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 think Ashley’s plan is quite lovely. She will have a few weeks with her baby and then her partner will become the primary caregiver with a lot of family support for backup. It’s no different than the choice lots of families make, just with the typical gender roles reversed. Sure, she is the one that has to give birth and of course she will need to physically heal, but her timeline to recovery is a private conversation between Ashley and her medical caregiver, not a decree from the Internet.

    Maybe her plans will change and maybe they won’t but like Joanna says in her comment, there are plenty of pieces posted here written from a ‘this is my plan’ perspective.

    I read this website because of its general tone of women supporting women making choices for their families. So what’s with the judgment? Can’t we give warm OBF hugs even to folks making choices different from our own?

    • She will have a few weeks with her baby and then her partner will become the primary caregiver with a lot of family support for backup. It’s no different than the choice lots of families make, just with the typical gender roles reversed.

      Thank you.

    • I think it’s the original title and some of her explanations of her reasons that are rubbing people wrong. You are right though, the plan it self sounds completely normal and not even unusual as far as gender roles go.

  2. I went back to work 3 weeks after the birth of my son, but only because I had to. I found out I was pregnant at 32 weeks and had him at 38 weeks… that’s another story, though. Since I had such a short period of time to prepare, I had no extra money saved up for leave so I had no choice but to go back. I’ll admit though, after three weeks of staying home with a baby 24/7, I was kind of happy to get back to the working world.

    • I would love to hear about that, but totally understand if the shock of it all was a bit much and you want to keep that private but holy crap to finding out at 32 weeks.

      Please submit a post!

  3. Thank you for this article! This isn’t a perspective that I read very often so I really appreciate it. You’ve obviously put a lot of thought into your choice.

    Also, very few women in the U.S. have twelve or even six weeks of maternity leave and they do alright. My step-sister went back to work after 1.5 weeks and an old co-worker only took 3 weeks off. Lots of working class mothers take little, if any, maternity leave every day and they make it work. It’s not ideal for a lot of people, but your financial and personal resources put you in a good position to pull this off . Good luck with everything!

  4. Ashley, I think the really inspiring thing about your post was the way you shifted the focus from the idea of ‘maternity’ and maternal care to family care. You made it clear that the baby is still going to be loved and nurtured after its birth, but not necessarily full time by its mother. Birth recovery and breastfeeding issues aside, there would absolutely not be this reaction if a father said he was planning on going back to work after 1 -3 weeks. Thank you for raising that issue and reminding us that the baby is as much your partner’s as it is yours.

    Sadly though, your post is part of a larger debate that makes me really upset. Many families in the U.S. aren’t able to choose their length of maternity/paternity leave due to financial issues, lack of job security, and reliance on employer-provided healthcare. I think there is a lot of pressure for women to return to work early in this country, earlier than would even be allowed by law in many other developed countries. I think that when many employers see stories like yours and Marisa Mayer’s they think ‘see, any woman can come back to work after 2 weeks as long as she’s determined enough’. This makes it difficult for women who need or want to take a longer maternity leave to justify doing so. Women who take longer after (or before!) the birth of their child aren’t necessarily less dedicated to their jobs, but they are often seen that way. I’d really like to see a follow-up post, or a post from someone who has taken a very short maternity leave, discussing the challenges they faced and how they overcame them so that others in the same position can see that while taking a short leave is possible, it isn’t something you can just achieve through sheer willpower. Luck, family-friendly work policies, supportive communities and good healthcare all play a part. You described some of your plans, but I’d love to see some more information. Families need to be able to make informed choices about the length of leave they take, and both families and employers need to be able to see the reality of whichever choice they make.

    • Stephanie and I have talked about this extensively, because we both got back to work very quickly after having our respective children.

      I’ll speak for myself:
      As a self-employed small business owner, I had no paid maternity leave. As the primary breadwinner, I needed to get back to work right away to support my family.

      Then again, as a self-employed small business owner, I also had a lot of flexibility in my schedule — I work from home, my partner is also self-employed and had agreed to carry a heaviler load of the child-care, and I have in-town family who were eager to be involved. These factors made it easier for me to get back to work almost immediately in a way that felt good to me — I didn’t have to commute or be away from my nursing newborn for more than a few hours.

