I read an article that a girlfriend posted on Facebook the other day from Scary Mommy. It’s about how hard it is to work and pump. As I read through that article, my head nodding up and down at each paragraph, I was reminded of the three months that I worked and pumped.
The article rang true for me. In addition to the woes of the working/pumping mother, my supply dropped with all the pumping. Like a woman obsessed, I would consume lactation bars, schedule a cluster pump session in my office, with the door closed (that’s an hour long session of pumping, where you pump on and off for ten minutes), aggressively track my ounce progress against my baby’s consumption at daycare and lose quality time in the lactation room at work when my office mate was in.
Put bluntly: breastfeeding your baby simply works best if you are at home with your baby. Pumping and working is a massive amount of work and only gets you so far. I wasn’t even back at work for a month before we worked through my freezer packs and were adding in formula.
But breastfeeding is only one part of the equation.
During that first year, there are so many changes. You’re learning how to be a parent. Your sleep is never predictable…even if your baby sleeps through the night early (as ours did), they’ll still go through growth spurts and need to eat during the night, teething episodes and so forth. Children grow and change quickly and that first year is a chaotic whirlwind. I remember even at one point in time where the little guy was changing dramatically each week.
So what does a working mother need?
A working mother needs grace, time and a little space.
It’s true that I was ready to go back to work at 10 weeks. But my body wasn’t quite ready as indicated with my struggle to boost my supply enough. Moreover, I ended up burning substantial amounts of PTO (paid time off) either due to my baby experiencing that initial battery of daycare crud which boosted his immunity or because he had a rough night and I got zero sleep, or because I couldn’t get out of bed because the postpartum depression was so bad.
What I really needed was the following:
- 24 weeks 100% paid maternity leave
- An extra 4 weeks of PTO to use during the first 12 weeks postpartum
- 2 weeks of caregiver leave (leave to care for a baby or family member) for the first 12 months postpartum
That type of arrangement would have allowed me to recover properly from the birth, given me the opportunity to stay home with my baby for the first six months to feed, care for the baby and adjust to the initial hurdles of having a baby. Moreover it would have given me grace and time to confront and deal with my postpartum depression. It also wouldn’t have drained all my PTO when my baby got sick. It would have reduced my stress level of worrying about missing too much work or trying to juggle who was going to stay home between my husband, myself and my baby’s grandparents.
Companies can’t provide those types of benefits all by themselves.
So yes, we can sit here and talk about the cost to businesses of this plan and blah blah blah. But that’s awfully uninventive isn’t it? Aren’t we a nation that prides ourselves on innovation? Since when do we rest with just saying, “Eh this is too hard. We can’t figure it out”. Couldn’t we supplement this type of leave with a state or federally sponsored maternity insurance?
At the end of the day we must remember: having a baby is a significant event. It’s not something you do every day. In the 45 years that I will be a productive working member of society, if I got my entire plan – we’re talking about taking 30 weeks off. That’s 30 weeks out of 2,340 weeks that I will work in my entire life. That’s 1.28% of my entire career. Granted, if I had another child, the percentage would go up…but we’re still talking about tiny numbers, guys.
Children are the future, whether you personally have one or not. Children will take care of us when we’re old. They will be our paid caretakers, they will be our unpaid caretakers, they will pay our social security, they will subsidize our health care premiums as we age.
So why can’t we truly invest in our children and the mothers and fathers that parent them?