I’m yet to understand the reluctance that the Human Resource units in some organisations have with approving maternity leave. I used to work in an organization where a new mom on maternity leave was paid half salary and then, as her resumption date approached, they would send daily reminders and even out rightly ask if she was coming back. That was if they liked her work o. If not, she might as well say goodbye.
Some new moms did. They went on maternity leave with half pay, and did not return. If I were in their shoes, I would most likely not have given it a second thought before turning in my resignation letter. Back then, I used to thank God that I had already had my babies before joining them, even though they were less than six months old. I got no new mom concessions and did not expect any.
I know of a friend who did not even get any consideration whatsoever. She was told point blank that she could take three months off for her maternity leave, but she should expect no pay. She was angry that after serving the organisation for several years, she was being treated shabbily. She was also deflated, as she needed the money. Her husband was out of a job at that time. Besides, this was her first pregnancy that was staying till full term. She had suffered terrible and several miscarriages, and she needed money to take care of bills.
She was torn, but in the end, she worked till it was a few days to her due date. It was as though the baby knew the situation, because she came right on time and 6 weeks later, after she was cleared by the doctor, this friend was back at work, leaving her baby with its grandmother. It wouldn’t have been her first choice, but it was the only choice she had as at that time.
It was so clear she was just going for the sake of it, because less than two months after her husband got another job, she dumped her job faster than anything, to go do the job that her heart really wanted; being a full time momma.
For clarification purpose, maternity leave is the time you take off your formal paying work, to care of that new life that had been growing inside of you for the past several months. That caring is a full time job on its own, involving numerous diaper changes, staying awake in the middle of the night, and breast feeding like you are a living milk tank.
And you do have a boss, one that cannot be reasoned with, and who when he/she wants something, just has to get it NOW!!!
That is notwithstanding the fact that your body has been through some heck of an experience, and it is trying its best to recover from the absence of its nine month companion, not to mention the fact that your lower half (whether C-section or vaginal birth) is wondering what on earth happened to it. It is plain wickedness, and even clueless, for anyone at all to conclude that a new mom who went on maternity leave went to enjoy herself. Na work oh! All that “E ku enjoyment” greeting should stop biko. Saying, “See how fresh you look” is just another way of saying you’re pale from being cooped up with a baby for months.
Thankfully, that wasn’t my own experience. When I had my last babies, it was during my service year, I wasn’t paid my allowance though, because someone thought it necessary and bureaucratic that I leave my new babies at home or come with them to do my monthly clearance that would have enabled me to get my stipend at the end of the month. Even though I had applied and gotten approval for my maternity leave.
It never bothered me though, as I was always celebrated for taking care of twins on my own. If anyone had thought it was a vacation, I wouldn’t have hesitated to tell them, in full detail, and even offer to swap places for an hour. It can get like that at times.
If it helps, think of maternity leave not as a vacation, but as a job exchange. New parents swap the jobs they know for shift work in poo-making and milk-sucking factory with a co-worker whose only ways of communication are tears or kicking. In addition to all of that, the shift never ends. And you can forget being promoted.
While you are chewing on that, you don’t want a co-worker who just had a baby to return directly to work, soon after having her baby, simply because she stands the risk of losing her job or she needs the money to pay her bills, especially with a new baby in tow?
Rather than the calm, hard-working team member you might have known, new parents are undergoing a huge emotional shift. It doesn’t always make them the best colleagues. They’re preoccupied with the little human being they have fallen in love with. For everyone’s sake, it pays to give them some time to regain most of their former self, before they show up for work.
Quite apart from the fact that the future of the human race depends and, barring some scientific cloning breakthroughs, will always depend on female humans making new people inside their bodies, the truth is that family leave is not a vacation.
At least on a vacation, you get to eat choice food and enjoy yummy drinks and cocktails; on maternity leave, you don’t get a choice. You watch your diet and eat whatever does not make the baby have an upset stomach. If it does, that’s another sleepless night calling. Kilometres per hour, thinking of all possible reasons for her baby’s restlessness; the content of the ogi to the moi moi that you ate will all come under scrutiny. Even baby’s poo is not left out of the investigation, it must have its own story to tell o.
Let’s not forget that the scenery is very predictive day-in day-out, and that in itself can make a new mom stir crazy.
For all our sakes, always remember that maternity leave is not a vacation and will never be one.
Cheers and more strength to new mommas!
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