      As I noted up-thread, part of it too is that I straight up love my work. It wasn’t like “Oh shit, I have to go back to it, how can I make it work?” It was almost immediately excited to get back into my work because I genuinely enjoy it. I wasn’t slogging back to a 40-hour-a-week day job, which of course makes a huge difference.

      So no, it’s not an issue of sheer willpower — most of it is situational. In this post, Ashley talks a lot about her specific situation, and why she anticipates this plan will a good fit for her. I can only say that for my specific situation, a similar plan was also a good fit for me.

  5. The way it seems the author is so very sure that “hey, these are the plans, and this is how it will go” is the only thing that I wanted to comment on. I know you don’t believe it now, but how things change, you just never know! For me it was, surprise you are having twins, surprise your totally healthy pregnancy turns into HELLP syndrome, surprise you are going to be forced to deliver 6 weeks early, surprise as if preemie twins wasn’t enough work now you get PPD too… its 9 months later and I’m still out of work. Never in a million years would I think I might end up not going back to work! You really just can’t plan what children do to you, even if you spend your entire pregnancy thinking about it.

    Just as going to work right away is an option, I wish there was more support out there for when it is not an option also.

  6. I agree some of the comments are more of a concern-troll tone than helpfully trying to point out that there may be a problem in the author’s plan. For what its worth, I think it’s awesome that you gets have the flexibility to set up your care routine the way your social network sees fit.

    However, I’d like to address the part about Marissa Mayer. I had seen a couple of snarky trolls judging her about her whether or not she should have had a child, but most of the commentary I saw, I feel was critical review about what her decision meant for working parents in the US. As some other posters have mentioned, maternity leave is hard to come by, and paternity leave is nigh invisible here. When someone in a highly visible position makes the type of decision that she did, it sets a precedent. And how many people have the type of privilege to even be able to have those options? Obviously it isn’t fair that she should sacrifice her wishes for the interests of others, but she shouldn’t represent the ideal, either.

    Most of my friends are poor. And I don’t mean grad student poor, but more like 6 kids and both parents work full-time, plus maybe a side job so they can keep a roof poor. They can’t afford health insurance (though their kids are covered), and as such, will never be able to buy a house due to the havoc medical bills play with their credit scores. They don’t have the option of maternity/paternity leave. They will go back to work within a month, ready or not. If they aren’t medically cleared, they can’t make ends meet. And watching an educated, privileged white CEO dismiss leave as if it were some vacation hurts people.

  7. Sounds like you have a great set-up family-wise that will make your plans possible.

    I stayed at home with my son for 6 months, then his dad stayed home with him for 6 months, then we both worked part time and pieced childcare together between ourselves and other extended family members. So that worked for us. Except I didn’t really enjoy it- if we had another I would totally want my partner to stay home full time, but that is another topic…

    What think what has been of infinitely more benefit to our son than me being around for the first 6 months is that I have worked short days since he started school, hence being able to drop him off, pick him up and spend afternoons with him.

    That time in his primary school years has been more fun for me and better for him too. I like his child-self company a lot more than I liked his baby company. (Something not many women seem to want to admit, but I know I am not the only one!)

    I hear a lot of talk about mums being home (or not) with their babies and the judgments that go along with that, but not so much about all the ways we can carve out time with them when they are older kids.

  8. I’m sorry I can’t read all comments before posting this. I wanted to say that when the author says, “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.” I don’t understand what this has to has to do with taking 12 weeks of maternity leave. It’s not an all or nothing. Maternity leave is a few weeks/months, not “giving up every other joy”. Providing women with good maternity leave actually does the exact opposite. It allows women to keep a job they love and are passionate about and often need instead of forcing them to decide between a career or being a mom.

    I also wanted to second that I would have appreciated this post more after she had already said no to maternity leave. It doesn’t seem like she is asking for advice which would have been different (I’m sorry if I’m wrong about that). None of us know how these plans will work out. It would be good to have her write again a few months after the baby arrives.

    Good luck! I hope everything works out great for your family.

    • Thank you! There are so many sentences in this article that do rub many moms the wrong way. It presents a false dichotomy of:
      1) Love your job and go back to work within a month
      2) Decide to take time off for *12 weeks*, and give up your entire life to being only a mom forever

      Um. Yeah. No.

      It’s fine if this mom would like to (and can) return to her work whenever she likes, but there are plenty of career-oriented women here who are still dedicated to their work but take more maternity leave. They don’t feel like they’ve given up everything or built “their whole identities around their children”. They just, you know, took leave.

