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I Didn’t Know How Important Fully Paid Maternity Leave Was Until My Boss Insisted I Take It

My husband and I hit the ground running when we got married.  Six weeks after we said our “I do’s,” those two wonderful pink lines showed up on that little white stick, letting us know we were expecting our first baby.

Eighteen months after our son was born, our daughter joined the family.  Nineteen months after her arrival, our third baby, another girl, joined the crew.  We celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary cuddled up on the couch with our three babies.  Like I said, we hit the ground running.

Then I got my dream job

Between babies number two and three, I got my dream job working for a pro life ministry.  The job allows me to work from home, travel, and to put my time and energy into both my family life and serving mothers and children.  I always enjoyed working, but felt strongly called to be home with my children.  This job allows me the benefit of working, serving a cause I deeply care about, and staying home with my kids.

Having a boss who truly cared

When I first got the job, I was battling Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety as well as Hypermesis Gravidarum.  Most days I felt like I was holding onto this incredible work opportunity with both hands, clutching as tight as I could despite my exhaustion and sickness.  When I was growing up, self care was valued little and accolades were valued highly.  I honestly did not think to care for myself until my body started to give out.

When I approached my boss about my health, I was met with compassion, love, and concern.  She put me in touch with the founder of our ministry who got on the phone with me despite her extraordinarily busy travel schedule and raising eight children at the same time. 

She talked to me about Hypermesis Gravidarum and even tried to assist me in finding a doctor in my area who could help me with the issue.  I knew I was working for women who work tremendously hard at their calling, but I learned all over again that I was also working for women who are deeply loving and compassionate.  

Made to feel worthy in my motherhood and in my work

I have told my boss on occasion that she does not know how much she changed my life, but I don’t think she realizes the depth of her impact on me.  Growing up I never learned how to look out for my own well-being.  I learned how to feed my pain in unhealthy ways, but I never learned how to maintain wellness.  Working myself to the point of sickness or injury was praised.  Promoting my own wellness would have been criticized as being weak.  I associated valuing wellness with laziness because it would take time away from work. 

Sometimes the love of Christ is expressed through a Southern accent and the static of a phone call.  When my boss helped me with PPD, PPA, and HG instead of chastising me for it she showed me I am worthy of being well. 

I had no idea how much I needed rest

When it came time to discuss maternity leave, I was offered twelve weeks leave.  My boss called my husband and me to let us know my leave would be fully paid.  I thought I would need about three weeks off following birth, so I was hesitant to accept this gesture. 

Following the birth of our third baby, I realized how badly I needed the rest.  In the past seven years I have moved seven times, gotten married, and had three babies, two of them being “pandemic babies”.  I had never had a paid maternity leave before, much less twelve weeks of paid leave.  I needed this time to rest and heal.

So, what does fully paid maternity leave feel like?  In a word: relief.  I have time to rest and heal.  I have released myself of so many “shoulds” and embraced hours of holding my sweet baby. 

My boss emphasizes the importance in our work of caring for mothers primarily, because when women are cared for they are empowered to care for their children.  I am seeing the importance of this in my own home.  When Mama is rested and doesn’t have to worry about missed wages or losing her job, everyone feels relief.

The sexual revolution’s unseen consequences for women

One of the tragedies of the sexual revolution in America was removing the obligation to consider women as mothers or potential mothers in the workplace.  Women were expected to work like men, so women suffered the loss of workplace accommodations for them as mothers. The legalization of abortion in America in 1973 widened the gap between mothers and workplace accommodations. 

With the option to abort babies, no other options need be explored or implemented to make working accessible to many women.  Instead of a loud, public push for working mothers to receive fair options, abortion was deemed a solution by some and others disagreed but met this non-solution with silence.

Mothers are often the last to be supported in the workplace

Options like flex scheduling, working from home, and fully paid leave are hot commodities not offered for many positions, and if any of those accommodations are offered they are usually framed as special exceptions rather than normal needs for mothers.  I can’t help but notice a large number of companies boasting claims of supporting different demographics of people, but supporting mothers through offering paid maternity leave?  Crickets.

What about the second wave feminists?  Where is their rallying cry for working mothers to receive accommodations in the workplace that make motherhood and working accessible to women on a larger scale?  Why is there not a disgusted, loud cry of offense at the notion that abortion seems to be the most economic solution for a pregnant, working woman who relies on her income and has incredibly limited options that allow her to parent and work?  Crickets.

The pro-life organization I work for lives out the pro-life message

There is a place where the rallying cry for mothers to be empowered and accommodated drowns out any lingering crickets, and that is in many factions of the pro-life movement.  I experience it first hand every time I log onto a meeting and nobody bats an eye at me cradling a baby in one arm and using a free hand to take notes.  Of course, not all work positions are suitable for remote work, but companies that hire in person positions can handle maintaining a woman’s salary while she recovers from childbirth or needs a flexible work schedule option so she can drop her kids off at school.

Beyond being more possible than many companies are willing to admit, offering paid maternity leave and other highly necessary work accommodations for one third of America’s workforce, ie: mothers, is the loving thing to do. 

Birth and the postpartum period are incredible, transforming experiences, but they are also tender experiences.  A woman in her most vulnerable state should not be expected to report back to work before she has had an opportunity to heal and bond with her baby.  It is incredibly unloving to expect a mother to put aside her healing and bonding opportunities to return to work because she cannot fund any more time off or her company policy does not allow her to take any more time off work. 

Women deserve more than just minimal efforts

We cannot praise mothers in one breath and fall silent or protest paid leave in the next breath: this places impossible expectations on mothers to perform at their job without healing their bodies and minds.  What about her wellness?  Is she not worthy of healing?

When women are given the options they need to realize their career goals, provide for their families, and be mothers simultaneously, they are empowered.  Women deserve so much more than the minimal provisions they are given and the extremely limited options they have in the workforce.  It’s time we embrace mothers, not minimally tolerate their needs, in the workforce.

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