My up hill battle with maternity leave and returning to work with mixed emotions
Finding out you’re pregnant and about to become a mom for the first time can be a bit overwhelming. Well maybe a lot overwhelming! There’s so much to think about, learn, do, etc. 40 weeks may seem like a long time but when you’re getting ready to become a first time parent it just doesn’t seem like enough to prepare for it all.
I’m a planner and proactive person by nature. I like to know what’s going to happen in the future and be prepared for it. I’m the type of person who needs to have a plan in place and follow it. Not a fan of surprises and try to forecast any problems that may appear on the way and have an idea how to tackle them ahead of time.
One of the things I had the biggest concern about during my pregnancy was maternity leave. Everything about it just made my head spin and had no idea where to even get started to prepare for it. My initial plan was always to go back to work but knew daycare was not an option for us.
Both my husband and I wanted our daughter and any other kids we would have to be home or with someone familiar we could trust. My mom was initially available so the plan throughout my pregnancy was for her to come over and watch my baby while I went to work. At the time my husband was working a 10:30am- 7pm shift and I would be switching mine to 7am- 3:30pm so the amount of time my mom would have to stay with her wouldn’t be too long.
Once that was settled, I moved on to figuring out what it was that I needed to do at work to get my maternity leave going. This was the most frustrating and overwhelming process I have ever gone through my whole life. The contradicting information, the run-around, phone numbers, paperwork, mail, it was all too much and by the end of it all I still have no clue how it all works! All that and my company wasn’t even going to pay me while I was at home taking care of my newborn baby.
At the time I had been with the company I was working for less than five years. Their policy is that if you have been working for less than this set amount of time, they don’t pay you for being out of work on a leave of absence. I live in Rhode Island which has TDI (Temporary Disability Insurance) and they pay you up to 60% of your weekly salary. I was lucky enough to qualify for this and since their payments are non-taxable and I didn’t have medical insurance coming out of it, it somewhat made up for my full check.
That seemed to work however, I then found out that while my work allowed me to take up to three months off to care for myself and my baby (unpaid); TDI would only pay me for the eight weeks I was given to recover since I had an emergency C-section. Vaginal birth you get merely six weeks! That means the rest of the other month I wouldn’t get paid at all. I ended up getting an extension since I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. I was able to get paid for the whole time I was home with my baby but at the end of the day how much time did I really spend with my baby?
Even though I tried to get all of this settled before even giving birth, I was not able to. If I called HR they would tell me to talk to my manager. I would talk to my manager who would then refer my back to HR. Then HR would direct me to my insurance company. Who then would refer me back to HR. I was dealing with all this plus TDI, while I was supposed to be at home caring for, bonding and enjoying my time with my newborn baby girl. It’s almost as if I was getting punished for bringing a human life into this world!
Then when the time came to actually go back to work it was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I couldn’t get myself to walk out the door. I just stood next to my bed dressed up ready for work holding my baby crying. I told myself this separation would be good for both of us. I wanted a career and wanted to set a good example for my daughter right from the beginning. That as a women you can have it all. Have a career, a family and be a great mom.
It was hard! Very hard. All of it! Leaving my baby every day kept getting harder instead of easier. Being at work distracted me and the fact that I liked my job helped. But I still felt like something was missing. Like I hadn’t made the right decision. Like I wasn’t in the right place.
By the time my daughter was nine months old and three babysitters later, we were faced with the decision for me to leave work. It was either that or a daycare. I really couldn’t do a daycare. I understand that many families don’t have any other option, but for me it was out of the question. I just couldn’t imagine a stranger caring for my girl. It just didn’t process or make sense of it in my head.
All of this definitely didn’t help my depression. I felt like all these things kept happening and taking me into the direction of becoming a stay at home mom. I didn’t want to accept it. Not because I didn’t want to be home with my baby. Because I didn’t want to not be able to depend on myself financially anymore. Because I wanted to succeed at being a great mom and career woman at the same time. But life didn’t want it that way.
Everything happens for a reason. Deep down inside I knew the best would be for me to stay home with our daughter. But I wanted to make it all work. At the end of the day I realised I was putting up such a battle and all I was doing was burning myself out. I could still be a good role model for my daughter even if I don’t have a full time job anymore. I can show her that women are always willing to make any sacrifice that needs to be done for the better of their children and family. And that’s a great example to set!
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