  9. Something I didn’t hear you talk about at all is bonding. You and your baby need time to get to know each other. Your baby’s world is about to change, and you are a constant.

    That absolutely goes for fathers as well. My husband works in social services and also works with a population who really needs him. He also loves his job, and never wants to leave it. But he took his seven weeks paternity leave, and it was so important. We learned how to be parents together. We grew as a family together. He and our son are so close, and I think all of the time they spent together helped build that. When he had a coworker who chose not to take his paternity leave my husband was shocked and confused. Despite loving his job and deeply caring for his clients, he couldn’t imagine prioritizing work over bonding with his newborn.

    It’s been a said a lot, I’m going to say it some more. Giving birth is HARD. I had an easy pregnancy, I was eating well and exercising, and I had an unmediated birth at home with no complications. It took so much out of me. Two weeks later I did dishes for ten minutes and then I had to rest. Also you will be bleeding for weeks. And, as has been said, you will probably be up a lot at night.

    You say that you care about your clients and your baby equally. Well, you haven’t actually met your baby yet. I know for me, when I was pregnant my love was more of a hypothetical. It was nothing compared to the love I feel for my son now that he is here.

    How you feed your child is of course 100% your choice, but I have to admit I was sad to hear you dismiss breast feeding before even trying.

    • I personally don’t believe bonding is such a big deal. It sounds a bit harsh like that, but really babies have hardly any eyesight, or cognitions for that matter. And then they sleep a lot too. They need someone there to give them food and warmth and attention when they need it, 24 hours a day, that’s true. But I personally did not really have the feeling that these things needed to come from the mother (i.e. me) for the complete 24 hours of a day. For me, it felt that any loving and warm passerby could have taken my child and could have created the same bond with him, as long as they would have put in the same effort as me and my partner have (I wouldn’t have liked them to do that, mind you, I am very happy that all passersby let me keep my baby ;-).

      Sure, you should invest some time in it, to get a proper bond. But, I mean, I don’t think anyone would say to a father who goes back to work a few days after a baby is born that he will not bond with their child (assuming a standard-ish family with a mother who takes maternity leave and a father who goes back to work). If a father interacts with the baby and takes care of the baby when they are not at work, the father and child will bond. So, along the same lines, I think a mother who goes back to work quickly will have ample opportunity to bond with her baby. There is nothing that requires the person that has given birth to the baby to invest more time to bond. If anything, I would suggest it takes her less time to create that bond.

      In essence, I think it’s very much about the quality of the interaction, not the quantity, that creates the bond between parent and child. Being a reliable, loving factor in your child’s live is the key, doing that full-time is not a requirement.

  10. I technically had two weeks of maternity leave– I’m an online teacher and I didn’t feel I could get a substitute to do my job, so I went back to my (online) work after two weeks of being blissfully checked out. It was great! I was still with my daughter all day, but going back to my full time job helped me see that I COULD still do it… had I waited three months I think it would have been harder to integrate my daughter into our routine.

    That said, you really may feel differently after your daughter comes– I don’t believe that caring is a finite resource either, but babies draw caring out of you in an utterly new way. I would personally say that if there’s any way you can combine caring for a newborn AND work, go for it! It’s much easier to work with a newborn than with a toddler around… they can sleep and nurse really well in baby carriers, giving you hands free to type etc. Maybe your clients would understand if your daughter comes to work with you some times?

    • “…babies draw caring out of you in an utterly new way.” What a beautiful way to put this. As a toddler and preschool teacher, I have always loved that part of my job is to care, to extend care to so many children and families. Being a very new mom (my baby is just over a month old now) on maternity leave, I am joyfully astonished every day with the new love and caring that he evokes from me.

      In response to the article, I have not read all of the comments, so forgive me if this is redundant, but I say that every parent-child situation has its unique aspects. If a mom feels ready to work and wants to, she should. If she changes her mind, that’s fine too. What is important is that the baby is loved and cared for, and that families have the flexibility to make decisions based on whatever they need at any given time, which it sounds like this family does.

  11. I agree with people who say not to have a plan. And that it is easier to return earlier than extend. AND that there should be a contingency plan in place in case of your absence anyway.

