Q&A with Alexia Radchouk, mom of one and currently expecting another baby
Today I am ever so pleased to interview my second international mum, not only is Alexia Radchouk from Boston in the USA, she was born and grew up in Russia. She is 38 and already mum to a little boy. She is now expecting her second. However this will be their fourth child between her and her partner. A busy mum already and soon to be a lot busier, I’m interested to hear how she is going to cope going off on maternity leave.
Alexia works for a property and casualty insurance company that offers auto and home insurance, where she works as a Lead Product Operations Analyst. She currently manages three junior analysts and supervises two senior analysts. She has worked at her firm for five years.
H: Alexia, thank you for joining me today. Always good to hear about experiences from the other side of the pond. Plus I am guessing you have some interesting thoughts on the US maternity system vs the Russian one. So tell me, how did you feel when you found out you were pregnant with regards to your work?
A: I freaked out. Two senior analysts (also my age) are pregnant at that moment with their second children, so I thought our Managing Director and VP would hang themselves if I told them I was pregnant too. That’s a lot of people to be off at the same time.
H: Ah that must have been tricky. Did you feel nervous about telling your boss then?
A: Absolutely. I hid my bump till I could no longer hide it. I didn’t know how to break the news to them.
H: And was it as bad as you thought it would be?
A: Surprisingly he didn’t take it too badly. He seemed to be genuinely happy for me, but he did however express his concerns about my impending leave. This made me feel pretty guilty. I sign off on each project the product department needs to implement. No product defect fix goes live without my blessing. Since I am the most experienced analyst and consultant in the department, being away on maternity leave puts a big burden on my manager. I was very worried.
H: I can imagine, do you worry that your mat leave will hold you back?
A: No, I do not have this fear. Especially not the second time round. In USA the maternity leave is so short that I trust I won’t miss much. I also strongly believe that everyone is replaceable no matter how great they are. I am positive that I would feel differently living in the UK or Russia as the mat leave is a lot longer than 6-12 weeks. I know my Russian career focused friends have a huge dilemma, and they are extremely worried they will “miss the boat” during their 1-3 years leave.
What I worry about the most to be honest is the fact that my mat leave is unpaid. We cannot survive without my paycheck, so it’s going to be really hard. This means you have to make some tough decisions when deciding to start or increase a family in the states.
H: What about your identity. Do you worry you will lose it when you aren’t working?
A: I think that I am at that stage of my career and life when I have passed that phase. I doubt I would lose my identity. I am pretty solid in this regards. Neither motherhood nor career defines me.
H: That’s really good. This is something that worried me a lot at first, but now I know it was a unfounded fear as my job isn’t my identity, it doesn’t make me who I am. So how do you think you will cope going back to work after mat leave? Given you live in the US you will have to go back earlier than in the UK right? How will you deal with this?
A: I just don’t know… I had a postpartum depression due to some complications after my C-section delivery after my first born. That alongside anxiety about leaving my eight week old baby meant I ended up quitting my job to stay home for at least six months. I’m trying to get myself prepared this time but I am very concerned. I know I will feel guilty about going back to work and if I could stay home longer I would. Back in 1987 my mom had a chance to stay with my brother for three years (Russian maternity leave is up to three years; 60% paid with job security). In the end she went back to work to continue her career (which was going from strength to strength) after one year. She still speaks about it now, saying how guilty she felt when leaving my brother with a nanny.
H: Three years maternity leave. Wow. I can imagine it was such a culture shock then when you moved to America.
A: Yes, I can’t really speak to anyone at work about it either as in the USA this is the norm to have six to twelve weeks unpaid maternity leave and then you must return if you want to save your position with the company. I have a very good relationship with the founder of my company and had a chance to ask him the brave question about the maternity leave in USA. I expressed my genuine interest to learn why the USA has such an inhuman policy. He advised that in his opinion people in USA are very well paid. Hence no socialistic perks like healthcare, maternity leave, paid education, etc. I wasn’t convinced!
H: Me neither. This is why such organisations like The Pregnancy Pause have been set up. But more needs to be done for sure. It just seems so unfair to have such a short amount of time off. I don’t envy you.
A: To be a mom in USA is certainly a lot more difficult than in any other developed countries. Women are left completely on their own. No paid maternity, no monthly support money from government, daycare cost is $500 per week and allowed tax deduction is $5000 which would cover only 10 weeks of nursery. In comparison, in Russia you get a one-time lump sum of $10,000 for each 2nd+ child, and monthly money for each child until they turn 18. We call it “kid’s money”. It’s not much, but something is better than nothing. Moms there have their own challenges though, so I would say to all moms who go through the dilemma of being a mom or being a “boss/career woman” – one way or another you will feel guilty. This is a very strong feature of being human. Don’t beat yourself up about it. There is no right or wrong. Life dictates its own conditions and we have to be flexible and adapt to what life throws at us. At the end of the day our children will love us no matter what and that’s a fact.
H: Thank you Alexia. I couldn’t have said it better myself.