After having my first child, I cried.
I cried a lot.
There were happy tears, but in the days that followed, there were tears of pain and frustration and confusion.
I was leaking, and bleeding, and exhausted.
And my sweet baby, he cried too.
He cried a lot.
Because he wasn’t getting enough to eat at first and in the haze of new motherhood I couldn’t tell.
He cried because he had reflux and we didn’t know how to help him.
He cried because he was a baby and babies cry.
So here we all were, in a house together, crying, learning on the job, and trying our best. Like any new family.
But if there was ONE thing I wasn’t worried about during those early days and weeks, it was work.
My maternity leave was fully paid for by my employer for 12 weeks.
My job was secure.
My husband’s company didn’t have paid paternity leave yet, but he took paid vacation to be with us. And so even though there were a lot of tears, I could heal without fear of where our next meal would come from.
I could learn how to be a mother to this beautiful boy and know that I could also continue on with my career.
It would not be easy, and I would continue to cry a lot in the years that followed. But because of paid leave I didn’t have to make the hard choices that thousands of parents have to make in this country every year, every week, every day.
The choice between caring for myself and my child physically or caring for us both financially.
The choice between halting my career and having a child.
The choice between staying or going while I looked a new little human who needed me in the eyes.
We live in one of the wealthiest nations in the world, but we’re leaving folks, and in this case mainly women, behind in mass every single day.
We need to let our mothers heal and succeed.
We need to let our babies, and would it help to call them “future taxpayers”, be WITH those mothers and be financially secure.
Can employers step up here and offer paid leave? Absolutely. And when I talk about making working motherhood really WORK, I’m looking right at employers and their policies and cultures and helping women evaluate them.
But if we truly care about families and if we truly care about women, our government needs to do their part too.