    Being gone for more than 3 weeks will affect your clients. I am a therapist and when I chose to leave my organization, it had an affect on the clients. But you know what else will affect your clients – you becoming run-down because you aren’t taking care of yourself. I’m not saying you WILL get run down. But taking care of a newborn is a lot more work than it sounds like (you think if you organize enough in advance it will be easier but it isn’t) and I would hate to think you had organized yourself into a corner of having to go back to work after 3 weeks and being too exhausted to do it. Because honestly, you doing your job at 30% effectiveness is probably worse than having people step in for you. They can hire a sign language interpreter, they can hire are Gaelic interpreter (or use one of those phone interpreters instead of someone in-person). Your clients will benefit more from you taking the time you need and coming to work feeling at least 70-80%.

    A side note: IF you are nursing I don’t know how you would be able to go back at 1-3 weeks because the milk supply is established by around 6 weeks. I don’t think you would be able to pump enough at work (it sounds very high stress) to establish enough of a milk supply at that stage; the best way to build a milk supply is to feed on demand, which is sometimes every hour or more around the clock depending on growth spurts and whatnot. Then again, you don’t HAVE to nurse, and formula does give a lot more flexibility.

    Also, PPD is no joke. And sometimes it shows up later.

    I’m just saying, please allow yourself the flexibility. You are not the only person who can do your job – you maybe are the only person who can do all of the things you do in one job, but there are multiple people who could step in for you to take pieces of your job. You are willing to delegate one aspect of your life (childcare), so please be willing to also delegate other aspects of your life, at least temporarily, if necessary for your mental health.

    That said, I hope your plans do work out for you and your birth is uneventful and you have a happy, healthy baby, family harmony, and a robust, flourishing career. 🙂

    • ” You are willing to delegate one aspect of your life (childcare), so please be willing to also delegate other aspects of your life, at least temporarily, if necessary for your mental health.”

      So much this.

  12. Every situation is different. Personally, I was back 1/2 time in the office 1/2 time working from home 6 weeks after my baby’s birth this past summer. Daddy spent the afternoons with her working from home.

    I needed close to 5 weeks to really be recovered enough to be able to sit in an office-type setting. I was checking on emails and some things at 3 weeks, but those first 2 weeks were rough. We had an uncomplicated delivery, but we needed to go to the pediatrician every week for her first month because they were worried about her weight gain. (It was within range, but they still wanted us in every week for a weight check)

    I also made the decision that I wanted to continue nursing past 6 weeks so working from home in the morning helped so I only needed to pump at work 2 times in the afternoon instead of 5 throughout the day. The grandparents and other family members are not available to sit with her during the week, so for us it was either a work from home solution or daycare.

    I am happy that we were able to work something out so that we could delay enrolling her into daycare until she was 6 months old using the combination of family leave, disability, vacation time, and a flexible work schedule. I am glad to be back to work as I like the mental aspect of my job. Pumping at work is difficult as the office culture is not very woman friendly or accommodating and daycare has been its own set of issues, but we are working through all that as a family.

    My advice would be to feel it out and do what works for your family. Good luck!

  13. A practical note: if you’re going back to the office 1-3 weeks post-partum, better have some work-appropriate clothes lined up, preferably in advance. I was in no condition to try on stuff at that point and nothing I owned fit.

  14. You have probably already heard about how birth never goes the way your birth plan went? Please be prepared to have post partum spin you upside down and spit you out. It may not happen and it might be easy for you but better to create some cushion just in case. For me, labor was a breeze compared to recovery. And my beloved baby was colicky with reflux and amazingly fussy. He’s 4 months and only recently have we been able to get him to nap- and then for only 30-45 minutes usually. I’m home (thnk god) and its more than a one person job. YOU are the only thing your baby has known for 9 months. There are times when you are the only thing that will soothe. I assume you aren’t breast feeding either because that will make it even harder. You do know that newborns eat about every 2 hours right(assume its similar for formula)? It’s no joke that it’s hard to be a normal sane person on that sleep cycle.

    • Tons of women do it alone while their husbands go to work. Why can’t her husband handle it while she’s at work? I’m not saying it’s easy….just that it’s not new. Aside from the gender role switch this is pretty “traditional”.

      • Yeah, assuming she is not nursing, which men cannot do. Men also do not go through physical postpartum recovery, which was Joan’s other point.

