Choosing My Family Over My Job
Four months went by like the blink of an eye. One minute I was pregnant, pushing out my son and next thing I knew he was smiling at us, sleeping (a little better) at night and rolling over. The thought of being away from my son for seven hours a day, five days a week made me sick. He was still nursing about every three hours, his witching hour (the time in the evening where babies cry for no good reason and everything you do to help them makes it worse) lasted from about 4:30 until bedtime, how was he going to manage without me? Better yet how was I going to manage being away from him that long, I’d only left him for about 2 hours at a time up until then. For too many women this is what goes through their head as they prepare to go back to work after their child is born.
In the U.S. only about 12% of employees have access to paid parental leave and for most of that 12% it’s at 60% of their normal pay. FMLA passed in 1993 allows 12 weeks of unpaid leave for employees but only if they’ve worked 1,250 hours within that year and if they work for a company with more than 50 employees¹. This eliminates all part time employees and any employees at small businesses. The U.S. falls far behind all other countries with advanced economies with no mandate for paid maternity leave. The average amongst these other countries is 6 months of paid leave.²
I was lucky that my husband had started a new job the same week our son was born, as absurd as that sounds, because it meant that I got to stay home with him a little longer. Had he not, I would’ve had to go back to work after two months due to the financial strain it would’ve put us in. My best friend who also delivered her baby the same week as I had went back to work after six weeks, she was the only worker in the household and they could not survive without her income.
As I drove away that first day going 40 miles away from him I couldn’t help but cry. Why do we think this is an ok thing to do to parents? I felt that the precious moments in my child’s life were being stolen from me just so I could work at a crappy job that made me miserable. I could barely focus at work; I hoped I would be able to get the next customer off my phone fast enough to go pump before I started leaking breast milk through my shirt. My employer was so gracious as to allow one 30 minute unpaid break to enter a room slightly bigger than my bathroom at home after calling security to let them know I was going to be pumping milk for my child. I complain but really I had it better than some moms who have to retire to their car, a bathroom or an empty office just to pump.
I did this back and forth, leaving my daughters and my son who usually started bawling the instant he realized I was out of sight day after day, month after month. I tried to find the positive in working, some time away from the kids and the house, money to pay bills on time but as time passed somehow these didn’t seem like a very good reason to hardly see my kids or to be too exhausted to do anything with them once I was home; no one was happy. At that point I decided I had to do something different, I had already become a birth doula but it was more of a part time passion than a career now it was time to get to do what I loved and spend much more time with my family. After a few months of planning out our expenses, eliminating any non-essential spending I decided it was time to quit.
I pictured myself walking out the doors on my last day laughing about never having to come back to this place and getting to make memories with my kids. Instead I had a rushed phone call with my boss as my husband was leaving on a business trip and I was told they wouldn’t allow me to take the time off that I told him I was not coming back. Not quite the finale I was looking for but I had done it, I chose my family over my work and it felt amazing!