Pregnancy, Parenting, Maternity Leave and Feminism- How I see it.

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As I get closer to my guess date, I begin to get a bit sad.  I know, this is a weird sentiment, but I mourn the time already that I will miss out of my child’s life once I return from maternity leave.  I was fortunate to have bosses last time that allowed me to work from home starting at 5 weeks and continue for 26 weeks at home.  I’m the breadwinner of the family and my husband is the stay-at-home dad.  I wish the roles were reversed a lot of the time, but it is what works for our family.  My husband does wonderfully with our son and I’m thankful that our son knows his dad so well.

How I Parent:

Most women that I work with return to work anywhere from 6 weeks to 12 weeks.  For me, that is way to soon.  I’m not emotionally ready to leave a baby that small, even with my husband.  Maybe I parent differently.  I exclusively breastfeed, co-sleep, like to carry my baby close to me in a baby carrier and just want to be nearby.  Maybe the separation for other women is just as bad as it is for me.  I know that when I came back from maternity leave last time, I was a whole lot more rested in appearance than other women that I know.  My son was sleeping for longer bouts (2-3 hours, vs. 1-2 hour) at night time.  Because I did co-sleep, I rarely had to wake up fully to nurse him back down.  My milk supply was fantastic too.  I didn’t start to pump for my son until I was 5.5 months.  I cried the first day that I pumped.  I felt like a cow.  I couldn’t watch my husband try and feed him for the first time with a bottle.  It ripped my heart out to see it.  I had cared and nutured for my son with the milk that my body had created.  The milk in the bottle was still mine, but it was not me.  I was no longer needed in the same way.  I could just be milked and then anyone could care for him.  I ended up pumping at work until he was 18 months old.  I know that he was healthier because of my milk, but I also think my milk supply stayed up as long as it did because I didn’t begin pumping until later.  The pump is so much less efficient than a baby.

I work in a male dominated environment.  Most of my co-worker’s wives stay at home to care for their babies.  A lot of my co-workers end up working long hours to complete all of their work for management.  I feel for them.  They want to be at home with their families but as the breadwinner of the family, I’m sure feel like they are in a bind because if they don’t stay late, then they are putting their families in danger of not providing for them.

I’m different from them though.  I’m female.  I’m the breadwinner.  My husband is the stay-at-home dad.  I know, you are saying, well your traditional roles are just reversed, but no, that isn’t true.  My co-workers may be working 40, 50, even 60 hours a week to keep up with the grind, they are not pregnant. Since they can’t be pregnant, they can’t possibly imagine what it feels like to sit in meetings throughout the day with a baby wiggling and moving around their abdomen or having a baby have hiccups and all the while trying to hide it because they don’t want to be treated differently.  They aren’t asked all the time how they are feeling (but maybe they should, I know people are just trying to be nice).  They aren’t told that they need to be extra careful about walking down stairs because they are pregnant. They aren’t treated like they are sick because their bellies are growing bigger.  Heck, my belly is not even as big as some of these guys. I’m not sick, I’m pregnant.  (Side note: That’s why I don’t have to go to the hospital either, I’m not sick, I’m just having a baby.) They aren’t constantly asked, “How much time do you have left? That baby is going to come anytime isn’t it?  Wow, look at you.  Your belly sure is growing.  Are you going to come back?  How long are you going to take off?  You better get the epidural.  What’s your due date?  What’s your due date?  What’s your due date?” If I said a few of those comments to them, it would be considered rude, not cute and sweet, like they think they are being. Now I kind of went off on a tangent there.

They aren’t juggling the balance in the same way.  They cannot birth a child with no drugs.  They do not nurse their babies at all hours of the day.  They do not type one-handed on a laptop to get their work done, while nursing a babe in the other arm.  They do not have the influx of hormones (that is probably fortunate for them.) I know that they do try to balance their family and home lives though, some of them anyway.  And I’m sure it is difficult for them too.

I’ve strayed from the reason for writing.  My point is, since I’m the breadwinner, I’m at their mercy in how they want to handle my leave.  I pray that they really will “Work with me.” As I keep being told.  I’ve requested the same leave that I took last time.  So far, I’ve only heard, “We will work with you on this.”  For a lot of people, they would probably feel, well great, I’m going to get the same leave I had last time.  For me though, that doesn’t give me the security that I need.  To me that means, that at anytime they could decide that for me to perform my job, I need to be a body in a cube.  With today’s technological advances, I think that I could do the same work from home.  Most meetings, we have the ability to teleconference.  I can log into the main network to have access to all of the servers needed.  The care of a baby’s mother is unique and I think that these co-workers would agree since most of them have wives at home.  I know some of them have similar family values that I do, but not all of them do.  Actions speak louder than words and when you see some of them putting a career first rather than what is more important, faith and family, then you question their sincerity.

Since what I ask for is unusual I sometimes think about how feminism has negatively affected the United States.  The U.S. went a different route in the feminist movement.  They advocated for equal rights in the work force, they poo-pooed those women that decided that their children and families were a very valuable resource to our society by telling them that they were less because they stayed at home.  What were these women thinking?  Of course we are different.  No we shouldn’t get less pay because we are female, but yes, we were designed to carry a baby in our womb for 10 months and we have breasts that produce milk for a reason.  We are different.  If we were all men, then one, we would all be dead for obvious reasons, but society wouldn’t be the same.  Women didn’t advocate for themselves in the ways that I wish they would.  I wish that they would have asked for more paid maternity leave.  I wish that they would have asked for more compassionate treatment when they had their babies.  I wish that they hadn’t let males dominate a field that should be left to women…childbirth.  I wish that they would have realized that to have it all, doesn’t mean a big office with a beamer in the garage.  Those are just things.  To have it all is to have your family close to you.  A link to a blog below, says it much better than I can when it comes to feminism.

But let’s go back to blaming feminism. It’s interesting that Naomi Wolf, exploring what she calls “The Achievement Myth” for women writes,
What if we in the West, by letting feminism be defined as always doing more, doing it better, and outdoing others, have failed to give our daughters a definition of success that sometimes simply lets them be? Unfortunately for us in the West, Second Wave feminism was articulated by ambitious, highly educated women who went to elite colleges and viewed professional accomplishment as the apex of overall accomplishment. Not much space was given to other forms of achievement, such as caring for elderly parents, being a nurturing member of the community, or – how very un-Western! – attaining a certain inner wisdom, insight, or peace.”


One thought on “Pregnancy, Parenting, Maternity Leave and Feminism- How I see it.

    Kristen M. said:
    February 27, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    Wow, LA, I really like this post. I completely agree with the maternity leave in the U.S. It’s ridiculous. And the way people think of it – “Well, the baby’s six weeks old, the daycare will take them now.” I really dread going back into the workforce, and I know it’s a difficult situation with the roles with you and D being reversed. Even though that’s what works for you guys, it’s kind of against the nature of men and women. I doubt Brandon could stay at home with Vivian. I know he’s great at being a stay-at-home dad, but I know being a mama you want to be with the babies. Great post 🙂 And I hope your leave works out.

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