Cool…there goes the Au Pair

In July, our family welcomed an Au Pair into our home. We did this for a few reasons:

  • We have always wanted to host an exchange student
  • We want our son to be bilingual
  • We needed to figure out our next move as our son was aging out of his daycare
  • My husband launched his business in January and I travel 1 – 3 times a month for my job…life was STRAIGHT UP CRAZY and we needed in-home help
  • It was affordable

We are about a month in and frankly, we’re in love. The program is awesome, our Au Pair is real chill, my son is learning German, I’m practicing and working on my vocabulary and I think our Au Pair is having a good time. We’re enjoying learning about our Au Pair and showing her our version of America and DC.

But also, we have a free babysitter some evenings, she can start earlier or end later as our schedule allows and it’s been awesome having an extra set of hands to help out in the evenings as we march towards bedtime.

The Au Pair program has provided us the flexibility that we craved. It’s made parenthood feel much more manageable for me which is pretty huge. It’s even made the possibility of having a second child seem not as insurmountable, if that’s the direction our family decides to go in a few years.

So, imagine my surprise when I got a letter from our Au Pair agency informing us that Trump may cancel the J1 Visa program through his Executive Order “Buy American, Hire American”.  I’m hopeful that this won’t happen. But it sincerely worries me and causes me some angst. I finally feel that our family has settled on the perfect solution to manage our busy lives, as well as enrich them. As I watch my son play with our wonderful Au Pair and listen to her instructions in a foreign language, my heart sinks at the possibility of this wonderful cultural opportunity being taken away.

I finally don’t feel like I’m drowning in the wake of managing a household, taking care of health and fitness, parenting my son, working full-time and traveling two weeks out of each month. I finally feel that we can do this…and we’re living well.

I feel frustrated at the thought of that evaporating into the air, with the stroke of a pen.

I don’t know what will happen. So until we know, we will march forward in our lives, one step at a time. We will write our representatives. We will sign our petitions. We will engage.

We will hope for the best.

We will persevere.

Postpartum World_ICON_4C_Yellow Rattle

 

 

Let’s Talk About that First Year

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?

Postpartum World_ICON_4C_Yellow Rattle