When it comes to taking time off after you have had a baby, it’s a tough one. Of course you want to spend time bonding with them, finding your feet in the most important role of your life and for some you can’t wait to get away from the place that you work for a while.
I am painfully aware that maternity leave it not always fairly distributed and whilst Mum’s in the UK have the right to up to 52 weeks maternity with some level of pay, those in the USA only have the right to 12 weeks of which it’s unpaid.
Being based in Portugal and having worked here now for the last 8 years, I am within their social system, which I have to say when it comes to maternity rights is pretty damn good. It allowed me the choice of 120 days at full pay or 150 days at 85% pay, additionally I was entitled to my annual leave accrual which meant that I was able to take a whole 6 months to adjust to my new life as a mother without it impacting our household on the financial side and I am so glad I was able too.
Before little man came along I was worried about the finances and as to whether taking 85% would create problems for us with the ever-growing list of bills to pay but in hindsight I would take 6 months again regardless of what I would receive and here’s why.
Firstly, if you have read any of my posts with regards to my postnatal birthing experience then you will understand that there would have been absolutely no way that I would have been physically fit to have returned to work 2 months after having had him, let alone 2 weeks which I know is a common occurrence for many. If you haven’t then you can check out these two posts to give you some idea My Post Birth Story: Why I Knew in My Heart It Wasn’t Normal or I was Prepared for Baby Blues Not Body Blues.
That aside, the position I hold in my job is one that is 24/7, demanding and never slows down, so having those first 6 months to create memories that I know will last a lifetime was important. Now little man and me have an unbreakable bond. This is great as when I come home now he is excited to see me offers be the biggest of cuddles and the time we get together is always special. Sure I feel guilty as any mum does having to leave him with others whilst I work, but I know he got my undivided attention and has had every need met. I have been able to take the time to get to know him, his ways and his wants and that means now that even when I am busy, juggling family house and work and I am able to step up and give him what he needs without having to second guess if that’s really what we wants.
I was adamant that I wanted to breastfed and whilst the first 48 hours in hospital proved testing, being home and having the time to focus on getting this right meant I kept it up and I can’t think of anything better for him. This was further hampered by my physical state and I can hands down say if I had returned to work sooner than I may not have been able to keep this up. I struggled enough at six months transitioning from breast to express, but we made it through and I am 100% certain 6 months of undivided time and attention was the reason I was able too.
But most of all, babies aren’t babies for very long. 11 months in and he isn’t my tiny little bundle anymore (although he was never really tiny) he is a proper little boy and a sad part of me weeps silently to know he will never be that again, whilst a bigger part of me is excited about the future and watching him shape up into a proper little boy.
(Of course I appreciate that no everyone could afford to take 6 months without any paid assistance and if faced with that situation when it comes to baby number two then I would be banking every last penny I could in the run up to their arrival to try to allow myself to still take 6 months or as much as I could afford)