Dear Mr. President,
Tomorrow, I will do the unthinkable.
Once again, I will pass over a newborn. My heart will break, despite praying that I would not have to experience this pain for the fourth time.
I’m told to toughen up. I’m reminded that I should be thankful I have a job. I get told again and again that I have the easiest job of being a teacher and the best schedule that a working mother could hope for.
Yes, I have toughened up. Yes, I am thankful I have a job. And yes, I do have a wonderful schedule as a working mother.
But here I am, preparing myself to yet again leave my very new baby.
Tomorrow morning, I will race around the house to ensure that I can do as much as possible for my children before leaving for work. And despite the fact that I am just one of the hundreds of thousands of working mothers who must do what they have to do for their family, my heart breaks as I know they, too, are suffering and aching for their baby.
Hard work? I am not afraid of it. You could call me a “mompreneur, ” as I have started a photography business, a fitness business, a writing career, and a full-time job as a teacher. No, Mr. President, I am not afraid of hard work, nor do I pat a hand upon my back for doing so. Does this make me a great wife and mother? Does this make me an outstanding citizen and taxpayer? Does this put me in an elite category above others?
No. Certainly not in the least bit.
It simply makes me a decent person. It shows that I will do whatever it takes to ensure my family has what they need. I do feel blessed that I am able to help contribute to keeping our family afloat.
We are your typical middle-class family. My husband and I both have good jobs. We work hard and we provide a roof over our four children’s heads, warm beds to sleep in, and full tummies every night. Our children have everything they need, however, by the sheer grace of God, we just make it by each month after our mortgage, school loans, and bills are all paid.
But if you ask what our children want most, they’ll tell you us. They want their Mommy.
Tomorrow, I will wipe away tears, pull toddlers off of my legs, unclench tiny, little fingers from around my neck and pass over a very new baby. I will not be able to kiss boo boo’s that happen throughout the day. I will not be able to lay the babies down for their naps. I will not be able to feed my newborn when she cries for me.
Once again, I will have to try to pretend Mommy isn’t hurting or an emotional wreck inside and make my best attempt to put on a brave face for the sake of my babies. But knowing myself, no matter how courageous I strive to be, undoubtedly, tears will stream down my face. My children will see the pain in my eyes. Despite my best efforts and complete preparation, tomorrow morning will be terrible.
Tomorrow morning, I will walk out my front door only to look back at tearful faces in the window and hear the baby crying behind the door.
It will be all I can do to put one foot in front of the other, open the car door, put the key in the ignition, and drive away to work. Then I will have 20+ second graders waiting for me to inspire, love, and educate them.
Despite the absolute crushing pain I’ll be feeling inside, the emotional torment of leaving my newborn, I’ll have to dig deep for superhuman strength and try to do what needs to be done.
You see, Mr. President, the baby is now holding her head up. She is smiling all of the time, especially when she hears my voice or I come into her view. Her eyes are just now starting to focus. Even though she is nine weeks old, just a few weeks ago, she met Mommy for the first time. Her eyes locked with mine and we met.
It was in that one moment she recognized that I’m the one who is there for her as she wakes throughout the night. I’m the one who rushes to her at the first unhappy sound she makes. I’m the chest that she immediately calms when laid upon and the neck she cuddles her tiny, perfect head into. Yes, she now knows just who Mommy is.
And tomorrow, all too quickly, I must leave her.
I have such trouble wrapping my head around the thought and accepting the fact that we don’t have a paid maternity leave applicable to us. We are not given a fighting shot to be able to stay afloat while getting the critical bonding time with our babies that both our children and we as mothers need.
Tomorrow, I will miss the bonding experience that is nursing my baby.
Instead, she will struggle to eat (she doesn’t do well with the bottle) as I rush throughout my day to pump for her in a small, confined space. The thought of this alone makes my heart hurt and my frustrations rise.
And all the while I will be trying to instruct, to teach, to impact a classroom of children while my heart is breaking. I will try to mask the emotional and physical pain I’m enduring for the sake of my students that I’m entrusted to teach invaluable lessons to.
So I ask you, Mr. President, why is the United States the only developed country without laws providing paid maternity leave?
In fact, why are we one of the only countries without any paid maternity leave?
This baby that I will pass over tomorrow morning is my fourth baby. I had prayed by this point that things would be different, that I could be home longer to nurture her throughout the day. To hug her, and rock her, and kiss her as often and as much as I pleased. To bond with her and nurture her only in a way that her mother can. But that is not the case.
As one mother speaking on behalf of hundreds of thousands of hard-working mothers, please protect this vital time for a mother and newborn. Protect and respect this grace period that is so critical in ways I can’t begin to list or count.
Tomorrow, I will do the unthinkable. Somehow, someway, I will join the thousands of other women who have to pass over their newborn, walk away, and attempt to be the gladiators that we are.
But, Mr. President, wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to be a gladiator… just yet?