“You might want to look into if you can go back to work early,” my husband told me one day when I was six months pregnant. “You know, just in case.”
“I’m not going to want to go back to work early,” I said, pretty indignantly.
“Just look into it.”
So I did. I asked my boss who simply said I could come back whenever I wanted. I didn’t have to take the full year off. I was pretty sure I was never going to need to know I could go back to work early.
Flash forward six months. My son is three months old. I’m longing for a fulfillment beyond the four walls of my house.
“Do you want to go back to work?” my husband asked one night.
As hard as it was to admit to myself, I did. And I am.
I had high hopes for my maternity leave. My year off, as people called it. I was going to spend time getting to know my son. I was going to write a novel. I was going to get up early by choice. I was going to make running a habit.
Here’s what I’ve accomplished so far: I can hold my son with one hand while preparing a bottle. I can get spit up in my hair and just brush it out. I’ve made my kid laugh.
This is what I didn’t know about maternity leave: It’s not really a year off.
OK, technically it’s a year off my from day job, but now I have another job. One that I can’t clock out of and one that doesn’t pay overtime. That’s called motherhood.
A lot is being made of maternity leave right now and how women who choose to remain childless never get to “benefit” from maternity leave thanks to the press Meghann Foye is doing to promote her new book Meternity, about a woman who fakes a pregnancy to get a maternity leave from her job.
My husband noted the notion of childless women being jealous of maternity leaves is akin to non-smokers wanted to pick up the habit so they too can take frequent smoking breaks throughout the work day.
Foye doesn’t just want a maternity leave for the time off work, but for what it means to come back to work. Her colleagues that go on maternity leave come back “more sure of themselves.”
I might go back to work in a few months reinvigorated, as Foye noted her colleagues were after their maternity leaves. I can’t really say at this point.
I can say I miss my job. That’s not to say I don’t love my kid, because I do. If the past five months with him have taught me anything, it’s this: my kid is not the centre of my universe. I love him to the moon and back, but I need to be me too.
So to all the childless women out there who want a meternity leave: get in line. I’d like one, too.