It’s been awhile since I’ve written. Not because I haven’t had time or been at a loss for ideas, but because whenever I sat down to write about maternity leaves, I ‘d get angry and tongue-tied. Rather than waste another hour trying to decide how to approach the subject with a level head, I’ve chosen to write my angry post in the hopes it will help me move on both in my heart and with this blog.
I’m a college instructor in New Jersey. With my first daughter, I was a half-timer and only eligible 6 weeks leave (my other job at the time had no maternity leave protection and could not give me financial or job support until the following semester). This time I am at full-time status and yet because I gave birth to Bean during the summer outside of my contract, I lost all of the time allotted to me with full pay (4 – 6 weeks) had I given birth during the school year. Instead, I had the option to take up to twelve weeks of leave for 60% of my salary.
This may sound like a lot. It’s not. Financially I was only able to take six weeks and even then, I was stretching the family budget. As compared to the rest of the world*, maternity leave in America, the country that prides itself on upholding family values, is laughably hypocritical at best, and downright damaging at worst.
“I’m lucky” is the mantra of these early days of my second daughter’s life. Lucky that I love my job. Lucky that I work unorthodox hours and that I’m able to spend most of my days with my girls. Lucky that the days I can’t spend with them, they are still at my home with someone who loves them.
It’s what I tell myself when I receive a text with a video of Bean crawling–a moment I missed. It’s what I tell myself when I’m painfully hand-expressing milk in a bathroom stall during my lunch break. It’s what I tell myself when I receive a call in-between classes that Bean is crying inconsolably because she misses her mother, or that she refuses to eat only taking a few tugs from a bottle during an eight-hour day. “I’m lucky,” is what I say to mitigate the frustration, anger and sorrow I feel in these moments. I’m lucky, I’m lucky, I’m lucky, I’m lucky, I’m….
*Bosnia-Herzegovina makes this list of countries with enviable maternity leave policies. The policy however encourages female hiring discrimination in a country where the unemployment rate is 30%; and its inefficient and corrupt political system has led to childcare horrors such as those that spurred the Bosnia baby revolution just months ago.