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I think there are many moms who feel the same as I do; I made so many sacrifices to get the education, degrees, and had a great job where I had potential to climb the ladder. We had everything put together (in accordance to what society said we needed).
The natural next step was to grow our family and bring a little bundle of joy into mine and my husband’s lives. So, we did! We were thrilled to be living the dream with great jobs, stability, and now a little one on the way.
What I didn’t account for was the immense, uncontrollable love I would feel for this little being that I brought into this world. I didn’t know how hard it would be to separated from him after birth. And I didn’t know the bond I would create with him during those weeks of my maternity leave.
How could I leave my baby? I spent almost 40 weeks with this little one inside me only to have to give him to someone else at 12 weeks old to care for in my absence? How could I trust anyone could care and love him like I did? These feelings sent me into a spiral and I just couldn’t bare to return to work and leave my baby.
How long is maternity leave in the U.S.?
This is such a controversial topic because the U.S. doesn’t provide paid maternity leave. Instead, moms-to-be have to save up their vacation/sick time to be able to afford time off with their new addition. The U.S. does offer FMLA, basically keeping your job secure and ready for you to come back within 8-12 weeks. However, this is not paid and not every employer offers it.
Some families can’t afford to not have the income and many moms are forced to have to return to work well before they are ready. Sometimes this includes a mother returning to work within days of giving birth. This is pretty sad for our society, but I will leave that topic alone for now.
Taking all of this into consideration, a mom is forced to have to make a decision that is undeniably difficult; return to work or stay home with her child? There are times when it is just not feasible to work only to pay for daycare or a sitter. There are many things to consider after having a baby.
Why not return to work?
The many sleepless nights with my son constantly nursing and the emotions I felt knowing my maternity leave was almost over led to my own decision to not return to work. My heart physically ached at the thought of not being with my baby.
Additionally, there was the stress of having to worry about pumping during work hours and how I could maintain my supply while away from my baby. Would my baby take a bottle from someone? Will there be enough milk for him while I’m gone? This stress also hindered my supply and therefore showed me how much I needed my baby just as much as he needed me.
I knew what I was leaving behind at work; a job I really worked hard for and provided us the financial support and stability we needed. Finances are obviously a major factor to be able to survive in this world. Thus, a long, uncomfortable conversation was needed between me and my husband.
How was the final decision made?
The decision we agreed upon was that I would stay home with our son and my husband would be the primary income source. This was a HUGE decrease to our income.
Going from two incomes to one suddenly was a change we hadn’t planned on. In fact, I worked up until I gave birth to my son. Everyday leading up to his birth, I had every intention of going back to work. Therefore, we hadn’t planned or taken steps to decrease our expenses in preparation for a one income living situation.
Tips to Consider when Evaluating Returning to Work:
- Monthly bills
- Monthly income
- Daycare expenses
- Baby necessities
- Mental health
- Physical health (including baby’s health)
Debt, Monthly Bills, & Monthly Income
The amount of debt you have in addition to the monthly bills and expenses you are putting out can really change the dynamic of your family when you lose an income. This could be something that causes more anxiety and/or stress. Therefore, consider your monthly income amount and how you can cut things out to save more.
Additionally, the cost of daycare for an infant is excruciatingly painful. You may as well just double your rent or mortgage (depending on where you live) into your budget because it really is that expensive. Are you going to be able to afford daycare? Will you be working just to afford the cost of daycare?
Trust me, you don’t want to go cheap on daycare either. From my own experience working in daycare, the cheaper it is to have your child there, the higher the chances of it not working out.
Baby items are not inexpensive these days. Diapers and wipes add up very quickly. If you choose to formula feed, formula prices are out of this world. I think that price tag alone made me really want to make the breastfeeding thing work with my son (aside from other reasons).
During that first year of your postpartum journey, your hormones take time to balance out, your identity of your own being has changed, and there is quite a bit of adjusting you are going through. It can be a rough patch! Especially if you find yourself suffering with postpartum depression. For more information and resources about postpartum depression, check out The Fourth Trimester: A Postpartum Depression Guide.
Your mental health should be something to consider when determining if you will return to work after your maternity leave. If you will be negatively impacted by returning to a hostile work environment or your mental state will suffer by being away from your baby, this is a strong point to make when having that discussion.
Mental health and physical health, for both you and your baby, are equally important. While we all hope for a complication-free vaginal birth, we are not always in control of what happens.
If there is a complication in the birth or if your c-section recovery is keeping you uncomfortable, pushing yourself to go to work while in pain is not good for you and is also a key factor.
Additionally, our babies are brand new to this world and can sometimes need more support than others. If your baby has health issues which would require you to miss work often, it might be best that you stay home so that you can be able to care for them.
Having a great support system is what helped get me through this trying time. If you’re feeling alone or isolated in your decision to stay home with your baby, it can make you question your self-worth.
This change in lifestyle could also be something that puts a strain on your relationship. Therefore, having an open wave of communication with your significant other will be helpful in making this transition a smoother process.
To make it work for my little family, we did have to move in to a bigger house with other family members for me to be able to stay home. This might not seem ideal to some, but to me and my husband, it was worth the sacrifice to be able to stay home with my son.
Coincidentally, we found out a little after my son turned a year old that he had a health condition that made being in a daycare/group care environment not healthy for him. Therefore, the sacrifices we have made have been truly worth it all for him to be healthy and thriving.
How did the finances change?
The finances shifted dramatically, I won’t lie. It was a hard road in the beginning trying to figure out how to make it all work. Thankfully, I found some ways to contribute financially to my family’s income by working from home.
We still aren’t the millionaires we hope to be. However, we are able to afford our basics and that’s what is most important to us.
Will you consider returning to work in the future?
For me, I don’t have an answer yet to this. I have worked very diligently to build a small business for myself as a freelance writer. Therefore, I hope to see more and more success from that. If it works out like I imagine, then no, I will not be returning to work in the future. I will be working for myself and making my own goals instead.
My husband and I desire more children, which I would imagine would make me want to stay home all over again with each baby. Therefore, my desire to be able to work from home is stronger than ever.
Is it wrong to change your mind about returning to work after maternity leave?
From an employer’s standpoint, I’m sure this is not ideal for them to completely lose an employee. However, during my years in the workforce plus seeing family members with decades of experience, I can tell you that YOU ARE REPLACEABLE.
As harsh as that may seem, if you keeled over the day after you returned to work, they’d have someone ready to fill your shoes in no time. That being said, make your decision about returning to work based on your needs and desires, not based on what others will think about you.
Life is too short to not live it the way you want. Additionally, you won’t get this time back with your baby. If staying home with them makes you feel happier, fulfilled, and less stressed, then why not do it? Do what is right and what is best for your family!
Did you return to work after maternity leave?
How many weeks of maternity leave did you have before returning to work? Did you regret it? What was the hardest part? Did you look forward to returning? I’d love to hear you opinion on this in the comments below!