I firmly believe that whoever decided that 6 weeks is/should be the standard amount of time for maternity leave was obviously a man. I find it hard to believe that a woman would agree that 6 weeks with your newborn is a substantial amount of time.
Wednesday was my first day back from maternity leave. To say that it was horrible, is an understatement. The only thing I looked forward to about work (or maybe it was just my job) was a reason to actually get out of my sweats and wear make-up. In an attempt to try to make myself feel better all the way around about going back to my life pre-baby, I set up an appointment to get a new haircut on Tuesday afternoon. Unfortunately, that didn’t exactly work, nor did the fact that I was able to wear heels again and fit into some of my old clothes. All of that is superficial and it has become so secondary for me (something I never thought was possible).
My husband and I dropped our son off at day-care, the day he turned 6 weeks old, and I found myself sobbing uncontrollably in the car the entire way to work, at work, in the bathroom, and nearly in the restaurant with one of my friends at lunch. I berated myself for being a horrible mother and leaving my poor baby in the hands of strangers. The fact that a million women do this every day didn’t even console me. And to make matters worse, I called to check on my son only to hear him crying in the background. From that point forward, it was game over with me actually trying to get back into my work routine.
I spent the rest of the day doing nothing but thinking about the fact that someone else was rocking my child to sleep. I was sick at my stomach at the thought that he would wake from a nap only to see a strange face and not his mother’s. What would he think about me? Would he hate me? Would I scar him and give him a sense of abandonment? All of these scenarios played into my head and what I came to realize was that it shouldn’t be my son that I’m worried about, after all he’s much too young (which is part of MY problem) to really realize what’s going on, but it should be ME I’m concerned about.
Six weeks is almost cruel to a mother. As a mother, you get just enough time to develop an emotional attachment to your child, only to have the rug viciously jerked out from under you as you are forced back into working world. Ok, “forced” may be a strong term, but many mothers have to go back to work in order to continue to provide for their child. Six weeks could be the actual start of postpartum depression in mothers as they realize the fact that they are pulled in more directions than they ever thought possible. Why can’t society, or at least American society, extend out maternity leave to eight weeks, and then have the mother start back to work part-time for four weeks? It seems to me that this would be a good way to ease back into a routine after taking on the responsibility of another human being, the child. Four weeks of part-time allows for the mother to ease back into her career routine without the total jolt to her emotional state about leaving her child for 10 hours a day.
Fortunately for me, I may only have to survive this for a few months and perhaps I can enjoy the luxuries of being a stay-at-home mother, but for now I’m back to work. The pain I’ve felt all week has been unbearable. I’ve been unable to accomplish any substantial amount of work because basically I don’t care about my job right now. What matters to me is my child. Priorities change, money comes and goes, and right now I just have to grin and bear, but again six weeks is substandard in my book.