Why I went back to work early while on mat leave
Prior to going on mat leave for an entire year, I decided I’d be going back early.
People laughed, suggested I’d change my mind once the baby came and had no qualms about keeping their doubts to themselves. But on January 13, just shy of three and a half months after giving birth, I was back at my desk in one of Canada’s top-ranked newsrooms.
Before you start wondering what in the world I was thinking, let me clarify that I’m only there one day a week. But as a new mom, one day a week—an entire eight hours without being on call to my little adorable daughter—is a big frickin’ deal, for lack of a better term.
But I’m not the only new mom back in the workplace early, according to several articles—particularly from U.S.-based publications. I imagine this is the case because the U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn’t provide paid maternity leave.
In 2012, it was estimated that roughly 70 per cent of mothers with kids under 18 are working. Rewind to 1975, that number was at 47 per cent, nearly half of the entire working population.
The thing is, most of the U.S. moms featured in these articles describe absolutely horrifying experiences. They describe things like post-partum depression, engorged breasts at work, having to pump at work and full-time hours. None of which (except maybe the engorged tatas) are things I’ve had to deal with in my eight hour weekly ordeal.
This begs several questions: the two mains being why the U.S. isn’t doing more to accommodate new moms and back-to-work moms, and secondly, why returning to work early after having a baby is so understudied.
For me, going back to work came down to a few things. First, it was the fact that I’m still a freelancer at one of my jobs. I had a full-time job with benefits and all that good stuff, but that wasn’t where I wanted to settle down. It was my job as a freelancer in the newsroom that I really had my heart set on. And legally, they owed me nothing if I showed up knocking after a year of absence.
Second, it was to make sure I stayed up to speed with the rapid pace of that newsroom. You go on vacation for a week and come back and it honestly feels like you’re in the twilight zone. I wasn’t about to take a year off only to come back and take another year to relearn my job.
Lastly, it was about my sanity. I love my baby. I love spending my days with her. I love tummy time. I love Little Baby Bum (well, as much as any parent could possibly love it after the six millionth time), and I especially love our naps and snuggles. But too much of any one thing isn’t good for anyone. And I knew that eight hours a week would be the perfect amount of time to really help me appreciate all of those things, rather than take advantage of it and not savor every passing moment because I get too used to it.
Returning to work early was a great decision. And while it doesn’t provide any extra income (EI deducts whatever you make while on parental leave dollar for dollar), it provides me with great balance.
If you’re a mom looking to go back to work early, think it through. Do your research, but most importantly, talk to moms who have been there and done it. And after all of that, make the decision that’s best for you and best for your baby.