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Maternity Leave Is a Necessity for Moms and Babies

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I ran into a woman recently who reminded me that working mothers have indeed come a long way.

Women under fifty like to discuss the challenges that we face at work. We talk about limited opportunities, harassment , discrimination, and glass ceilings. We discuss the difficulties of balancing work and motherhood and how far America has to go to properly support mothers. While those things are true, we often forget how far we’ve come in the last thirty years and what that means.

Being a working mom is hard, but we've come a long way baby...

The woman I ran into described what it was like when she had her children. She said that she returned to work after five weeks even though she could barely walk. She returned so quickly because she was afraid of losing her job. And she needed that job to support her family.

She shared her story so casually, the way people tend to share memories that are too painful to fully experience again. My heart broke for her even though she had her children a long time ago. I also stopped feeling sorry for myself. Any woman who has returned to work after having a baby feels somewhat conflicted, even if they “love their job”. Somehow the passion for your job lessens after you give birth, it might be the hormones. And for a moment, perhaps many moments, you dream about hitting the lottery, wonder why you didn’t fall in love with a rich man, and question your choice to leave your baby every day.

Returning to work after maternity leave is hard, but it gets better each day.

The conflict becomes easier as the days pass. Each day it becomes easier to go to work. You begin to think rationally and to appreciate all of your blessings. You begin to remember that the man you chose is the father of your beloved child and you remember why you fell in love with him.

Eventually, you even begin to like work again, although you can’t bring yourself to love it anymore since now that you’ve had your baby you truly understand what love is. You begin to enjoy the routine. You even begin to like having a reprieve from the baby that you love so much. And it feels good to get dressed, wear make-up and not have spit up on your clothes for a few hours.

It took me some time to feel appreciative though. I had to realize that there are other moms who make much less than I who make it work under much more difficult circumstances. I mean really I could lack a degree, work at McDonald’s and be balancing that job with motherhood. And after I heard this woman’s story, I realized that I could have been born twenty years earlier and had to return to work when my baby was still very tiny, before I could fit into any of my clothes and before I was fully healed.

American companies need better policies for working mothers, but it could be worse.

In some ways I felt as if I had returned to work a little too soon, but it could have been much worse. Also, I never worried about my job security. I am blessed to have had my child after the Family Medical Leave Act. I was guaranteed twelve weeks off. And even though the protection is for unpaid leave, I had accumulated enough Paid Time Off that I was able to get paid for the time I spent getting to know and falling in love with my baby. It was a blissful and blessed time.

We can do better in accommodating working mothers, but this woman taught me that we have come a long way baby. So, I am done lamenting my lot in life and pontificating about how things could be better. Things are actually pretty darn good.

And besides... I could be picking cotton!

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