So apparently, there is a thing now called a “meternity” leave. In case you missed it, there was an article last week in the New York Post called “I Want All the Perks of a Maternity Leave Without Having Any Kids.”
Umm, what? That is like saying, “I want all the benefits of eating a brownie sundae without the fat, calories, or weight gain.” Or “I want to get in shape and lose 20 pounds while eating fast food every day and never going to the gym.” Or “I want to be a neurosurgeon but don’t want to go to college.”
Do you see where I’m going here? You can’t have one thing without the other… So instead of having time off work to care for a newborn child, the author of this article wants to take time off to focus on caring for herself.
Kudos. Take all the time off work you want, lady. You should take care of yourself. Pamper yourself with a manicure, pedicure, massage, and facial. Go buy yourself a new outfit while you’re at it. Find a nice relaxing hammock and cuddle up with a good book. Bury your toes in the sand and soak up the sun while you contemplate what direction to head in life. Everyone needs a mental break, I get it.
But, to try to equate reflective “me” time off work with a maternity leave is beyond unwitting.
I will try to give this woman the benefit of the doubt though, because I remember my pre-children days—feeling that it wasn’t fair that people with kids get off work “early” in many cases, to make sure that they can pick their kids up from daycare on time, while those of us without an “excuse” had to continue working. So I sort-of understand how she could misconstrue maternity leave as extra time off work that childless employees don’t ever get.
With that small concession being made, I’d like to take this opportunity to set Ms. Davies straight on what maternity leave is and isn’t.
First of all, it starts with a lot of pain… typically about 12-20 hours of extreme pain. Pain so bad you are not sure that you can do it. Pain so bad that when a nurse comes in an asks if you would like a 4-inch needle stuck in your back you gladly, even joyfully, accept the offer in order to take away some of the pain—not a “MEternity” leave yet…
Now, I won’t go through all the details of childbirth, however, suffice it to say, you will barely be able to walk for the next week. But don’t worry about that because the only time you will need to get up and move is when your baby needs something—still not a “MEternity” leave….
…like a diaper change, fed, cuddled to sleep… so maybe only like once every hour—AROUND THE CLOCK—will you need to force yourself to get up and move around to care for your helpless newborn even though you are truly the one who needs the pampering at this point—definitely not a “MEternity” leave….
Once you are all healed up—in 4-6 weeks—you can go back to your active lifestyle. You are finally able to work-out again—and you’re probably gonna want to because you will still most likely be carrying around 15-20 pounds of unwanted “baby-weight.” It just doesn’t drop off, much to every new mother’s chagrin. Caring for a newborn doesn’t lend much time to taking care of yourself. Maybe you will get a workout in and maybe you won’t. You will even have to try to sneak a shower in when your baby is napping—that is, if you aren’t napping yourself. You won’t feel like yourself. You will feel like a tired, sore, deflated balloon—but you will long to feel like yourself again. So I wish you luck on any of these endeavors because if the baby starts to cry, you have to drop whatever it is that you are doing and tend to him or her—does this ever turn into a “MEternity” leave??
NO. The answer is no.
In fact, I think most new mothers would honestly say that they could use a “meternity” leave from their maternity leave.
So, to get back to the original outrage—I mean article—“I Want All the Perks of a Maternity Leave Without Having Any Kids,” I am curious what Ms. Davies thinks those perks are?
In her article, she says, “Bottom line: Women are bad at putting ourselves first. But when you have a child, you learn how to self-advocate to put the needs of your family first. A well-crafted “meternity” can give you the same skills — and taking one shouldn’t disqualify you from taking maternity leave later.”
Maternity leave is not about you. It’s about your baby—taking care of your baby and bonding with him or her. If you don’t know how to “self-advocate” before having a child, you won’t magically develop that skill upon reproducing—and in fact, having a baby to take care of will make self-advocating even harder. You don’t have a child in order to find yourself, become self-aware, or introspective. Having a child is not about what that child can do for you or how he or she will make you feel, it is about giving of yourself to a person that you decided to bring into this world—and maternity leave is only the start of that.
If you want “me” time, that’s great. Take some time for yourself. Do what you need to do to reflect on your life and be able to stand up for yourself—every woman should get to that point. But don’t equate it with maternity leave. You don’t want maternity leave, what you are looking for is called a vacation.