On an ordinary day this working mom gets up at 6am, earlier if the baby decides to nurse in the wee hours of the night. But by 6am, if she isn’t awake, I wake her, feed her, change her, and get her situated in the bassinet so I can get Squishy Bug’s food and bag ready for daycare, and my lunch for the day.
Then Daddy gets up and makes breakfast while I wake and change Squishy Bug, then he and I and Panda have some snuggle time on the couch for a few minutes before I dash around getting dressed for work. Daddy gets Squishy Bug dressed while I get Panda settled in her carrier and put ALL the bags in the car, including all my pumping gear.
Then we are off to daycare. I get them settled then finally I make my commute to work.
I spend my day working, mostly, and worrying missing my children.
Now we love our daycare, and have grown close to a lot of the caregivers there, so I am never worried about their health and safety. Squishy Bug also has a wonderful teacher that works with the children to prepare them for preschool and kindergarten, which even surprised us in a fairly generic childcare franchise.
Overall, we have been pleased with our experience with childcare.
But like every mom, you always fear that your separation from them will affect their development. That maybe they won’t have the advantage that other children do that stayed home with their mothers prior to entering school.
Then I read this article Monday and took a big ole sigh of relief. Working Moms May Be Helping Their Kids.
It seems that for lower income families, daycare might give their children an advantage when entering school. It seemed to have little to no effect on middle income families, and only the higher income families seemed to benefit more from a stay-at-home parent.
The American population is predominately composed of lower and middle income families, so that is really good news, people.
You know what else it means? It means that our lawmakers and business owners should provide more incentive for most working moms to return to work after they have children if they want them to be prepared for the classroom.
You know where I am going with this, don’t you?
Statistically mothers who stay home with their children after childbirth for an ample period of time to establish breastfeeding continue to breastfeed, providing the recommended nutrition their child needs.
But what leave also means for mothers is time to let their body heal and adapt to baby’s schedule.
I took off 8 weeks with both of my children. Personally, it was not enough in either case. My body had not recovered enough the first time, and I was still in the bonding process and establishing nursing patterns with the second.
Another key factor? We don’t start important vaccinations in this country until the second month. So I actually had to find at home care for my children for a week while I returned to work due to the fact that they had not been vaccinated yet and could not enter daycare.
And I spent all stressful 8 weeks worrying about work and whether or not they were going to pay me or not. It was never agreed to and because my company has less than 50 employees, they are not required by FMLA.
Turns out they did pay me. It also turns out that it was probably a clerical error and they had intended not to pay me. Which is why I never dared ask for more time off.
During all that, my husband and I constantly discussed whether or not it would be worth it for me to quit. That would mean drastically paring down our lifestyle to only necessities and moving somewhere cheaper. It was more of a sacrifice than we could make without preparation. So we did the daycare shuffle and I drug my weary body back to work.
My opinion now is that all women should be guaranteed 12 weeks of PAID maternal leave by law for any employee, regardless of time with the company, company size, or any other factor.
This should be the bare minimum of leave in our country and it should be paid.
It is pointless if it is not paid.
Unpaid leave is income discrimination. My family couldn’t afford for me to take off an entire month without a pay check, and we fall comfortably in the middle income bracket.
I can’t imagine what it is like for mothers with less income to make this decision.
The government sarcastically offers 12 weeks off, but it’s unavailable to them because it is likely unpaid and they can’t afford to take care of a child if there is no income stream.
Effectively, the FMLA is a Mean Girl.
So what do a lot of these families do? The mothers quit their jobs.
They quit and then seek government support for their lack of income? I’m not an expert, but personally, that’s what I would do.
So now we have mothers out of the workforce no longer contributing to the economy, and children being raised in lower income homes at home and entering school already unprepared.
It doesn’t really make sense.
What does make sense is supporting our women so that they can nurture their children, then return to the workforce while their children are fostered and nurtured in childcare.
It seems like that is what we should have been doing all along, doesn’t it?