I am currently 35 weeks pregnant as I write this blog and, as most pregnant women do, I am preparing to go out on maternity leave for 2-3 months. As a career-driven woman, deciding to expand your family can be a double-edged sword, and working while pregnant comes with its own challenges and sometimes limitations. The reality of being a working woman in the United States is that you are expected to personify so many different roles and juggle them all perfectly. You should be the perfect mom that never yells at her kids and makes sure they grow into Rhodes scholars, the perfect employee who gives 110% all the time at work and solves all the problems of the office, the sex pot spouse with a steamy marriage, and be there emotionally for your friends. All of these things should be accomplished of course while also hitting the gym to stay in perfect shape, having a great nighttime skin routine, and having perfect makeup that you learned from some women on Youtube and is Instagram ready.
Honestly, sometimes being a woman is exhausting, and being a working woman, mother, friend, and spouse is 4 times as exhausting. Add to that the struggles of pregnancy (it makes you tired ya’ll) and a lack of maternity leave support in the United States and it’s no wonder that women are simply burnt out. Working while pregnant can sometimes seem nearly impossible but then add in the anxiety of wondering what it could do to your career growth and perception of you at the office.
As I get ready to go on maternity leave, I can’t help but feel a mixture of excitement but also concern about what this means for my future. I don’t mean what it will mean for our family. I know that this little boy will be a joy and a blessing to our family. I wonder how I will burden my colleagues to cover for me while I am out for 10 weeks. I wonder how my superiors will look at my leave. Will they assume that I won’t be as focused when I return? Or will my male colleagues have several months to get ahead further than me while I recover? Will I lose my edge in my career and not be considered for future promotions or advancement?
Of course, there is also the anxiety that comes along with the additional expenses of a 2nd child. One of the largest expenses? You guessed it. Child care. My husband and I have been planning for a year to prepare ourselves for the expense of daycare for two children. The fact that it costs two times our mortgage should be startling but unfortunately, it is a reality for most families. I am optimistically watching the discussions on a federal level of whether or not child care is infrastructure and I am crossing all fingers and toes that something changes on a federal level to subsidize the cost associated with daycare for young children and adding universal pre-k. I think about how that shift could mean we can move into our dream home years earlier than we are planning or that we could pay off our household expenses much sooner. We could save more for retirement. The possibilities are endless.
I wonder sometimes if those who fight against child care as infrastructure have ever had these thoughts? Is it a matter of “Well, I had to deal with it so everyone else should too”? Or is it simply that those in power positions within companies or the government have never had to worry about these issues because they had the money and resources to receive endless support.
My family is fortunate in that we are all healthy, happy, and our jobs have been unaffected by the pandemic meaning that we can afford to have two children and give them the life and love they deserve. I know that some families aren’t that lucky and are making very tough decisions about whether or not they have to leave the work force because of a lack of support to have the families that they desire. I wonder sometimes if these are questions that men ever think of or do they feel slighted because they don’t get the extra bonding time when their children are born.If men and women in the workforce demanded that the United States jump into the 21st century when it comes to the support of working women and families, how would that impact the mental health and well-being of women? How would our success be amplified?
I hope we find out the answer to those questions soon and I hope it is something that I can benefit from myself.
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