the options that lie outside of “how much time should mom take off?”

      What debate are we talking about, specifically? Because most campaigns I’ve been involved with fight for parental leave, not maternity leave.

  9. I love my job and was very, very happy to go back to it after 12 weeks leave. But personally I think it would have been physically difficult to go back to work after 3 weeks, mostly because of sleep deprivation. I had zero medical issues and the only issue my newborn had was being slightly low weight so we were supposed to wake her up to feed her around the clock. My husband and I were able to split parenting very evenly in my opinion, but I still wasn’t getting more than 4 hours of sleep at a stretch. The first six weeks are very hazy in my memory due to sleep deprivation. If I had gone back to work before then, I think my productivity would have been very poor.

    Which is not to say your experience will be like my experience. 🙂 I would strongly consider hiring a night nurse, though. It’s pretty unusual for babies to sleep more than four hours at a stretch during the first month.

    I would also love to hear from you again in the months after your child is born. I think we definitely need more information out there from moms who go back to work soon after childbirth and make it work well! Best wishes. 🙂

  10. I think what was problematic about Mayer’s response was not her choice to take a shorter leave but the general attitude that other women in the company should follow suit. Her recent decision to not allow Yahoo workers (including single mothers and other mothers with specific needs) to work days from home as was previously negotiated [that and the news that she has this private nursery] is part of a much larger conversation about choice/access/and equality that smatsy is pointing towards. As a doctoral student in a university without a universal parental leave policy- becoming pregnant at all in many departments defines who you are as a student/employee. I applaude this alternative perspective but we certainly have a long way to go before parental leave becomes a non-issue. I might not need to take the full-time but I certainly need to speak up about the importance of leave for those who do.

  11. Not arguing your choice of returning to work quickly, just further supporting the idea of not making a solid plan at all, as birth is SO unpredictable! I was a super healthy, athletic, active person with a perfect pregnancy. Birth SLAYED ME. It really did. I was destroyed, mentally and physically. Had a C-sec, and I was on my ass, unable to sit or pee or walk for WEEKS. The haze of pain medication, the struggles with bonding and feeding the baby. I was totally incapacitated and relied on partner help for weeks, and it took months before I could function normally and cook, drive a car, read, etc. Just from your basic run of the mill C-sec and a healthy baby and mom. I NEVER saw that coming! I really wasn’t ready to work for at least 3-4 months. Advice to all moms…have a backup plan to your plan!

    • Let me rephrase that….Adjust your expectations, so that you aren’t disappointed in case it doesn’t work out that you can return to work quickly. I had big post-partum plans, and when they failed (beyond my control), I was devastated. Wish I had mentally prepared myself for that.

  12. I think your confidence in your decision puts you in a great place to plan around that decision. If you want to breastfeed, you can plan to focus your time at home on making that work for you. There are many places that offer classes on preparing to go back to work for breastfeeding mothers; taking one of those might help you adjust in the postpartum period. (If you are planning to breastfeed, with such a short planned maternity leave, I strongly recommend working with a professional to make sure you get off to a great start, since you’ll be trying to get a new one adjusted to both breast and bottle simultaneously.)

    If you’re not planning on breastfeeding, you can take that same time to get in a good rhythm with your husband around bottle feeding. And, totally: you do you. Don’t take any crap from anyone about not breastfeeding, if you aren’t going to or it doesn’t work out.

    Many women spend their maternity leave adjusting to being the primary caregiver before moving back into their work life. It sounds like you won’t be the primary caregiver anyway, so this could be a chance for you to recover from labor while your husband practices being the primary caregiver with your support. How awesome is it that your husband’s job and your family are able to support the way your family is choosing to raise children?

    I have two notes of caution, from watching other women do what you are planning:
    1) Plan time for bonding. Yeah, go back to work quickly if that’s what you want and need to do — just because you’re the mom doesn’t mean you need to fulfill the stereotypical maternal role — but your new family will need time to figure out what it looks like. It will do you, your marriage, and your family good to make sure you are fully present when you are home (as I’m sure you are already).
    2) Make sure your communication with your husband is stellar and you have the same expectations. Even in the best relationships, communication can go to hell in the postpartum period.

    I wish you the best of luck, and a smooth labor with a quick recovery. It sounds like you and your family are in a great situation, with tons of support.

  13. Congratulations on your imminent parenthood, and on having a wonderful job and an extended family to nurture your child.