  15. I want to wish you all the best, and say it is totally possible. I was on a runway in Tokyo 12 days after giving birth and managed to balance my career, which involves lots of travelling around the world, and my child, thanks to an amazing support system and artificial milk. Just wanted to add a different experience, since birth did not change the way I see my work (still love it) and I was able to get back to work with very little issues. I am not saying every woman should do it, just that it is a possibility.

  16. I’m a lawyer and I can understand your devotion to your clients and your feeling of having an ethical obligation to them. When I went on maternity leave, I had many clients depending on me, including one in a true life or death situation. I thought I could continue to help during my leave. I was wrong. I remember thinking around week 12 of my maternity leave that I was finally at a point where it wouldn’t be malpractice for me to practice law. Prior to that, I was in way too much of a mental fog from the sleep deprivation, physical exhaustion, and general upheaval that is a new baby (and I had an easy birth). I would have been doing my clients a great disservice to be working on their cases when they could have been assisted by a co-worker who could think clearly. If you have to go back for financial reasons, then you don’t have any options (sad fact about this country). But if you can take leave, please keep your mind open to taking it – not because a medical emergency happens but because you may find you need or just WANT it. I hope this all works out for you and I hope you won’t feel locked into proving you can do this now that you have announced your plan to the world. I had NO idea – of course, no one does – what it would be like and how I would feel. It will be easier for your employer and co-workers if they anticipate you will be out for the full leave and are then pleasantly surprised when you maybe return early. They will make plans. They will cover for you just as you would cover for them. Your clients will be fine. No one is indispensable (except, perhaps, a mother to her baby).

  17. Something I think might be helpful to help broaden this discussion would to keep in mind that for a LOT of families, mom-baby one-on-one bonding for 4-12 weeks after birth isn’t desirable, practical, or even possible. Plenty of women are pregnant, give birth, and want to go back to work ASAP: this is ok. Plenty of women work part-time jobs or jobs that don’t offer any semblance of maternity leave and they can’t stay at home even if they really want to, so their children go to day care during the day or stay with family and friends: also ok. And plenty of parents adopt children, and they don’t have a chance for any kind of bonding for the first 6-18 months: also ok. Stay at home dads are on the rise — dads staying home with the kids from the very beginning.

    I’m not saying that mom-baby bonding isn’t real or isn’t important, because I don’t think that… but I do think it’s worth pausing to consider the many ways families live their lives, especially when it’s different from how you are living yours.

    • I like the point about adoption. My step brother was adopted at a few days old, and due to his parents style he never did really bond. I know adults who weren’t adopted until a few years old who are incredibly bonded with their parents. Bonding can happen at any time. Hell, my dad and I didn’t start bonding until I was 27. 🙂

    • I personally never said anything about just mom, one-on-one time. I think it’s super important for all involved parents to be there for early bonding if possible. I know it is a really sad truth that many parents have to go back to work before they are ready, and I also know that adoptive parents may not get to meet their children until later, but I genuinely do not understand why any parent, mother or father, would want to go to work, full-time, out of the house, when their baby is only a week old. I know some have to, I just don’t get why anyone would choose to.

  18. I won’t be taking a normal mat leave, but only because I’m self employed. I’ll take the time I feel I need, go with the flow and start working part-time on my business when I feel ready. I don’t know how long that will be but I figure maybe three or four months.

    It kind of blows my mind taking so little time off truthfully, but you have to do what’s right for you. Here in Ontario standard mat leave is one year and can be split with your partner if you choose. Even that one year seems like not a lot of time. I spend a couple days a week with my nine month old cousin and can’t imagine leaving the little guy in a daycare all day three months from now. I don’t know how you American ladies do it so early! It’s hardcore.

    • I’m so jealous of all you Canadian mamas. I am taking a full year off here in the states and it is a super big financial strain, in a living paycheck to paycheck, not sure how we’re going to pay our bills kind of way. You are all so lucky to be able to make that choice more easily.

      • Yes, we are very fortunate. It does make the descision easier and it’s very unusual, in my experience, for women to take less than that. One of our best friends is having a baby in Kansas a month before us and she gets 12.paid days off and she’s a teacher. That sort of thing blows my mind. I hope that one day there are more options for mat care and leave for the ladies if the US.

