I’ve been stewing on this blog for a while. Fuming even. Like many parents, it only took two paragraphs of the New York Post’s article on MEternity leave before I was screaming in outrage. Now, I wasn’t sure if I was going to respond. Or how. I could get angry, really angry. I mean, this woman seems to imply that parents have it really good. Only someone without children would call maternity leave a “perk”. Or, maybe a parent who wasn’t entitled to maternity leave. It got me thinking though, would I have made such a statement before I had children? I have worked with people with kids for years. And, yes, they’ve had to stay at home when their kids are sick (which, after working with someone who brought their sick kid in the office regularly, is preferred to having their germs in their office), or people who have had to leave early to pick their kids up at school. I don’t recall once judging them for it or, for that matter, feeling envious. All I can conclude is this summation of the writer stems from a place of pure selfishness, of entitlement. In fact, she is displaying toddler tendencies – “it’s not faiiiirrrrrrrr! I want one tooooooooo!” Let’s go through her article.

I couldn’t help but feel envious when parents on staff left the office at 6 p.m. to tend to their children, while it was assumed co-workers without kids would stay behind to pick up the slack.

Erm, no. No, no, no. Not from where I stand anyway. There are so many studies around that indicate parents work just as hard, if not harder, than their peers. One study indicates that working mums work longer weeks than CEOs; another indicates that parents are more productive out of pure necessity. I work a full-time job in four days. I manage to do it in the hours allocated to me. When I can’t, I stay late or start early, or check in online. For the most part though, I take pride in that efficiency. If you need to stay at work late every single day I’d be questioning your time management skills.

“You know, I need a maternity leave!” I told one of my pregnant friends.

Including this one as a side note. I hope said friend whacked her over the head with her breast pump once she was on maternity leave.

I came to believe in the value of a “meternity” leave — which is, to me, a sabbatical-like break that allows women and, to a lesser degree, men to shift their focus to the part of their lives that doesn’t revolve around their jobs.

Yes, it’s called a sabbatical. Don’t compare this to maternity leave. And why “to a lesser degree” men? We all deserve a break. Most parents would like to take a year off to do what they like to, but we can’t. And we won’t be able to do that for years. You’re confusing long-term labour, emotional turmoil and sleep deprivation with a holiday.

For those who end up on the “other” path, that socially mandated time and space for self-reflection may never come.

Bahahaha! Self reflection? It was hard enough to manage to construct a coherent sentence while on maternity leave, much less have a personal epiphany. And space? For two years I shared my body in some way with my child. I still don’t get to pee without an audience (though said audience is kind enough to say “good girl mummy” whenever I pee, which is nice). Who are you kidding?

If you poured your heart and soul into your career, you would eventually get to a director level and have the flexibility, paycheck and assistants beneath you to begin to create a work-life balance. 

Where do you live?! I want to go to there!

It seemed that parenthood was the only path that provided a modicum of flexibility. 

Oh yeah, being a parent is super flexible. We get to go out all the time, my husband and I go to the movies every week, we eat out at all the best restaurants in town, I go for a run around the lake in the mornings, I spend the afternoon at the beach on weekends. Oh wait, that was past me. Now, I am woken at god knows what hour each morning. If we go out for dinner it’s at 5pm or not at all. I’m all wobbly because I don’t exercise nearly enough, and my life revolves around nap time. Oh no, the anger is creeping in …

As I watched my friends take their real maternity leaves, I saw that spending three months detached from their desks made them much more sure of themselves.

Yowzer. I’m in awe of these women. No, I’m serious. After three months at home with a newborn I was sure of nothing. I was questioning what I did every single day. My body was changing at a rapid pace. My husband and I were trying to learn how to exist as a couple and parents. Everything I was sure of I was suddenly unsure of. After eight weeks I was seriously considering going back to work – the one place where I was sure of myself.

I think it’s necessary to say that I did enjoy my maternity leave the majority of the time. I loved it. I had a whole year to find my way as a mother, to spend time getting to know my daughter, and to grapple with the changes that were occurring in my life. I started this blog, and found myself the creative outlet I needed because I wasn’t working. It’s not all bad, and I’m not going to pretend it is for the sake of proving this woman wrong.

I do feel a little guilty ripping this woman’s article apart. After all, she does conclude that work-life balance happens most when parents and non-parents don’t judge each other – it’s a nice sentiment. I would argue that work-life balance is the result of hard work, and a supportive employer. I would also argue that the whole basis of the MEternity argument is formed from a judgement of maternity leave and parenthood, and what it may entail. We can never really know what it’s like to be on the other side of something until we have experienced it, something I’m realising more and more as I continue along this parenting journey.

For anyone looking for a particularly funny take on the article, check this out. Had me in stitches. I only wish I could write so well!

Next up: Why mums don’t take sick days

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