    Compassion and caring are not finite resources, but time and energy are. I find that my full time job, which I love, and my daughter’s full time school, give us a less-than-ideal amount of family time. Work and school schedules were not calculated for the optimum well-being of families, even aside from the fact that not all families are alike. So my advice is to just keep checking in with yourself about how you want to use your time. You are about to fall in love. It tends to change things.

    And perhaps you can negotiate now to bank those twelve weeks for a later time when your family needs are more intense. The first weeks after birth may or may not be when you need them most, but you may need them. Children make life more unpredictable. If your employer will give you a cushion for the bumps, use it–and if they won’t give it to you, why the hell not? You’re entitled to your twelve weeks and who are they to say that they have to be consecutive weeks after your baby’s arrival?

    BTW, re: whether you need time to heal physically: I had medical leave AND maternity leave. Maternity leave began when I was deemed recovered enough to return to work (a matter of days in my case, but if you’ve had a Caesarean or other difficult birth, it could be weeks). It’s a measure of our backwardness as a nation in the family-support department that we don’t even understand this basic distinction.

    P.S. No one should be indispensable in their job. I know, my job is the same way and there are a lot of things that would get dropped if I got hit by a truck, but we should all mitigate those. Sounds like, regardless of your views of maternity leave, you need to leave detailed information that would allow someone else to pick up your caseload in an emergency. Your employer needs an ASL translator for backup. I know legal aid is underfunded and it’s not their fault, but let’s be realistic: we are all mortal, we retire, we get into car accidents and are suddenly unable to work for six months. Your clients deserve to know that they won’t be left in the lurch.

  14. Regarding Melissa Mayer, from what I read online, it wasn’t that people thought she was a subpar mother for not taking a maternity leave. Rather, people (and working women in particular) were concerned about the precedent it sets when the CEO of a company doesn’t take a maternity leave. Add this to her recent decision to cancel telecommuting, and it adds up to a woman who is changing a company’s culture to be particularly non-family-friendly. A woman who has the advantage and privilege to have her baby in the office next door, but who is making it difficult for her employees to attend to THEIR families. If I worked at Yahoo, I would be VERY concerned about how taking a maternity leave or leaving early to take my kid to the doctor will affect my career.

    We all need balance. We all need to take care of ourselves, and our needs, and take care of our families and their needs. Not to be snarky, but I read a little bit of a martyr complex in your description of your job and client relationship. I know your job is important to you, but honestly, your clients don’t need you. Yes, they need help but they really don’t need YOU, specifically. When it comes to work, we’re ALL replaceable. The only people who think you’re not replaceable are your family (however you define that). You’re about to be the whole freaking world to a brand new person who really truly NEEDS you. So please make sure you have balance in your life. No one ever said on their death bed, “Gee I wish I spent more time at the office.”

    • This. You said what I wasn’t able to come up with. “I know your job is important to you, but honestly, your clients don’t need you. Yes, they need help but they really don’t need YOU, specifically. When it comes to work, we’re ALL replaceable. The only people who think you’re not replaceable are your family (however you define that). You’re about to be the whole freaking world to a brand new person who really truly NEEDS you.”

      I would NEVER say to someone “why would you even have a baby if you’re going to go back to work so soon” because that is a totally bogus question. Adults make the best choices that they can for themselves. But what you might have to reconsider is what choices are best for this little person. Yes, of course, being with dad, grandparents, aunts uncles are all important and wonderful things. But I do think what rubbed me wrong about this article was the inability to see that while returning to work quickly might be what is best for you, you also might need to be open to the possibility that it won’t be best for your child. Of course everything difficult can, and should, be negotiated with your partner, but ultimately, when that baby is born, it will stop being your job to do what’s best for you and start doing what’s best for them. There are lots of different “bests” and perhaps going back to work right away will end up being the one that fits for your family. There are lots of different ways to be a good parent, but I think that all of them involve truly prioritizing our kids needs over our desires.

    • I 100%, absolutely, ridiculously, standing-on-top-of-the-mountain-and-yelling-it agree with you that it’s dangerous to be “indispensable” at work. Dangerous for one’s health and soul and dangerous for the organization.

      But I just as vehemently disagree with this statement: “You’re about to be the whole freaking world to a brand new person who really truly NEEDS you.” I think it’s just as dangerous to organize your life as though you are indispensable to your baby – because, just like at work, we can’t actually control if we’re around for our babies. Babies need a family to love and care for them; they don’t specifically need the person who gave birth to them to love and care for them.

