You have literally 2 sh*tty choices when you have a baby in the United States.
When I got pregnant with my son in 2008, I was terrified. I wasn’t scared to become a mother, but I was fearful because I was only going to get three months off from work to “bond” with my baby.
Well, this is standard procedure, I thought. Many moms in the United States do this and then find childcare for their babies when they return to work.
As expected, three months passed rather quickly and I returned to work. Only, it felt wrong. I was still breastfeeding my baby so I had to go into the bathroom to pump breast milk. When I asked my office manager if there was a refrigerator where I could store my breast milk, she looked at me like I had three heads.
Every day, I came into work and all I could think about was that I wasn’t with my baby. I came home and I swear he looked different from one day to the next.
The other major issue was that he wasn’t sleeping much, so neither was I. I was working a full-time job on four hours of sleep.
My husband and I struggled financially during that year to make ends meet. We barely had enough money for groceries, but somehow we survived. Barely, but we survived. It wasn’t pretty all the time, but I just couldn’t leave my baby at three months.
I live in New York City where daycare costs as much as renting a studio apartment.
When you choose to have children here, it seems you also have two choices: 1) stay home with them and be poor or 2) go to work to and pay thousands of dollars a month for someone else (a daycare facility or a babysitter) to watch them.
That’s messed up.
Our babysitter lived in Holland for seven years and told me that when a working woman gets pregnant there, some companies actually provide her financial incentives to support her growing family.
Holland’s got the right idea. The Dutch also value homebirth and see it as the default way to have a baby. (Hospital birth is considered an exception to the rule.)
America seems to devalue the idea of having and nurturing babies. This isn’t just about mothers either; most companies don’t have paternity leave at all and if there is any, it’s most likely unpaid.
How is the fact that we all go back to work when our babies are still infants accepted as normal? It’s not normal.
We need more time to spend with our children. Life isn’t just about working to make money — it’s about valuing our families. Americans deserve extended maternity and paternity leaves. We need to get to know our children before we return to being ourselves in the workplace.