When I told friends and family that I’d be taking a two-week maternity leave, they all had the same reaction: “You’re crazy.”
Would I have loved to take more time off for the birth of my second child? Totally, but it’s not my reality. I own an SEO company and work as a freelance journalist from home — taking more time off would leave clients in the lurch and open up the possibility that people I work for would move on to the next person.
I should know — it happened to me on my first maternity leave.
After I had my first child, I came back to a completely changed work situation. It was a shock to me, especially since my boss and co-workers seemed a little freaked out at the idea of being without me for my leave. To try to help the situation, I worked hard to train the woman — my junior — who was temporarily replacing me during the nine weeks I had planned to be out.
After I had my son, I checked out for nine weeks, confident that my replacement would do just fine in my absence.
She ended up stealing my job.
When I came back to work, I was told that, while my title was still the same, my “temporary” replacement would keep doing the work that she did while I was out. So … she would be doing my job. As for me, well, I was informed that I would be doing a lot of things that sounded like busywork — and they were.
I filed reports that no one ever read and sent emails that no one responded to. I was also left out of important meetings and email chains. When I once dared to make a suggestion to my replacement over email, she told me she “didn’t have time” to listen to me and cc’ed our boss, who told me to “leave her alone.”
I cried every day while I pumped.
But I wasn’t going to stay in a job that I was clearly being pushed out of. I started looking for a new position one week after returning from maternity leave, and five weeks later I got a job at a wonderful, family-friendly company. I stayed there for a year before deciding to set off on my own.
When I found out last year that I was pregnant again, I was thrilled … and also terrified about what would happen with my work.
That’s why I made sure this time around that no one would even get the chance to replace me during my leave. I told everyone I work with that I’d be taking two weeks off after the birth, but added that I’d be free if they needed me. I also told my SEO clients that I’d be unavailable while I was actually giving birth, but would be on email after — and I was.
So I sent a few work emails while I was in labor and again in the hospital while my newborn son was sleeping. My two-week maternity leave ended up lasting for about one week, after which I went back part-time.
Working from home means I can do pretty much what I did before giving birth — it can just be more complicated at times. I hold conference calls while nursing and type emails with one hand when my son is fussy. I’ve also had to throw in a quick “sorry — I have a newborn” when my son started having gas while I was on a phone interview.
Sure, it’s more stressful than it would be if I had a taken a “real” maternity leave. I would love to have more downtime and round-the-clock time to focus solely on my baby like I had on my first maternity leave. But this time around I also don’t have the stress of wondering whether I’ll have a job tomorrow.
Luckily, things have worked out really well, all things considered. I have a very relaxed baby who is happy to sleep in a sling while I get things done, and when he needs me, I’m there.
But the security of knowing I still have a job — and the lack of anxiety that comes with it — has made it worthwhile for me.
If Donald Trump is elected president, Miller would possibly receive six weeks of paid maternity leave for mothers who don’t already receive paid leave from their employer. However, Trump hasn’t specified how much money a woman would get, only stating that she would get paid leave “through unemployment benefits,” and he didn’t specify if self-employed workers would qualify. If that means moms would receive unemployment payments, they would earn, at most, $450 a week, about half of what the average American worker makes in a week. (However, Miller received no salary during her maternity leave, so anything would be more than that.) Under Hillary Clinton, however, she might receive 12 weeks of paid leave—and her husband would too—at a minimum of two-thirds of their salaries. Clinton has also not specified whether this would apply to self-employed workers.