The Waning Days of My American Maternity Leave
The days of sweet maternity leave freedom are nearing their end and we at chez Tiny House are now faced with the not-so-pleasant conundrum of trying to figure out what we’ll be doing with the babe on a daily basis come mid-August. Ideally the plan would be I stay home with the Little Bean and we eke out a living on what James makes sewing canvas or, better yet, I stay home and we oomph up our canvas bucks with money made through farming! Or I stay at home and write books in the twenty minute spurts of baby-sleep and someone somehow pays me for that! Either of those ideals could go down (maybe not that last one) but most likely I’ll be back at the REI, slinging tents and teaching classes, for awhile yet. I’ve had such freedom since she was born that it will be quite the change to have to schedule every little thing out and coordinate with so many people in order to go through our daily lives. The millennial Catch-22, of course, is that childcare is too pricey (I might as well stay home) so it looks like Hubs and I get to have opposite schedules for awhile if we can swing it. Cue stress! I don’t wanna think about it yet BUT I HAVE TO.
How I’d rather be spending my day.
You know every other country aside from us and six teeny tiny developing nations in THE ENTIRE WORLD has some sort of mandatory maternity leave? Every other country. Even the ones run by dictators and the ones which don’t let women drive cars and the ones which are basically one giant refugee camp. It’s nuts. The United States is the richest country in the world and somehow this is such a non-issue that 1. People don’t even realize that we’re the odd man out and 2. People that hear the phrase “paid maternity leave” think it’s some undeserved handout. Why would investing in a good start for children be considered a handout? How can we wonder why there is such inequality in our country when the only people who can afford to stay home with their child after birth (fundamental in child development, states many a study) are those who can do so without fear of losing their job or not being able to pay rent? I am “lucky” my job gives me 6 weeks paid and 6 weeks unpaid leave, and I put that in mega, very exaggerated air quotes, because I had been told how “lucky” I am to have that at least three dozen times. By Americans. My European friends are like WTF, six weeks??? How are you supposed to bond with your baby? How can you miss those milestones? Are you even feeling well enough to go back to work?
NYT don’t lie
Oh yes, this is another thing I should add to the ignoramus count above: We are a country that has ZERO IDEA on a culture-wide level of what it means to be pregnant, give birth, and raise a baby. I am a brainy 33 years old and had to study up, take a six week class, and hire a doula because I was never taught about pregnancy or birth since it’s not in our culture to go through that kind of thing together. So since no one even knows how long it’s supposed to take to form a good breastfeeding relationship, to bond with your babe, or to heal after birth how are we supposed to expect the dudes making our laws to prioritize that? A flashback to my awesome birth story here—do you REMEMBER where they stuck that needle and where I had that tear?! How can someone be expected to go back to work within a couple weeks of that (and, in the case of many women, within days)? So yes, I am lucky because I had a not-too difficult birth, a few more weeks to heal, and a supportive hubby and family around to be ordered around by yours truly for two weeks after Beancake was born. But that’s not the norm.
And since my “luck” is quickly running out, we’re in go-time to figure out a way to get me back home with the babe. If we budget like crazy we could do it now—the $435 house payment doesn’t exactly break the bank each month, though my bi-weekly Central Market shopping sprees sure do, but most likely I’ll need to have some sort of home-based income. My years of farming would certainly come in handy here but naturally we need some land to get started (Seriously…Do you have an acre or two in Kitsap you want to see full of heirloom veggies and sweet little Stapletons? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll give you as much kale and tomatoes and gratitude as your little heart could desire). When my internet pleas for vacant pasture land fails, there’s always the possibility of building up the catering biz, or going to a farmers market to sell something value-added, like homemade pasta that we make with eggs from our chickens and roll out for custies right there at the booth. All this stuff I could do on my own time and still have my sassy little sidekick along for the ride.
I’ll keep you posted on our budget plans and what scheme comes out on top in the short term. For now I will be pinching the pennies, preserving food we’ve grown for when the Little Lady starts on solids in a few months, and put all dreams of traveling with her while she’s still free to fly on hold. Fingers crossed the joys outweigh the money stresses!