Confessions of an American working mommy

As I’m typing this, my heart is breaking into a million tiny pieces. Today is my official first day back to work…full time…in the office.

Let me step back and say, that my entire life my identity has been centered around first, my achievements scholastically, and then my career achievements. It’s how I have always defined myself. So naturally when I thought about having children and when I got pregnant I logically thought, well of course I’ll go back to work! It’s who I am! I’ve worked very hard to get where I am in my career and I can’t imagine giving all that up. My mom was a working mother and I think it really instilled in me a sense of power and confidence that I could be a mom and a career woman too! Easy peasy, right?!

Not.

Even now, I’m still amazed at how having a little princess monkey has changed me. And it all happened in an instant. Literally. The second she came into this world my heart and mind changed. I was so not expecting that.

So, fast forward almost 4.5 months and here I am sitting at my desk in my office, fighting back the tears. I get it now. I get why so many women choose to stay home with their littles. Even if they can’t really afford it, they sacrifice what they must so then can be with them. It was THE MOST UNNATURAL feeling in the world to leave my baby this morning. My alarm sounded at 5:30am (the sweet souvenir usually sleeps in until about 8am) and she stirred laying next to me in bed. I looked down at her and swallowed hard. This was going to be impossible. She nuzzled in next to me and began to nurse and her sweet little hand caressed my chest and she fell asleep again. I had serious thoughts about calling work and quitting right there on the spot haha. I got up from bed and made daddy snuggle with her in the hopes she wouldn’t realize I was gone. It’s just not right. Babies need their mamas. It’s the natural design of things.

I’ll tell you what’s NOT natural…America’s definition of maternity leave. Blech. What a joke. You get 6 weeks of leave for a vaginal delivery and 8 weeks for a c-section. 6-8 weeks?!?! Are you kidding me? Babies cannot survive without their mamas at 6 weeks old. Ridiculous. Of course you can use the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for a few more weeks (unpaid of course), but usually this gives you at most 12 weeks with your baby. 12 weeks!!!! In fact, America ranks as THE WORST country in terms of paid maternity leave. How is that possible? See below:

The Save the Children ‘State of the World’s Mothers’ Report compares the well-being of mothers and children in 158 countries and is published every year as a celebration of Mother’s Day. This was the 2011 report.

10 Best Countries for Paid Maternity Leave:

  1. Sweden – up to 80% of average wage for up to 480 days (for mums or dads) & expected to share parental leave either in equal halves or greater part dependant on the partners consent
  2. Croatia – 100% of wages for one-year plus for mums
  3. Denmark – up to 100% of wages for 1 year (18 wks for the mums, 2 wks for the dads & the remainder to be split as the parents see fit)
  4. Serbia – up to 100% of wages for 1 year
  5. Bosnia & Herzegovina – up to 100% of wages for 1 year
  6. Albania – up to 80% of wages for 1 year
  7. Norway – pays up to 100% of wages for 42-52 weeks
  8. UK – up to 90% of wages for 39 weeks & 2-weeks  paternity leave
  9. Iceland – up to 80% of wages for 36 weeks
  10. Ukraine – up to 100% of wages for 18 weeks & a child’s carer can request leave any time before their charge reaches the age of 3

10 Worst countries for Paid Maternity Leave:

  1. United States – pays nothing for 12 weeks off
  2. Macedonia – pays nothing for 9 months off
  3. Australia  – pays nothing for one year off
  4. Kuwait  – pays 100% of wages for 10 weeks off
  5. Bangladesh  – pays 100% of wages for 12 weeks off
  6. Rwanda, Somalia & Tanzania – pays for 12 weeks off (similar to most African countries)
  7. Peru, Columbia & Ecuador – pays 100% of wages for 12 weeks off  (similar to most South American countries)
  8. Fiji  – pays a flat rate for 12 weeks off
  9. New Zealand  – pays up to 80% of wages for 14 weeks off
  10. Afghanistan  – pays 100% of wages for 13 weeks off

So a couple of things, first, we rank worse than some third world countries?!?! Does anyone else see that as ironic?? And second, who’s coming with me to Sweden?? Yes??

Why does America make you choose between being a mommy and being a career woman? Can’t we find a nice middle ground where we can be both? I would love to be that kind of role model for my daughter. Sigh. The thing that I realize now, that I hadn’t realized before the princess was born, was that being a stay at home mommy is a job JUST as important (if not more-so) than any other job you get paid to do. At this critical age you are shaping minds! How does America expect to make intelligent minds capable of keeping this country as a powerhouse and how do they expect to create wonderful law-abiding, respectful citizens if they take the mommies away?? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

I am lucky though. I am lucky enough to have found a wonderful nanny to come to my home and take care of my jewel. I realize not everyone is as lucky as me. My daughter gets to be in her own home, surrounded by all the things she is used to and comfortable with and she gets to be cared for by someone who loves her. As an American working mom, I can’t imagine it gets any better than that…short of staying home myself. So while my heart is breaking here in my office, I know she’s in great hands and probably having a grand time and not missing me (I hope I hope I hope I hope!!!)

I now have even more respect for the stay at home moms of America. You guys are incredible and doing a job that is one of the most important that you’ll ever do! And you’ve probably sacrificed a whole lot to be there with your little one(s).

So, in short, this was my confession. I am TORN between my career and being a good mom. Can I be both? That’s what I’m going to try to do. I want to show my daughter that I love her and want to give her all the best things this world and this life have to offer. I hope I can succeed. I think my heart just needs to get on board haha. I never thought going back to work would be this difficult. I guess you have to be a mom to understand. I get it now.

I hope I survive this week!

The precious Gem this morning after I left (thank you daddy for sending my way):
And just a few more pics of her adorableness heehee:
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About Em

After the loss of our first pregnancy, we took a much needed vacation to Costa Rica to enjoy each other and clear our minds. Well, as luck would have it, we brought home much more than great memories and great tans...our own little Costa Rican souvenir. Here is our journey!
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One Response to Confessions of an American working mommy

  1. Random. My comment wouldn’t post. Anyways, I said that I love that blurry laughing gummy smile pic. Jon wishes Aubrey stayed gummy smiles forever. Obviously she would not enjoy eating pureed foods for eternity. But she’s so cute.

    And where’s canada on that list? I know they get a year off, but I can’t remember if its’ paid or unpaid. I follow a few moms on twitter from there and we chatted about it before when I was still on leave.

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