Right now I feel like my inner monologue is battling with a terrible used car salesman that I argue with every single day, but instead of a used car he is selling me a used life.
“You can have it all for the low, low price of—“
“—Of what? Missing milestones in my son’s life, feeling like I’m being an absentee parent, feeling frustrated with my child because I’m exhausted, and feeling like I’m half-assing everything and there’s not enough time in the day to get everything done, having mommy guilt because if and when I do get it all done I want to rest, take a bath, have a glass of wine, have some alone time, and sleep so I don’t feel crazy?”
I’m not saying this is how things will be once my maternity leave ends, but right now that’s how I feel and it’s awful.
I have never really wanted to have it all. I think maybe I thought I did at one time, but I don’t. And I respect women that do. There are days that I wish I did feel that way. Some of my closest friends are those picture perfect wives and mothers that seem to juggle everything with grace and ease. But, there is no feeling worse to me than feeling like I am spread too thin. I’ve never had a problem finding projects for myself, but usually when I take something else on I am pretty positive I can accomplish it. There have been rare occasions I’ve had to step away from things, but it’s only because when I do something, I want to do it well. If I can’t do it well I would at least like to do it sufficiently. If I can’t do it sufficiently then why bother? I don’t want my name attached to crappy garbage work, and I’m shocked at people who do. My mother can tell you I’ve been some version of this for a long time. If I wasn’t my version of an expert at my chosen hobby that year I wouldn’t continue to do it. She thought it was fickle and indicated at a lack of wanting to practice, and maybe it was a little. I like to think of it as knowing my limitations. I may have a short attention span, but that attention span is all in to whatever it is I choose to do.
You Want Me To Do What?
I resent the notion that being made to feel like having it all is even possible. You’re telling me that I’m expected to work 40 hours a week, be a present and loving wife and mother, maintain some level of cleanliness in my home, clean myself and my child, feed us (just kidding–I don’t cook but I make that boobie juice), love my dogs, have a hobby, participate in my child’s hobbies (when he gets them), maintain my handful of meaningful friendships, bathe, sleep, exercise, and do all of it well and be happy about it? All while running on little to no sleep. That is insane and unrealistic. I refuse to accept it. Something has got to give. I have both feet in my new life as a mother and one toe dipped in my “pre-mom” life and I’m going back to my job in two weeks. I’m panicking. I’m staring at a life that I don’t recognize right in the eyes, and I feel like I’ve seen a ghost. It’s crazy that I should even feel this level of anxiety while my child is still considered a newborn.
Life Isn’t Fair—To Women
It’s not fair. And yes, I know I sound like the millennial I am right now. But it’s really not. I shouldn’t be torn right now. My hormones, my body, my mind, and everything I am says I should be with my son at basically all times. Hell, I can’t go to dinner with my girlfriends or a football game without my boobs leaking and longing to be with him. I am primal right now. I should be enjoying this time with my son and I am, but in the back of my head at all times I’m worried about what kind of parent I am going to be when I return back to work in a couple of weeks.
I’m fortunate enough that I have it a lot easier than most parents who return to work. My mother will be the one taking care of my son, and I have the privilege of working from home most days. But anyone who works from home can tell you that once your home becomes your office, the lines between your work and home life become increasingly blurred and it takes discipline to create boundaries. It’s fairly common for me to respond to emails at 11:00 at night or in the middle of Sunday brunch. Working at a job that is so integrated into my life with a baby at home that hasn’t quite figured out the joys of a nap that lasts longer than 30 minutes has me stressed, and I should be blissed out on oxytocin right now.
I am not one of these women who wants to stay home with my child until they are 12, not that there’s a thing wrong with that. Like I’ve said, I enjoy working and have no problems finding projects for myself. And I know women who were ready to return to work immediately and that is fine too, but I’m not one of them. I need more time to find that balance. I crave time with my boy. 12 weeks isn’t enough and I already feel like I’m floundering. I feel helpless, and I feel like it’s a broken system that has failed me.
So Long Savings Account
America is the only industrialized country IN THE WORLD that does not offer paid maternity leave. Yeah, you read that right. In the world. Our “progressive” country? Doesn’t offer paid maternity leave. Neither does the company that I work for, and when people talk to me about what they assume is my paid time off—I laugh in their face. They also didn’t start offering temporary disability until I was eight months pregnant. People just assume I was stupid and didn’t know about temporary disability. I knew. It wasn’t an option for me because apparently you have to have temporary disability for nine months before you ever get pregnant. What a freaking joke. To say that I am bitter is an understatement. I’m bitter that I had to use my vacation hours. Guess what? Expelling a human from your body isn’t a vacation. I’m bitter because helping that tiny human acclimate to life outside of the womb isn’t a vacation. And babies only start becoming super pleasant to be around once your 12-week FMLA stint is over. I’m sure this post makes me sound like a bitter feminist shrew, and I kind of am. I’m also bitter because women in charge are okay with these policies because “that’s how things have always been.” That kind of temperament is what gets you in trouble. That kind of reasoning is why women still get paid 75 cents to the man’s dollar. That kind of acceptance is why my savings account is dwindling because I wanted to be at home for at least 12 weeks with my newborn son.
An Antiquated System
The fact that FMLA even needs to exist blows my mind and to me is further proof that the human race treats its fellow man like garbage. I will link to the actual FMLA government page because it is worth the read and is important for mothers-to-be, but for those of you that don’t know and need to know, the short of it is this:
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) is a United States federal law requiring covered employers to provide employees job-protected and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons.
Listen, I know private companies can’t pay for people to have baby after baby or for employees to go take care of family members or get injured and never come back. I may have failed economics twice in college, but it wasn’t because I don’t understand how making money works. It was because I can’t read complex graphs, and I wanted to take a nap. In all things in life, I believe in moderation. But what this says to me is that in the 1990s, someone thought that this federal law was adequate?! Less than 30 years ago no one stopped and thought that paid maternity leave was even an option or necessary? What about paternity leave? Shouldn’t fathers get ample time to bond with their children as well? Did these people have families? If my husband was responsible for passing some half-assed law like that he would never get laid again. Ever. And to top it off, before FMLA existed my company could have given my job away despite the fact I told them I would return to work, and I’ve been a loyal and hardworking employee for the better half of a decade. What the hell, America? How are we not more advanced than this by now?
So What’s the Solution? Hell if I know.
Do I have a solution? Yeah, fix it. Give families the time they deserve. Not only is it what is best for the family and child–it is a biological need. Do I have a solution that I think will be effective immediately? No, not really. Write your Congressmen. Even if they give you a dipshit response. Stop accepting that FMLA is enough. Ask your companies to review their outdated leave policies. Write a blog. Start a ruckus. Vote for someone who gives a damn. Just stop accepting that this is normal and okay. It’s not okay. It’s bullshit. Private companies shouldn’t stand for it. States shouldn’t stand for it. And our “progressive” (backwards) freaking country needs to get its act together.
Okay, I’m worn out. Rant on pause. I would say it made me feel better, but it didn’t. I’m going to go tend to the needs of my child while he still has the 24/7, undivided attention that he deserves during the first few weeks of life.