Thursday, February 12, 2009

I know where we should go for spring break- maternity leave!

So I just watched one of those Momversation videos, in which a bunch of bloggers talk about various issues related to parenthood. The one I watched was "Childless by Choice", and the topic was, obviously, people who have chosen not to have children. The Momversation montage reached the typical conclusion of, "Hey- we all have choices, you make your choice and I'll make my choice and let's not judge each other!" Which, great. I'm all for not judging people, and I don't really care WHAT choices you make, as long as you refrain from sunbathing nude in my yard.

However- one thing I can't get past is this idea that it's not fair for moms to get benefits like maternity leave.

I don't know about other women, but my maternity leave was the bare minimum required by federal law- 12 weeks of unpaid leave, and then I was allowed to have my job back. The Family Medical Leave Act may be a big step up from what women used to get, which was nothing at all (maybe with a little shame thrown in for doing the thing that got us pregnant in the first place), but there is much room for improvement. Under FMLA, this same 12 weeks of unpaid leave is also available to anyone who is unable to work due to a serious health issue, or who needs to care for an immediate family member who is seriously ill (if you work for a public agency, or one that employs 50 or more people, etc.). You don't have to be a parent to qualify.

There is a reason that having a baby is lumped in with taking time off to deal with a serious health issue. Because having a baby IS a serious health issue. If people could see what maternity leave really looks like, would they still begrudge my 12 weeks?

Try this:

Run five marathons, vomit frequently, breathe and moan until your throat is raw, burst a few blood vessels, don't sleep for 24 hours, and get someone to pummel and maybe slice up your stomach and sensitive bits. Now you might have a slight understanding of how it feels to come through labor and delivery. But wait, there's more! You'll need to take lots and lots of hormones so you can experience the crazy crying jags that characterize the post-natal period. And while it hurts to walk and sit and do just about anything else, you'll need to make your way to the bathroom fairly frequently to deal with the heavy blood flow that will require football field-sized maxi-pads for the next two weeks. Also, don't forget to take your stool softeners, because even the tiniest poop is going to feel like giving birth all over again. Of course, if you're like me and you lost a ton of blood during the birth, you'll be taking massive amounts of iron that will render the stool softeners laughably ineffective.

Breastfeeding? Let's hope you're blessed with an easy time of it. But if not, you might have to deal with breasts and nipples so tender that even taking a shower is excruciatingly painful. Regardless, you might need to wander around the house topless for a few days because there is not a bra or a shirt in the world that will fit you. It can sometimes take 3 months for your breasts to stop going haywire on you. Six months later you will still be discovering dried milk splashes on the hardwood floors.

Now, before you start each day of your maternity leave, you will need to get up every two or three hours the night before. Or maybe more often! When you're finally up for the day, fix yourself a plate of food. Wait until you're really, really hungry, and then just as you're sitting down to eat, get someone to snatch the plate away. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Too bad, because sleeping and eating peaceful, well-balanced meals on a regular basis would probably help you recover faster. Oh, well.

Having a baby is a physical trauma. It is a trauma you invite when you decide to have children, and it is worth it, but maternity leave is not a vacation. It's a very necessary time of healing.

Do you still want it?

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Blogger BabelBabe said...

I will say, however, that the most relaxing vacation I have had in the past eight years is the two days I spent in the hospital after Terzo was born : )

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Jonathan said...

In Kentucky, a legislator is considering a bill that would extend handicap parking privileges to pregnant mothers and new parents.

It is, of course, creating quite a stir.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

Ha! In your case, I can understand that. (but the hospital stay after Quarto wasn't so much?)

I really thought the birth was going to be the hard part. I was woefully unprepared for the aftermath.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

Jonathan- So far, I've never used the spaces designated for pregnant women/parents of young kids. When I was pg, walking wasn't difficult for me (thought it is for some). And while it is easy enough to wrangle one baby in the parking lot, I can see how a space close to the entrance would be invaluable to someone with multiple kids.

10:11 AM  
Blogger His suzy said...

Are there really that many people up in arms over maternity leave? Maybe I'm just out of the loop. One of my best friends had a baby this past fall and is now a stay at home mom because, since she hadn't paid into LTD, all the leave she would get were her sick days. Somehow that didn't sound right to me, but I couldn't argue because I didn't really know. Granted, I think she'd be a stay at home mom anyway with 2 kids now, but I think the lack of leave helped push her (and her hubby) into that decision.

I wonder if those in the States who are against maternity leave would feel differently about it in Canada where women can have a YEAR for maternity leave?