  15. I am in sort of a similar position. Although, finances are definitely a big player for me. My maternity leave is not paid, and I do not have as much vacation time as I would like to help cover it. I am planning on taking 6 weeks, because I know that is doable for us financially and because we have a great family support system here who are willing to help. Granted, I will probably only be back part-time after the first 6 weeks, but my boss is allowing me to play it by ear.

    I go back and forth in wishing that I could take more time, and being glad for the decision not to do so. I work with international students on a community college campus, my primary function is to help advise/counsel students going through our Intensive English Program. These students come to the U.S. with no support system in place, and the students I work with often have little to no experience with the English language to boot. To say they feel vulnerable is an understatement. I am their support system, and while others in my office are also able to jump in and help while I am out, we are short staffed and there isn’t anyone who will be hired temporarily for my leave. I have done as much cross training as I possibly can to help my coworkers prepare for things that might come up while I am gone, and I know they will handle things beautifully. I also know that my being gone will cause several of my students anxiety no matter what. And for that reason, I don’t want to be gone for too much of the quarter. I have a responsibility to these students, and if my son were to choose to study abroad in the future, I hope that his adviser in a far off country will treat him the same way.

    My husband and I are lucky, because our shifts are off just enough so that we will only need child care 3 half-days a week, even when I do go back to work full time. He has an early morning shift and is back home by 1:30 in the afternoon, he also has Thursdays and Fridays off. I have a more typical M-F 8-4:30 job, so Monday through Wednesday my mom has volunteered to take our son when I go to work, my husband will pick him up at 1:30. On Thursday and Fridays, my husband will have two days of just him & our son, and Saturday & Sundays I will have two days of mommy + baby (although I am sure my parents will be over to visit often those days too since we live in the same neighborhood). We will be super busy, but I am grateful to have a schedule that works. I am also excited that my son will be interacting frequently with my cousin’s two boys, since my mom takes care of my cousin’s boys every Monday as well. I feel very strongly that our child should be well socialized and be familiar with all of our family, and this arrangement makes sense to me from all points of view. It’s fiscally responsible, it is a secure arrangement for our son, and it has the benefit that I won’t feel as though I’ve abandoned my child or my students.

    Regardless of how silly the abandonment guilt may be (because of course my students are & will be totally fine, and yes, my family is my first priority ultimately), I know myself and I know the guilt will be there. I think it’s important to recognize that, because I don’t think I’ll be as effective of a mother if I have those silent worries in the back of my mind. Being able to find this balance for me will help me in both areas of my life, and from that point of view, I think it is a good thing that the original poster knows this about herself as well.

  16. I only took 10 weeks, and only because she was born in October… the last couple of weeks would’ve been a “vacation” at work anyway, so I started after the new year. I was ready to talk to adults and have non baby-related conversations. I think next time I might cut it to 6, but we’ll see how it works out.

  17. I’m with the earlier posters who requested a follow-up piece detailing how your family implemented this approach, stuff that worked, stuff that didn’t work, unexpected bonuses or challenges, etc. It’s pretty rare that a plan works out exactly like we envisioned it beforehand, and it would be really interesting to hear about the positives and the pitfalls that you encounter when you navigate this post-birth. It would be really cool to hear that perspective as an “It worked for me” story after the fact so that there is some practical advice included.

    Congrats and good luck with your upcoming birth!

  18. After reading your follow ups, it seems like you are going back to work early for finances, and because you don’t mind, and that your husband is going to be the primary caregiver. That doesn’t seem unusual or “hot button” at all. I think the emotional response here is from the title, an assumption about the identity of moms who do take maternity leave, and from a few things like saying you love your clients as much as you love your baby (whom you have not met).
    It’s hard to talk about without sounding condicending, but you are writing about something you have not experienced to women who have experienced it, and many, many of us had the experience of changing our minds about work afterwards. Maybe you won’t, but many of us also thought about it for 9 months, and then changed our minds.
    And, for the record, I don’t know ANY mom who identifies as only a mommy.

  19. I agree with some of the other moms about recovering from childbirth. I had a VERY low-risk pregnancy but my labor ended up with me having 2 emergency blood transfusions, a 3rd degree tear, and lacerations in my cervix very close to some major arteries.

