While still pregnant, I was fairly certain I would be returning to work after the 12 weeks maternity leave. I had never pictured myself as a stay at home mom. I thought it would drive me crazy. Picture Charlotte in Sex and the City 2 locking herself in the closet and losing it while her children wreak havoc in the kitchen. Fast forward to the moment I met my son and knew right then and there that it would be a momentously difficult decision whether or not to return to work.
I have been a notorious job hopper since graduating from college. Teaching English in Japan, editing and proofing translation work, doing HR and PR in New York... I have never stayed at one job for more than 2 years. Although I loved my current job at the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, not having an extensive and long-lived career going on swayed my decision both ways. On the one hand, it's not like I have years and years of perfecting a specific skill in an upper level position that I'm giving up. On the other hand, it seems like finding a great job once I'm ready to go back will be that much harder.
My husband and I kept discussing the matter but never really reaching a decision about it. It wasn't until around 6 weeks postpartum, when I realized my leave was halfway over, that we really sat down and hashed it out. We had visited 3 day care centers in our neighborhood. Because of the time they close, and the length of my commute, I'd have to leave work by about 4:30pm which is, um, impossible. At one of them, I kept getting wafts of cigarette smoke during the tour and later saw several of their workers outside smoking. This freaked me out! I don't want my little baby exposed to third hand smoke 12 hours a day!!! Hello asthma!! Other than the smoking, paying $400/week and leaving my baby with strangers that were not accountable to me also sent me into a panic. What was positive about going back to work was, of course, MONEY! Dual income baby!! Also, I liked my job and my co-workers, and I was building a career and skill set.
So, we carefully weighed the pros and cons over and over and what it boiled down to was I just couldn't bare to leave baby Kenzo. So, I handed in my resignation and never looked back!
I never looked back, but that's not to say I haven't looked at other countries with envy. The US is way behind on maternity leave and support for mothers and their careers. According to Wikipedia, only 4 countries have no national law mandating paid maternity leave: Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and the United States. It's like that Sesame Street game, "one of these things is not like the other", hmmm... Sure, we have FMLA, but only companies with over a certain amount of employees are held required to abide by those guidelines.
In comparison to the US, here are some various parental leave programs I found around the world:
Japan offers 14 weeks of 60% pay and adds on 2 more months if mom and dad share the leave. Though, I can assure you paternity leave is more or less non-existent! You can take up to 1 year off, unpaid. BUT, there seems to be great amount pressure on women to outright quit before giving birth.
Canada gives 50 weeks at 55% pay, and 35 of those weeks can be shared with the dad. In Quebec (because they HAVE to be different, haha), the first 25 weeks are at 70% pay - NICE!!
The UK gives 39 weeks of paid leave, the first 6 weeks being at 90% pay and the remainder at a flat rate.
Sweden gives a whopping 16 MONTHS of paid leave, somewhere around 70-90%.
So, what was your maternity leave program like? Or did you decide to stay home - if so, how long and how did you like it?
I'm a NYC metro area mom blogger living in NJ with my Japanese husband & our 3 kids (twins plus 1), focusing on fun and honest product and travel reviews, saving moms time finding the best for their families! Find what you need in the menu bar or search section above!