When Australia passed a parental leave law in 2010, it left the U.S. as the only industrialized nation not to mandate paid leave for mothers of newborns. Most of the rest of the world has paid maternity leave policies, too; Lesotho, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea are the only other countries that do not.
— from Paid Parental Leave: U.S. vs. The World
It’s only been a month since I last posted, but it feels like ages. Here’s what’s happening:
On February 10th, at 12 weeks old, Maggie went to daycare and I went back to work. This is how she looked as we got ready to head out the door:
I was beside myself; I cried that morning as I got her dressed. I cried on the way to daycare. I cried when we got there. I cried when we left. But this is how we left her that first morning:
Yeah, she was going to be fine.
It’s been working out ok, but the daycare is out here where we live, and David works 9 hour days to my 8, so it’s been challenging. At the present, the way our day goes is, we leave together with Maggie. I drop David off at the Metro, then drop Maggie off at daycare and then go back to the Metro and head to work (the idea being that David gets to work sooner and can leave closer to the time I do). I leave work at 4:45 sharp to allow for some Metro delays to be sure I can get to daycare no later than 6:30 when it closes (so far, so good; I’ve never been later than 6:15). Maggie and I go home and then have to go back out to pick David up from the Metro, usually between 7 and 7:30. It’s this part that I hate the most, because I have to re-wrangle her, and by that time of day, she’s not her best self. David’s not convinced it’s worth the extra $4.75 a day in parking for us to drive separately; I say it’s a bargain at twice the price not to have to go out again once we’re home. This is a work in progress.
Now that Maggie’s used to daycare and we have a weekday groove, I can admit that I’m glad to be back to work. I don’t think I’m cut out to be a stay-at-home mom. I miss her every day and look forward to picking her up at daycare every night, but this is what’s best for all of us, I think. I will say, though, that 12 weeks is not enough. And I was lucky that I could take that much time–even though I had to use all of my vacation and sick time because the federal government doesn’t offer paid maternity leave–many women go back at 8, 6, or even 4 weeks after giving birth. I wasn’t even a functioning human being 4 weeks after Maggie was born; I cannot imagine being expected to do my job that soon. That there’s no federally mandated paid maternity leave in this country is a travesty.
We’re still breastfeeding; I pump three times a day at work, which is kind of a pain, but (a) I’m committed to giving her breast milk for a year and (b) it makes the day go by SO fast – basically every time I turn around, it’s time to pump again. Because I have to leave by 4:45 and try as I might I can’t seem to get to work earlier than 8:30 (which is fine, because that means Maggie’s in daycare 10 or 10.5 hours as it is, which is too much, but it can’t be helped), I don’t take a lunch hour, I just work right through. It hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be – before I went on maternity leave, I ate lunch out basically every day just for an excuse to leave the office for an hour – and it shortens my day by an hour, so it’s worth it. Like much of motherhood, it’s a tradeoff I’m making for benefit of my family.
Daycare wears Maggie out – the constant noise and lights and stimulation – so she sleeps GREAT on daycare days. We get at least 6 hours her first stretch, and only one middle of the night wake up, which is amazing. On Saturday and Sunday nights, though, we’re back to her pre-daycare 3- to 4-hour first stretch, with at least two middle of the night wake ups, which is less amazing. I trust, though, that she will eventually sleep through the night and that, for now, she still needs to eat when she wakes up, even if so many other babies (of women I know online) already sleep through the night.
If there’s one thing I’m learning as I navigate Maggie’s babyhood, it’s that all babies are different and they all do things in their own time. For example, Maggie is an independent baby and always has been. Particularly after she eats, I can leave her on her playmat or in her crib or even on her back on the floor and she will happily hang out there, kicking and babbling away, while I eat or shower or catch up on email (for the record, if I’m going to shower, I always put her in her crib; if she’s not in her crib, I’m nearby). When she’s done entertaining herself and wants attention, she lets me know. I know lots of people who say their babies want to be held almost non-stop and, to quote one of them, “won’t tolerate” being left alone. At first, I thought maybe I was doing something wrong for Maggie not to want to be held all the time (seriously, sometimes when she’s crying, all you have to do is put her down on her back and she stops), but I’ve come to realize that’s just her temperament. Hey, if it works for her, it certainly works for me – it means I don’t have to take her in the bathroom with me like some moms I know say they do!
There’s lots more to tell, but this is already so long. I’ll just leave you with this picture that shows how far Maggie has come from the days when tummy time was constant crying, followed by putting her head down and just giving up on life. She still doesn’t last much longer than 5 minutes at a stretch, but look how strong she must be to hold that giant head up!