Today’s special guest post about maternity leave in the United States is authored by supermom Heather from Magical Chaos. I love her blog and make sure you check it out.
About Heather: She an [upper] twenty-something year old mom of three bright and feisty daughters. Her story begins back nearly a decade ago when I fell in love with her best friend and high school sweetheart (Princess Daddy). Since then she’s gone through a journey of job changes, college degrees, house buying and remodeling (and remodeling and remodeling again), infertility, miscarriages, a gender surprise pregnancy, raising a toddler, preschool life, a twin pregnancy, preterm labor, bedrest, NICU stays, premature birth, post partum depression, promotions, working from home, twinfants and now double (triple) trouble of active kids.
My Maternity Leave Experience
For those of you who don’t know, maternity leaves for us Americans are well? Pathetic. At my latest employer, we got 8 weeks of leave as new mothers. And no, having two babies didn’t get me two maternity leaves. In fact, I returned to work ON my due date since my girls were born 8 weeks early.
I was paid 60% of my pay with my oldest daughter. And 80% pay with my twins (because I had been with the company much longer at that point.) Had I been there more than seven years, I would have qualified for 100% pay. But still. For only 8 measly weeks.
No worries though, America gives us this awesome law they like to call FMLA. It protects us for all kinds of family related leaves as long as we meet certain requirements. It doesn’t guarantee any pay. It simply protects our jobs for… Wait for it… 12 weeks. It goes without saying that our maternity leave system is regular skewed in this country.
I returned to work exhausted, circles under my eyes, barely able to stay awake at my desk. I made mistakes often, missing important details or forgetting big meetings. Then on top of that, I got to bring in my discreet giant black bag so I could pump and store milk for my girls while I was away. I pumped every 2-3 hours for 15-20 minutes at a time. My co-workers were supportive but it still left them short handed often. And customers didn’t understand or care. I couldn’t go back and notate my secret shops with a disclaimer of “He had to wait because I was squeezing milk from my breasts like a farmer does to a cow.”
But enough about me. How about my tiny 2 month old babies that were suddenly thrust into a stranger’s arms with plastic nipples shoved in their mouths and unfamiliar settings around them. All they wanted was to cuddle against their momma, hearing her heartbeat and taking in her sweet smell but for so many families like mine, two incomes were required. And it was this or no roof over our heads.
We were very fortunate the second time. My husband received a promotion and I was able to quit after just 6 months of working. I stay home now with all three of my girls but it doesn’t change the past. You do what you have to because there’s not always a different option but that doesn’t make the leave we are given acceptable for moms, dads or babies!