Every once in a while I came across something that causes me to pause and ponder –
Do I agree or disagree?
Am I offended with the proposition?
Am I outraged?
Or am I in support of it?
Do I wonder why it has never been thought of?
Does it make me feel empathy or even sympathy for the writer?
Then there are things that cause me to really think about it and reflect… because quite frankly I’m not sure how I feel…Today is one of those moments.
I came across an article about a writer Meghann Foye, titled to evoke emotional outrage and offence from a parental perspective – How to get mums all over the world to hate you… (http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/parenting/pregnancy/i-want-all-the-perks-of-maternity-leave–without-having-any-kids/news-story/b1031b2ba32ff59d5bd699284f2498c0)
Well that’s a strong start! Attention caught…please proceed…
The question asks, Should every woman have access to maternity leave – even if they haven’t had children? It appears she has published a book called Meternity where she is quoted as saying “I want all the perks of maternity leave – without have any kids”.
My immediate response and admittedly I did comment on social media (which I usually refrain from doing) was ‘Ha! Because it’s a holiday…I must have done it wrong…’
Is this a case of greener grass?
I am not outraged… Nor am I offended… But I feel she is a little misinformed and perhaps viewing maternity leave with something a little stronger than just rose coloured glasses…
I wondered if the writer was aware of other, perhaps more fitting methods of work absences such as long service leave in circumstances just like that she described – employment and loyalty to one organisation being rewarded with a three month break from work?
There’s the gap year or leave without pay where you essentially finance your own leave and time away from employment?
If Uni students can swing it…just saying….
She dobs in her friends who have switched careers and started their own business – could this be because their new life of returning to work and placing their child in care is unsustainable?
She speaks of feeling as though she needs to justify not staying back at work and mothers are using their children as excuses… Strange comparison…especially when being late as a parent has monetary penalties and a whole shift and routine awaiting for the parent once they leave work. Perhaps we need to start thinking about our own work circumstances and wondering why we feel we are expected to stay back if we’re not required or want to instead of comparing ourselves to those that leave on time, regardless of why they are able to do so.
Let’s step back to see this in a global and panoramic light.
It is has been extensively written about that mothers returning to work feel judged.
They feel as though they need to justify their work ethic and commitment to their place of employment to be able to balance their different components of life and not be treated as inferior and distracted. This is felt whether parents work full time or part time.
It has also been well documented that stay at home mothers feel judged. They feel as though the world does not value their role.
Women who have not had children feel judged. They feel as though they are being discriminated against for going against some kind of perceived natural path.
Essentially – just to be clear and fair and non excluding of any female category – all women feel judged for their employment status and their choices that flow. Heck lets go that one step further and point out that fathers feel like they are also judged and treated as less important in the world of parental leave.
Now that we have pointed out the elephant sitting nice and large in the rooms centre, let’s get to the guts of the issue. She is comparing apples and bikes….yes – apples and bikes…
Anyone who has been a carer needs no explanation of the reality. It’s not a holiday. ‘Me time’ consists of 20 seconds to execute a toilet trip regardless of what the reason for your personal needs at that time and this isn’t just for the duration of your maternity leave but for the remainder of your entire life! (Ask my mum and any mum really…).
She speaks of maternity leave being a time to shift focus to part of their lives that doesn’t revolve around work and that “your personal life takes centre stage”. Perhaps a more accurate description of maternity leave is that someone else’s growing life takes centre stage and your own life is shoved into the back of the cupboard like a forgotten can of beans. As a new mother your needs are now the last of your consideration as the hierarchy of your focus starts with your child, followed by your significant other, the house duties and work requirements and by the day’s end your head is swirling with a million to do’s for the day ahead that there is no space nor energy to give any focus to the life path you wish to have because as a parent your too caught up in ensuring your child’s development and happiness are occurring as they should.
Ms. Foye’s observation that “it seemed that parenthood was the only path that provided a modicum of flexibility” made me laugh and shake my head all at once. Maybe not all children but my child thrives in routine. If her routine is disrupted and not to her liking, it can only be compared to going out clubbing with an inseparable girlfriend who wants to go home and sleep because she has had enough and you want to have one more drink and a dance. There are tantrums and she will kill the mood and make any fun impossible until you give up and sulkingly get into the taxi and head home.
I was flattered to read that she thought women became good at self advocating and putting the needs of the family first when they have a child. She does not speak of the guilt, self doubt and judgement mothers feel everyday. She doesn’t refer to the internal conflict raging in our minds during those quite moments in the dead of night as the worries of doing it all and feeling we are failing spectacularly niggle at us.
But apples and bikes!
Mothers don’t conclude their maternity leave feeling refreshed, energised and say they have now have confidence and perspective on life and wish to live more balanced…
Mothers return from maternity leave with a head full of worries, a heart full of guilt and a strict timetable of responsibilities and obligations. A shift in that timetable can causes chaos!
I’m not one to start a rage-mob, nor am I inclined to here. Her general concept is a good one. Taking time out from your day job when you no longer feel enjoyment or passion for it to find yourself and sort out what you do what from life. That’s called leave from work… Or a productive use of after work and weekends…No need or reason to compare it to maternity leave…or to announce you want the perks without the main elements because again… Apples and Bikes!
But I suppose it has generated publicity and conversation… And I took the bait… Well done Ms. Foye… Well done…