This week I put in my application for maternity leave from work. I have always been a career driven person, but most people would describe me as caring and nurturing (pats self on back). So when people find out how much time I am taking off after the birth of the baby, the reactions are quite interesting.
In Australia, the government offers the primary carer of a newborn approximately 18 weeks of pay, at minimum wage. Pretty great right? Most businesses take advantage of this offer, and do not offer a corporate maternity package. I work for a non-profit, which definitely utilises the government’s offer. Also, in Australia, businesses must hold the primary carers position for them for 12 months. Now you might be thinking, but there are 52 weeks in a year, what does that mean for the 34 remaining weeks of the 12 months?
You go without pay. If you have a partner, you are down to one salary with an extra mouth to feed and all the extra baby things. If you do not have a partner, you are up the creek without a paddle, unless you have a fairy godmother.
So, you decide that you will go back to work after the 18 weeks, and if you have timed it all correctly and the labor fairy was in time with your timeline, then you have gotten to spend a wonderful 4 months with your newborn before you ship the child off to relatives, family or childcare. Queue the sounds of mothers whipping themselves for leaving their children so young.
This is the position I am in. Hubby and I worked out several different budgets to see if we could extend my time off, even if it meant one salary for a few months. We found a couple of options which would leave us very tight financially, but do-able. However due to the timing of the birth, it will mean we only have one salary over Christmas, which is not ideal when we have 3 sets of parents between us, a brother, sisters, a niece, and all the brand new offspring of all of our friends.
I then spoke to someone at work, who I look up to, and she told me that at the time of her maternity leave, she was in the same position as us. They simply couldn’t afford it. So she came back full time after the 18 weeks, and seriously regretted it. She made comments of “just two more weeks and it would have been easier” and “easing myself back in with part time work”. I listened to these comments and took them to heart.
Hubby really wants me to stay off until the end of January and then go back full time. However, after talking to even more return-to-work mothers, whether they are 4 months, 6 months, or 12 months, it is HARD to leave them. So, after some soul searching I have decided to go back to work after the 18 weeks, part time until Christmas and then full time again in the New Year.
For the past few weeks, people have been asking me about my plans for maternity leave, and when I told them, the majority of people were shocked, some even horrified. “You can’t leave your baby!” or “It will be so small, who is going to look after it?”, and various other ‘bad-mother’ hidden comments. At first I was a bit worried, but then I started telling myself that I am doing the right thing for my family, but ensuring that we have two salaries to utilise. I am ensuring that I do not suffer extreme regret by easing myself back into work, and ultimately looking after my mental and emotional health.
For me and my family, this may not be the best decision, but I feel it is the right decision for us.
Always & Forever,
Mrs T xxx