    Although I could go home day 3, I still couldn’t sit right for a few weeks, and it made the ever so annoying task of cleaning up myself after using the bathroom take a little longer than normal (and painful). I could not imagine sitting in an office while dealing with my body recovering from the ordeal it did.

  20. Yup! I’m at week 6.5 and I’ve been “sneaking” in plenty of work since, uh. Day two post partum. I’m officially back this week. However, I am the Boss at a small organization doing I job I absolutely love. Being the Boss, and up until my leave started literally the only administrator, means that there are of course things that only I know how to do. There was just no way that I could totally check out…. but because I love my work, this was ok with me!

    On the other hand, it also meant that I got to set things up exactly how I wanted, like bringing other people in the organization up to speed on how to cover the day to day in my absence, for example. It also means that the kiddo gets to be with me until I judge that my productivity is suffering too much (which should be until he’s mobile, if he’s anything like kid #1), which means I’m free of being chained to the pump. And yes, I would allow this for any other new parent in my organization! No Marissa Mayer style hypocrisy for me. Later on, he’ll hang with Grandma at strategic points during the day.

    I so appreciate that there’s a range of opinion on this topic. What it comes down to is CHOICE. I so wish that in the USA, parents could have the choice to stay home for a year without panicking about leave and paying the bills. Or the choice to have a flexible workplace, when possible, that allows a baby to stay with mom as long as they’re breastfeeding and need that contact. Or the choice to have a supportive child care situation that allows the parents to work without the baby around if they judge that to be the best for their family. It utterly sucks that most people don’t feel like they have any of these choices in a meaningful fashion, and that makes me angry as all get-out.

    • Oh yeah, and this kid was a relatively easy vaginal birth, but I did take a couple weeks or so to recover physically where even short walks didn’t leave me a bit winded and dizzy. Not that work emails on my iphone or laptopping on the couch while breastfeeding took much effort, but hey, YMMV!

      And the first time around I had a surprise flipping-during-labor baby leading to emergency c-section – plus bonus post-surgery hemorrhage! That was a rough recovery. I wasn’t working at the time but if I had been there was just no waaaaay I personally could or should have been doing any meaningful work at all before at least 4 weeks PP.

    • Yup! I’m at week 6.5 and I’ve been “sneaking” in plenty of work since, uh. Day two post partum. I’m officially back this week. However, I am the Boss at a small organization doing I job I absolutely love. Being the Boss, and up until my leave started literally the only administrator, means that there are of course things that only I know how to do. There was just no way that I could totally check out…. but because I love my work, this was ok with me!

      You basically just described my “maternity leave” (or not) word-for-word. I’m a small business owner, I love what I do, and pretty much started working immediately. Sure my newborn was up at night, but he was napping all day… and I work from home had a lot of family support and fuggit: what else was I going to do when the baby was sleeping or hanging out with family … doing the work I love at 5 days postpartum felt pretty natural for me.

      • I also work from home, so when the new baby arrived after a terrifying birth and recovery, I was still working. Because I could at home and I truly love my work.

        But seven MONTHS later, I’m still not recovered and there is a lot of pain and problems from the circumstances of that birth. Working away from home would have laid me out in the hospital by now several times over. Working from home has made it possible to enjoy working at all.

  21. This sounds more like you’re justifying why you are choosing to be a working mom rather than a stay-at-home mom, than it is about maternity leave. Taking maternity leave really doesn’t impact any of the things you talked about, since maternity leave is usually only 12 weeks. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a working mom, I’m one. I am a social worker, so I identify with wanting to be there for your clients. I never once in my life thought about being a stay at home mom, I always wanted to work. Having a baby totally changed that. I’m still working, because I can’t afford to stay home, but your priorities can (and should) change once the baby comes. I don’t agree that you have to give up everything you enjoy, as you said. You don’t have to be “just a mom”. But having a baby means putting someone else’s needs before your own (and it’s by no means an easy adjustment). Again, that doesn’t mean you never get to do anything you enjoy ever again, because that’s not healthy. It just means that maybe you go home a little earlier for bed times, or you miss a party/work day because your child is sick and needs you.

