As maternity leave comes to a close and I return to my 4th grade classroom, I am feeling overwhelmingly grateful to have had this time to care for my son. We were able to bond and enjoy one another’s company without the stresses of work. Returning to work, whether I feel like it or not, is a good thing plus it is part of life. And I am thankful to have a job to return to. However thanks to the way the system is set up, maternity leave causes me to return at a deficit. Each check will be several hundred dollars less than what I am used to. Having another child to care for in the home makes that a bit unsettling.
Especially as I return from a trip to the pediatrician’s office and pharmacy for my oldest child. Speaking of the need for unplanned, midday doctor’s appointments, even more so during cold and flu season…if I have a need to be out with either child or for myself from now until the end of the school year, I am docked another several hundred dollars per day. Many people will say, “Well if you want children, save for them” and I do agree. But just because you save for them does not mean you can afford to lose upwards of $500-$1000 per check just because you wanted to spend time with them in your first three months or because of illness. To avoid this decrease in pay, I would’ve had to take less than six weeks off. My body wasn’t even ready to be out and about every day, all day at that time. My body isn’t even ready for work clothes despite breastfeeding and losing some baby weight thanks to that and despite my attempts to work out a few weeks prior to returning. I definitely can not afford new work clothes so the same few items that do fit will be in heavy rotation.
I won’t even get into the fact that after three months, our sleep schedule is not completely intact, so there will be many tired days ahead at work. This will make it more of a challenge to give my all because I have a newborn and toddler in the home; one who needs to nurse 1-3 times through the night and another who wakes for potty purposes or because there’s a monster in her bed.
Oh and at the end of my son’s first full day away from me, though we practiced 1-2 times weekly with bottles for almost two months, my son chose to play with the bottle all day. He drank a mere 4 ounces when usually he’d nurse every 2-3 hours. I pumped around 12 ounces my first day back to work. So I know he did not get enough, but he’s not even a full 3 months yet. It’s not fair for us to have to be apart so quickly.
America’s maternity leave system really needs an overhaul. I’m a teacher of 14 years, so while I understand the need to have a qualified teacher in the room, it’s more important that she be able to do the job effectively while not worrying about the fact she cannot take even one day off and can hardly afford her life with the automatic decrease in pay. This will be my life until the new contract pay kicks in August 31. Le sigh.
Hang in there moms and dads who are going through the same thing. Make the best of your evenings and weekends with your children! I know I will.