I wrote this for my blogger account 2/10/16. WIth the latest news on maternity leave, it seems relevant. Enjoy!
My sweet friend asked me a few nights ago, “how long will you have for maternity leave?” I didn't mean to laugh, but I did. It is one of those BIG issues that most pregnant women have weighing on her mind from the moment she finds out that she will need take time away from work. Some women are fortunate to have paid leave, some have unpaid leave, but job security, and others (like me) must work or not have an income, and/or jeopardize the income of their employees. Maternity leave doesn't exist for me.
I'm not going to rant about how unfair it is that we have to bear the children. Obviously, it's THE reason that women are underrepresented in the work force and make less than men. I don't think being just a mom holds us back otherwise. Dads can face similar challenges especially if they are single parents. It's the physical and emotional toll that pregnancy and child rearing takes on your entire mind and body that makes maternity or paternity necessary at least in the beginning. I am tired just thinking about it.
Special challenges for licensed professional business owners:
Law firms, like doctors' offices are unique. If the professional is not there no one works, and no one gets paid. Even if we had universal maternity leave (which I support), what happens to the support staff? Do they get unemployment while the boss is gone?
New moms who are licensed professionals with small businesses are faced with a conundrum: is being with your child more important than your business partners, employees and all of your clients?
It's not a simple answer. My sweet child will have all of his or her basic needs: a full belly and someone who loves him or her, and with him or her at all times. My clients cannot say the same. But kids need their mom, (and their mom's boobs)…at least in the beginning.
The magic number:
6 weeks? 8 weeks? 14 weeks? 52 weeks? I have done a lot of research on this, and by research, I mean that I ask every new mom how long she really needed to get back to work. I still don't have an answer. American working women are simply not the best source. In this day and age, too many American women are “powering through” to get back into the office whether or not they should.
The first answer that moms gave me is that YOU have to physically recover before pushing yourself back into work. It's a case by case basis as to when that day comes. I hate that answer… I need a number, people!
For those of you who do not know me, I have lists for lists. I plan out my entire life down to 5 minute increments. I can no longer function without a schedule in my iCal. (Vacations now require itineraries even if it's “free time.”) I am aware that it sounds sad, but in my defense missing a meeting with a client or a court date would be devastating to my credibility as a business owner and attorney, so I choose to always be on the clock.
I recently heard that a colleague is back to work with a 13-day-old. It's her first born. She is the only attorney in her solo practice where her partner also works. No lawyer = no business. I have no idea how she is physically coping with this or how her baby is physically and emotionally coping, but is what she needed.
So somewhere between 13 days and 52 weeks?
You plan, God laughs:
Since I cannot make a solid plan, or prepare myself and my company for this event, I am left with a tentative plan… 2 weeks off-line to 100% focus on my body and the baby. One week back online, but out of the office. Then a few weeks of half-days until I am ready to get back at it?
I am fortunate for a virtual office, cloud-based case management software, and a crazy excited mother who wants to steal my child and ride off into the sunset. Luckily, I know where she lives. Consequently, I have help for the first 12 weeks/18 years until the kid can go to “school.” How is this going to shake out? No clue.
So, this is definitely a problem. This is definitely something that people need to talk about and figure out. As our generation is finding themselves in start-ups and small businesses rather than corporate America, we are really going to struggle to raise our kids and our careers. Both are very much equally important labors of love. We shouldn't have to choose at which one to excel.