    In my opinion, maternity leave isn’t just about healing from giving birth and just learning to breastfeed. It’s about bonding with your baby, which is SO important in those early months (first year, really, but we’re not lucky enough to get that much leave in the US). Taking 6-12 weeks from work won’t destroy you career, and it won’t deprive your child from experiences with your family. My family watches my son, and I love that. He has a great bond with our parents since they help watch him while we work. Our families also helped us immensely in the beginning, which was also wonderful. I would encourage you to research the importance of attachment/bonding during the earlier months, especially if you’re not breastfeeding. Maternity leave is also a time to learn how to be a parent, get to know your baby, figure out routines, etc… Not to mention no one/nothing in the world can prepare you for the sleep deprivation . It personally took me 3 months to feel human again, just in time to go back to work.

    Obviously, you’re the only one that can say what’s best for your family, but as you know, you never get that time in the beginning back. They grow SO fast. Your job will still be there when you get back, and I’m sure your family will immediately be a part of your child’s life from day one. I don’t think a single one of your clients would expect you to give up that time to work with them, and they wouldn’t give up their family time for you. Good luck with everything, and I hope you have a super healthy and happy little baby!

  22. Can you opt for paternity leave where you live? In Canada we have 12 months of Parental Leave. Either parents can choose to take 12 months off (Or you could do 6 months each, or you could both do 6 months at the same time)

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with a woman opting to stick with her work if that’s what she wants.

    • Not quite – there is 15 weeks of maternity leave, and 35 weeks of parental leave. Parents can choose to share the 35 weeks however they want, as long as each is EI Eligible.

  23. It’s pretty interesting to me how quickly the concern (-trolling?) comes when a mother unabashedly prioritizes her career. Of all the articles written for OBM by women who are in the planning stages of parenting, some even in the planning-to-try stage, about their post-baby plans, this is the only one where I’ve seen so many “you’ll seeeeeeeeeee!” type comments.

    I get that lots of women have experienced changes in plans, or recoveries that were rougher and longer than they anticipated. Well, if that ends up being the author’s experience, she’ll deal with that when it comes, just as we all do. It’s pretty striking, and it’s interesting to me that this is one sphere where people feel comfortable lecturing, I guess, when so many other choices written about on this site get, if not total support, than nowhere near the same level of scrutiny.

    • I don’t think it’s so much because of the prioritizing her career, but because the shortened maternity leave is something that hasn’t happened yet. I’ve seen super supportive comments all over this site about working moms, moms who chose to divorce, primary care fathers, two working moms, no full time working parents, etc. I think that the “well, I’ve thought about this and I’m sure it’s going to be what I want” thing rubs people the wrong way because, well, most people spend the 9 months of pregnancy thinking about what’s going to be best, and then are often surprised. I don’t think that this is trolling, it’s a community of people trying to be supportive while also encouraging someone to temper her expectations of something totally new and unknown. I think that if this article was written from the perspective of “I took a two week maternity leave and here’s why it’s awesome for me” the comments would be much more unequivocally supportive.

    • I’m not concerned about this mom so much as offended at the implication running through the whole article that women who *do* take leave are not dedicated to their careers.

    • I think there are so many “you’ll seeeeee” comments because the author seems very… rigid, about her plan.

      For her sake, I hope it DOES go according to plan. If it doesn’t, I hope she’s considered alternatives. I think many commenters are concerned with the fact that the author doesn’t acknowledge any possibility of things going awry (until her added comment). This leads them to jump in with stories of how THEY were surprised, which comes across as a “you’ll see”-type of comment, even when those commenters are very careful to state that this may not happen to the OP.

      I really think a lot of the hurty feels here are a case of tone being really difficult to discern online.

  24. I don’t mean this to sound obnoxious, but there are certain things that you just don’t truly know until you have your baby. I am also a lawyer and also valued my career and very much identified myself as an independent, feminist, career-oriented woman. I intended to take my 12 weeks of leave but then figured I’d be anxious to get back to work. My husband and I planned to put our son in daycare as soon as my leave ended. But all of that changed once our son was actually born. My husband quit his job and got a weekend job so 0ne of us could care for our son at all times. After seven months, I cut back to part time and when a year later I had my second child and was told I’d have to come back full time or leave, I left. I stayed home for 2.5 years, something I never, ever, ever imagined I’d do. Parenthood changes you. I’m not saying you will have a change of heart about this–people are different. But one thing I do think is true of everyone I know who has children is that some of the assumptions you have made about yourself, your significant other, and what parenthood will be like will turn out to be wrong. So just leave your options open to the degree that you can and give yourself some flexibility. Parenthood is a wild ride. Best of luck.

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