10:56 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

Suzy- sometimes it seems to be more of a, "You got 12 weeks off, and I should get 12 weeks off, too." Or someone will say, "Well, I chose not to have children; why should I have to pick up the slack while you guys are out having babies?"

Someone once gave birth to YOU, didn't they? And aren't you glad they did?

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Betsy said...

I firmly believe that not only should women get at least a 12-week PAID maternity leave, but that men should get at least a 4-week PAID paternity leave. It goes back to our social values- if we really expect parents to raise their children, let's at least give them some time to get their feet wet- time that is not completely stressed out because they are worried about money.

However, as a condition of that paid leave, all mothers and fathers must take parenting courses during that same time frame.

I complain about a lot of things concerning my colleagues, but when a woman takes an entire semester off or a man takes 3, 4, 5, 6 weeks of leave to care for a child, I have absolutely no complaints. Time well spent, and we can all pick up some slack for their subs. We are educators, afterall, and know the incredibly importance of starting out on the right track.

7:07 PM  
Blogger Caffeinated Librarian said...

"Do you still want it?"

Nope. And it often surprises me that anyone does - but thankfully they do or we'd be extinct as a species.

But yes, I've heard the maternity leave complaint from both child-free women and gay men. I don't have much patience for it because in most cases they haven't thought the issue through or considered the situation with even an iota of empathy (as your post brilliantly points out).

I don't get it. Life is too short to get bogged down in that sort of pointless anger and resentment.

8:29 PM  
Anonymous Sasha said...

I can't even fathom people thinking it isn't fair that women get maternity leave. :-0

I've never had a child.

As for the handicap parking, the only thing I would say is to make it separate.

Being that my husband is a quad, he NEEDS the van accessible spaces to get in and out of the car. Even the handicap don't seem to think about that. Of course, we can split two regular parking spaces but then people assume we are @$$holes who don't know how to park and make a point of parking close to us anyway. *sigh*

I don't think maternity parking is a bad idea. I've seen it take a woman 35 minutes to unload the stroller (yes, I actually sat in my van and watched her. I was afraid to offer her help), the diaper bag, the kid, etc... I felt bad for her. I figured she was worn out before she even got in the store!

12:45 AM  
Blogger Bearette24 said...

I was about to mention the year in Canada, but Suzy beat me to it.

I'm envious of the 2 weeks of bleeding - I had 8! At first I thought there was something wrong with me, but the pediatrician said it was fine.

8:39 AM  
Blogger Chrissy said...

I like kids, but am no interested in having any of my own. That said, I fully support paid maternity leave, as a feminist and as a (I like to think) decent human being. We all live in the world together, and I think a world where parents have the time to take care of their children is a better one. Seems like in the long run, maternity leave (and paternity leave) would benefit everyone.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

Betsy- I love the idea of mandatory parenting classes.

CL- "And it often surprises me that anyone does..." Yeah. I remember sobbing to my mother two days post-birth, "I can't imagine anyone wanting to do this twice!" I wasn't taking about the birth, but the recovery. However, everyone who says, "You forget!" is right. You might remember that those first weeks were terrible, but the details fade over time and before you know it: "Hey! Let's do this again!"

Sasha- it never occured to me that someone might take up two spaces for that reason. Thank you.

Bearette- :) I bled for much longer than 2 weeks, but after two weeks it no longer felt like all of my internal organs were slipping out of me every time I stood up. TMI, perhaps, but I want to be real.

Chrissy- "We all live in the world together" Amen. If everyone had that spirit of community, our world would be a better place.

12:18 PM  
Blogger Bearette24 said...

oops...pediatrician ;)

1:25 PM  
Blogger His suzy said...

I should add something about Canadian maternity leave. I'm not confident about this, but I've heard that the 12 months covers both parents. So, the dad could take 2 months leave and that would give the mom 10 months. If that's the case, I think that's even cooler than the mom just getting 12 months.

5:45 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

B- I didn't even catch that. I've been known to say that I'm taking Lion to the vet.

Suzy- that's nice. Mike took a 3 weeks of family sick leave after L was born. He is almost never sick, so he had plenty.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Caro said...

In civilized countries, I believe maternity leave lasts much longer. Alas, we are not civilized. Pooh.

10:15 PM  
Blogger Caro said...

Whoops, wrote that before I read all the other comments.

10:17 PM  
Blogger Roxanne said...

I vote that we should all move to Canada and start making babies!

1:10 AM  

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