Having a baby is a wonderful, magical experience. Those tiny toes, their milky breath and that angelic look while they sleep — this is what we moms remember long after our babies have grown. And while all the mushy stuff causes our hearts to burst with love, the reality of a newborn can be pretty difficult.
What we often try to erase from our memories is the sleep deprivation (what time is it?), the complete lack of routine (what’s a shower?) and the incredible amount of bodily fluid (pee, spit-up, unidentifiable other?). For moms of sick or colicky babies, it can be even more trying. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first child or fifth — if you hit the three-month mark with your newborn, you deserve a mommy badge of honor.
You love them with every fiber of your being, but there’s no denying there are some tough times early on. Which is why I’m not surprised by the uproar over the new novel “Meternity.” The premise focuses on a fictional career woman who, after years of covering for her co-workers when they have kids, decides to fake a pregnancy so she too can enjoy the glories of a maternity leave.
The storyline was inspired by the author’s own longing for time off after watching co-workers have children and enjoy their coveted maternity leave. She even wrote a New York Post essay on it. While I agree that everyone deserves some time off, anyone who thinks maternity leave is a relaxing vacation from the rigors of the office is quite mistaken. To be honest, sometimes going to work is easier than staying home with a brand-new baby.
I can excuse her lack of understanding for how taxing motherhood can be (which you really don’t know until you become one). I can’t, however, excuse her lack of knowledge about just how poor parental leave really is in our country. Maternity leave in the U.S. is weak; paid leave is virtually non-existent unless you work for a very generous company. Therefore, mothers often choose between unpaid leave or rushing back to work to make ends meet.
The U.S. is the only industrialized nation without paid maternity leave, joining the ranks of other countries that provide no type of financial support for mothers, such as Swaziland, Liberia and Lesotho. Meanwhile, in Germany you get 14 weeks at 65 percent of your wages, in Japan you get 14 weeks at 67 percent, and in New Zealand you get 14 weeks at 100 percent — plus another 38 weeks unpaid.
Bottom line to the author: We don’t need someone marginalizing what mothers do get, suggesting it is a relaxing, posh vacation. What we do need is to celebrate all hardworking mothers. For those of us in the workforce, let’s push for some real change so our daughters (and sons!) don’t have to stress the same way we have had to when they decide to become parents.
The best Mother’s Day gift we can give is to pass some long-overdue federal laws about paid parental leave. Check out www.paidleave.org to learn more. For employers, support mothers and other caregivers by implementing your own leave policies and following these 4 tips for a parent-friendly culture. It’s not merely good business; the wellness of mothers, babies and families depends on it.