before having my son last year i was fairly successful in my field. i had worked for the same company, on and off, for 12 years. about 2 years before my son was born i received 2 promotions, which put me into management roles. about a week before i found out that i was pregnant, i moved into a position overseeing 34 employees. during my pregnancy i went through an incredible amount of stress at work. i learned a lot about parenting by hiring, managing, and even firing people. i built a very successful team. i took on seemingly impossible tasks and won national recognition for my accomplishments. my manager spoke about my career path and mentioned that she felt i was poised to take on her role down the road. i was extremely dedicated and worked up until my due date.
my plans to return to work 6 weeks after the birth of my son did not work out. i had an easy pregnancy and a horrible labor and birth experience. 72 hours of labor ended in my breaking down and accepting the labor “enhancing” drugs i had vowed to avoid. my son was finally born a few hours later, but was not breathing at birth. he spent 5 days in the NICU before we finally convinced the doctors to release him. what followed were a little over 4 months of what i can only describe as a nightmare. my son had what is so frustratingly labeled “colic” (the vague and general term for babies who cry constantly) and despite my tireless efforts, nothing cured or soothed him.
my maternity leave was standard. state and federal “job protection” covered me through the first 12 weeks of my son’s life. as of the date that i was to return to work, i was nowhere near prepared to leave him. unlike many lucky women out there, i nor my husband had any family or even friends with children to help us with (or to find) childcare. at 4 months i had never left my son for more than an hour. i was still nursing, and my days were still very much like they are with a newborn: spent nursing and holding my baby while he slept. there were no “nap time” breaks or eager grandmothers to help out. my son still demanded to be held pretty much constantly. the thought of trying to suddenly dump my baby off at a daycare center seemed like an impossible one.
my husband and i discussed the idea of him quitting his job to care for our son so that i could return to work. we quickly realized this didn’t make a lot of sense for us, particularly because i was still nursing. my job required a lot of travel, and rarely had me at the same place or even in an office where i could pump. my husband was (and is) a wonderful father, but i didn’t believe that being a full time stay at home dad would be good for him, or our son. i made the difficult decision to resign from my job. at the time, i saw no other solution. i suppose i could have asked for an “accommodation” at work, which likely would have been taking a demotion to a position that kept me in an office 40 hours a week. this didn’t seem like a viable option for me, so i chose to walk away. after a few months my son had transformed into the happy, spirited boy that he is now. i often looked back on my career with regret.
my son is almost a year old, and at a healthy and happy point. he even recently began taking real, bonafide naps. i feel that he would benefit from interacting with other children. i also feel very ready to begin working again. i kept in touch with some of my colleagues, and was recently told that my former manager had accepted a new position and that her job would be available. one of my colleagues was gracious enough to reach out to the hiring manager and let him know that i would be interested. i was told by this person that the position had been opened to “internal candidates only” and that “unfortunately did not include” me.
i couldn’t help but feel a bit burned by this. had i not had a baby, i would be one of the first candidates for this job. had i not left to care for my son, i would be on track to move up the corporate ladder. but i made my choice, and it seems i have to live with it. i can’t help but think that if my husband had been in the same situation, there would have been no question as to his loyalty or dedication because he did not have to leave his job.
i realize that there are women out there for whom maternity leave is not an option at all. women who are forced to leave their jobs because of pregnancy or because they cannot take any time off to have their baby. i am also lucky enough to live in one of the three states to offer monetary compensation to women on family leave. i chose to leave my job, and i chose to care for my son above pursuing my career. i believe this was the right choice for my son and for my family. i don’t regret being a mother, or choosing to be his primary care-giver. i understand that despite my personal life, business goes on. i understand that there was work to be done in my absence. i do, however, wish that there were some sort of consideration given to women who have to take time off to care for their children. i’m not asking for a hand out, or even my job back. i can’t help but feel that i have been punished or that i am considered less ambitious or loyal because i chose to care for my son instead of return to work immediately.
a few months ago we attended a wedding, where the groom was canadian. at the wedding was one of his cousins, from calgary. she had with her her son, who was about 2 weeks older than my son. we began talking about motherhood and she mentioned that she would be returning to work in october. i was surprised that her job would be waiting for her. then she informed me that in canada, maternity leave is one year. in addition to that, the partner or spouse also receives 3 months of leave, which her husband would be taking when she returned to work. i felt both stunned and slightly infuriated by this information.
i thought back to watching president obama’s state of the union address in january. i remember audibly guffawing when he spoke about women.
Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode. This year, let’s all come together – Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street – to give every woman the opportunity she deserves. Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds.
she deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. in canada, in australia and the u.k. they believe this. in america, it’s the stuff of speeches.
a u.n. study put out this year states that the u.s. is the only western country, and one of three in the entire world, that does not provide monetary compensation for mothers on maternity leave. in june president obama published this op-ed piece in the huffington post to make a push for better rights for mothers and families in the workplace. democrats are proposing the family and medical insurance leave act that provides 12 weeks of paid leave at two thirds of the salary (capped at $1,000 per week). to fund it, payroll tax for workers and employers would increase by 0.02%. the legislation is currently stalled and has no republican sponsors. while obama has been speaking frequently about the issue this year and asking for congress to act, president obama has not endorsed the bill, likely because he is afraid of how raising taxes would affect him politically. it doesn’t seem likely that we will see any change during his tenure, or, as hilary clinton said, “i don’t think, politically, we could get it now.” i think that this is definitely an issue that democratic candidates will be talking about come election time, and it’s something that women need to stand up for. i am hopeful that one day soon america will change this and start to treat mothers fairly.