My friends would message me when I was on my maternity leave how lucky I am that I get to rest from work and relax all day at home. I do feel lucky I get to spend more time with kids. However, I may have rested from office work but juggling 2 constantly fighting toddlers and a fussy newborn can be challenging. We all know how tired a mommy can get be with a new baby while recuperating from child birth, and in my case, caesarean operation. Though I feel blessed and happy that I was given opportunity to spend extra amount of time to be with them but I hope people would not easily assume that my maternity leave was like a fully paid luxury spa trip. I need it to allow my body to regain its energy from my 38weeks of being pregnant. I need it so my body can recuperate from child birth and allow my painful caesarean tear to heal nicely. I need it to spend time to bond with my new baby. I need it to give extra play time, constant hugging and story time with my two toddlers so they wouldn’t feel like all my love attention is now only for their new brother. I need it so I can breastfeed my baby, do unlimited latching and constant skin-to-skin contact to encourage good breastmilk production. I need it so I can get some extra time to experience how it would feel to be a proper housewife by waking up my husband to work, making his breakfast, cooking dinner and happily filling him up on the funny cute things the kids did for the day when he gets home with both of us lying in bed to rest before we eat dinner. I need it so I can tutor my firstborn who is going to school and go for parent-teacher meetings. I need it so I can organised our home and our files & paper clutter which I can never do when I was working. I need it so I can create a daily routine for my kids which my helper would follow when I start working. I need it so I can see my eldest boy off to school when his school bus fetch him at home. I need it so I can get to have funny conversations and tickle fest with my second-born. It is wonderful and challenging at the same time. It is still work in a way. But a work that I wouldn’t mind doing and it is definitely worth it. Yes, like most jobs you would still have to do time-management, practice patience and resilience, must multi-task, learn negotiating skills (especially to a strong-willed toddler), conduct captivating presentations (like storytelling and leverage on your other talents like cooking, singing, dancing & drawing.
So no, it is not a luxury spa or a paid holiday. Mommies also put in loads of work (and loads of laundry) during maternity leave. It is not an easy breezy phase in a mom’s life. That is why she needs to take a break from her current livelihood to work on just this – “Being A Mom”. And don’t scoff on that “Being A Mom” statement. All mommies would agree that it is the hardest work out there.
I believe that it is essential for all mommies who just given birth to have an adequate maternity leave to just concentrate for the next few months to be just a mom. (But please don’t neglect your husbands too. Be a wife too. That is as important as being a mom. Because you need to care for your partner to build good building blocks to nurture your kids.) If you don’t believe me why maternity leave is so important. Go watch Ali Wong’s Hard-Knock Wife on Netflix. She is on point and so hilarious.
Despite its bits of struggle and agony, I still wish maternity leave would last for 6 months. Some even advocate maternity leave to be as long as 1 year.
My maternity leave has ended and I started working this Monday. I am entitled to 8 weeks maternity leave (which includes weekends & public holidays) as a foreigner employee. I added 3 more weeks to stay home with my boys, using my annual leave. I learned that in the United States, under the Family and Medical Leave Act, you are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth of your child. In France, as long as you are covered by the French social security system, you can take 16 weeks of maternity leave with full pay, and up to 26 weeks if you are having your third child. In Denmark, parents can receive a total of 52 weeks of paid leave per child from the government. In the U.K., paid maternity leave can extend to six months. I learned Oman expats are given 50 days paid leave.
I couldn’t bare to part with my kids just yet inspite my body’s occasional quiet screaming for a break or an alone time. Those days of me as a (temporary) stay-at-home full-time mom were blessings to me. I enjoy being with my 3 little boys. I love to seeing their happy faces when they wake up and see me still lying beside them in bed. They would often give us a cheerful “Good morning Mommy & Daddy!” or sometimes if they are still quite sleepy, they would snuggle closer to me, to give me a hug with a smile on their faces. (Yes, we co-sleep our 3 boys. I might get scolding from those who are anti-co-sleeping. But this works for us so please let us be.) It is nice to have time to be with my kids. I get to play with them, talk to them, watch movies with them, tutor Naj in his school work, breastfeed Zeke the whole day, nap with Fynn and get unlimited hugs & kisses through out the day.
On my first day of work, when my eldest got home from school at 3:30 PM, he hurriedly ask our helper, “Is Mommy home already?” I left early to work with them sleeping and I got back home & they were already asleep. (My workplace is so far away from our home.) Yesterday, I managed to get home earlier than my 1st day back to work. My two elder boys saw me from the glass window of our unit and they were screaming excitedly like their Super Hero character in the flesh, “‘Mommy! Mommy!” They ran to the front door to open the door for me. Upon getting a hug and a kiss from Naj and Fynn, I took Zeke who is squirming from my helper’s carrier. I learned Zeke does not like my expressed milk or formula milk that much. So I breastfeed him automatically, before I did anything else at home. Awww, my boys are adjusting too with me going back to work.
Maternity Leave is a necessary leave that should be given to mothers to provide adequate attention for her newborn (& other kids) and allow adequate time a proper recuperation & for mothers to regain back their strength that was lost during pregnancy and delivery. But no, it is definitely not a paid luxurious vacation.
Expat mommies around the world, how long are your paid maternity leave entitlement?