      • Take that jealousy and turn it into something productive. The ability to take the parental leave that your family needs (including the ability to choose to take less leave, the ability to take leave after a miscarriage, and the ability to take leave to bond with an adopted child) is a human rights issue. Reproduction happens and it is the responsibility of employers and governments to ensure that when two people make a baby, one of those people is not adversely affected by that choice, beyond the adverse affects that nature bestows on some of us! Make sure that your situation and its consequences is known and understood by those in power – employers, government agencies etc. Many developed countries have family-friendly laws, and there is no reason why other countries couldn’t develop them if they really wanted to.

  19. Whenever the author wants to go back to work is fine with me.

    But I just want to comment on the idea of love and caring being limitless and/or renewable because I noticed a lot of commenters reaffirming this. For me, becoming a parent taught me these things are not limitless resources. I went back to work two weeks after my first child was born because I was self-employed and the family’s breadwinner. I was able to bring my little bun with me sometimes and had a flexible enough schedule that I could nurse on demand, etc. However, I was in a caregiving industry and found it very difficult to be as caring to my clients as I had been before partly because I was so exhausted all the time, but also because my baby seemed to suck me dry of all nurturing capabilities. I even contemplated giving away our dogs–something I never thought I’d do and always judged other new parents for doing–because I just didn’t have a lick of energy left to even pet them, let alone walk them, and I felt guilty every time I looked at them. As my son got older and needed me less, I began to be able to spread myself around again, but four years later, it’s still hard for me to summon the strength to take care of others (besides my kids, myself, partner and other immediate family members).

    Of course not everyone will share this experience–and the transition into motherhood is always easier with lots of support (something I didn’t have with no family nearby)–but I recently read this piece wherein a philosopher explains what was happening for me: http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/pure-genius/q-a-stephen-asma-philosopher-on-why-we-cant-love-all-humankind/9553?tag=mantle_skin;content

  20. This is not particularly on-topic but have you really ever had to use Gaelic? I find it hard to believe that there is anyone who speaks Gaelic but not English.

  21. I had the same thoughts initially. I am a teacher and really love what I do. I was due at the end of the fall term and I planned to come back to work at the beginning of the next term which was about 5 weeks later. I had planned to work up until the week I was due. Lets just say things changed.

    A little over a month before I was due I could no longer walk from the train station to my job in a reasonable amount of time. (I commuted 2.5 hours each way and the last 5 minutes was walking). The 5 minute walk turned into a 25 minute waddle down the street.

    I was pretty relieved after that the next term was 5-6 weeks away because I couldn’t walk much after the birth, in fact, it took me 4 weeks to be able to walk, sit and stand comfortably. I went back to work as usual, but it just wasn’t the same. I immediately started planning and thinking about what I could do.

    My school term will be over in 3 weeks and I do not plan on returning, as I have decided to open my own store so I can have my daughter with me everyday. I just couldn’t rationalize the commute anymore knowing that my baby girl was so far away from me and she doesn’t have to be.

  22. My only comment would be to keep an open mind and not be hard on yourself if you find out that you end up wanting to take more time off than you originally planned. Not saying you will, but as with all things Parenting, sometimes it works out differently than you imagine. One reason I take the full maternity leave benefit (12 weeks in my case) is because I wouldn’t otherwise get an opportunity to take that long a break from my job. I love it, but I also love lots of other things 🙂

  23. You’ve got my support. 🙂 I am childless, myself, but I’ve got an open mind about my future birth and child-rearing decisions. Who’s to say that maternity leave is right for all families? Blessings and wishes for a safe, beautiful birth!

  24. I went back to work one week after my first baby. I developed HELLP on a Sunday, had a c-section early Monday morning, spent 4 days in ICU, released from the hospital on Friday, back to work Monday. At first I said I was returning to work so quickly so that I could use my maternity leave for when the baby came home. I quickly realized I NEEDED work to get back to some semblance of normal. When the baby came home 6 weeks later, I took an additional week and a half before realizing the stay at home mom life is not for me. I had post partum depression, and I had it bad, and being at home wouldn’t have been good for any of us. With the second baby I planned a two week maternity leave. I made it a week. C-section on Monday, out of hospital Wednesday night, back to work Monday morning. Pretty much the only reason I didn’t return on Thursday is because it was Thanksgiving and my office was closed for a 4 day weekend. Once again, I needed work, it didn’t need me.

    Pregnancy and post partum depression are butt kickers, and I completely respect your decision to return to work right away, but don’t be afraid to consider all the reasons why it may be so important to you.

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