Right now I’m 22 weeks pregnant and celebrating because I have two weeks left at work before I start my maternity leave. That’s right, I’ll be going on maternity leave at just 24 weeks pregnant. And I’ll be getting paid for it.
I saw a post on the Her View From Home Facebook page the other day where the lovely Leslie was talking about how she had to go back to work after having her girls at just 12 weeks after they were born. In a mother’s group I’m in, a gorgeous woman from Texas was saying she only gets to take 6 weeks off. Neither of these women were paid for their maternity leave.
This completely blows my mind and breaks my heart at the same time.
Here in Australia I get a minimum of 18 weeks paid maternity leave. Paid at national minimum wage (around $672 AUD per week). We can also take off up to 12 months maternity leave (beyond 18 weeks is unpaid) and still be guaranteed our job when we return. My husband is also able to take paid paternity leave as well as paid annual leave from work.
I’m one of the lucky few that has it even better though.
Because I work for the government as a Paramedic (all of our Emergency Services are government run), I get an additional 14 weeks paid at my usual pay rate. That’s a total of 32 weeks paid maternity leave. 8 months. 8 whole months I get to spend with my newborn baby without the stress of having to return to work.
Plus… I also have a lenient return to work policy where I can work part time until my child turns 5 and then return to full time if I choose. My position is guaranteed for five whole years.
I’m not telling you all of this to brag or to make you feel bad about your situation.
I’m sharing with you because I cannot possibly imagine what you go through having to choose between staying at home with your baby or being able to afford to survive.
The benefits of paid maternity leave are proven and extensive, not only for the mother, father and baby but also for businesses and society in general. Australia isn’t leading the way, we are far from it with countries like Estonia offering up to 87 weeks of paid maternity leave. But I am so incredibly grateful for the time I’ll have.
I cannot imagine the heartbreak a mother goes through when leaving her 12-week-old baby at daycare so she can go to work. At a time when you’re still recovering from your body going through one of the most incredible feats possible. Something that took 9 months to achieve and you’re supposed to be all ready to go back to ‘normal’ in just 12 weeks (not to mention the insane hormonal changes and extreme fatigue).
I cannot imagine what it is like to feel so pressured by your workplace to return. To fear that if you don’t return ‘soon enough’ you may not have a job. At a time when finding work is already difficult enough and when you’re being sent bills from the hospital for the birth (another thing we don’t have to worry about here with free healthcare, but that’s another story for another day).
Mumma, I cannot imagine being in your shoes. My heart goes out to you, it truly does. You are incredible for doing what you do – whether it’s letting go of your career so you can make the most of the time you can with your newborn, or whether it’s returning to work so you can provide for your family and keep your job.
Above all else, I hope things change for you soon. I hope America catches up to other nations and implements paid maternity leave. I hope it is realized how the short term and long term benefits far outweigh any ‘inconvenience’ of a mother taking time off work. And I hope you too can enjoy having time with your newborn without the financial stress placed upon you.