Maternity leave is a very personal topic. So I’m going to talk about my personal experience.
I was 4 months pregnant when I was hired into a new job. I am not sure this would have been possible in most circumstances and I don’t claim to be a superwoman. I had a very good working relationship with my former boss, who hired me for a new position when he moved to a new company. And I thought the new job was an exciting opportunity that I didn’t want to turn down. Believe it or not, I did not ask about the maternity leave policy before I accepted the job. I also did not tell him I was pregnant (though I felt a bit guilty about this).
The reason I did not tell him I was pregnant and did not ask about maternity leave was a combination of (a) ignorance, (b) determination and (c) professional peer pressure. I was ignorant in the sense that I did not have — nor comprehensively seek out — realistic expectations of how a baby would change my life. I was determined to make my own reality and told myself I was not going to let anyone else’s experience dictate my own. I also felt corporate peer pressure to not talk about my personal life. This was a culture that I, to some extent, created. I was the “boss” after all. And I was the “new” boss. I was at a new place, trying to change a culture that I thought was too slow at best and too lazy, at worst. I was going to lead from example, and I was not going to let a baby stop my example-setting. Without going into the gory details, it was much harder than I thought. There were a lot of long hours and moments of self-doubt but I got lucky with a few things, and pushed myself to the limit. In the end, the story had a happy ending for me (and my son).
While maternity leave is as personal and varied as motherhood itself, it is also an incredibly important policy issue. In the 1960’s something called the Family Medical Leave Act mandated that companies with over 50 employees ‘save’ a woman’s job for a minimum of 12 unpaid weeks during which time she was recovering from childbirth. Some companies are more generous, offering paid and longer leaves than the minimum, and also paternity or partner leave. However, the overall trend is not pretty. In the past 5 years, the numbers speak for themselves:
What can you do about this? You have a right as a US citizen to help convince your elected officials to vote for the things you believe in. For more information, click here