Shared parental leave – can we not?!

Shared parental leave? Can we not. I mean seriously.

Just no.

So the UK government, in all its glory, has decided that once you have a baby, your maternity leave is up for grabs. You can if you so wish, strap down your breasts and mum tum, suck up your hormones and jiggle on back to the office, leaving your partner at home, quite literally holding the baby.

Your baby.

Ok, yes it could well be their baby too (presumably?!) but lets be real – this is your baby. Y’know, the one who has been claiming squatters rights on your bladder for the last nine months? The one who pushed his/her way out of your foo-foo (or sun-roof) leaving you a bleeding, saggy, deflated mess of blubbering hormones? The one who has been vociferously chomping down on your nipples day and night? The one who literally stole your heart and owns every bit of it from here on? Ah yes. That one.

I am of course generalising and stereotyping (shame on me hey). I do that a lot to be honest but hey, it’s my blog after all. Despite this, when I started my maternity leave with Sophie, I felt that I had thoroughly earned the time off with my baby. Not to mention saved up for it.

I needed the time to physically and mentally adjust to my new life as a mother of two. I needed the time to walk around in a sleep-deprived haze of milking and keeping our little bundle alive. I needed the time to bond with my baby. To relish and relax into the role of motherhood that consumed my life. To recover from nine months of hideous hyperemesis.

And that’s just me.

Sophie? Well, my baby bundle needed me just as much and more besides. She needed her mother whether that is a politically correct, equality pacifying thing to say or not, I don’t care – my baby needed her mother.

Yes, Daddy is amazing. Yes she adores him (actually she used to howl when he came near her for the first few months!) Yes he is absolutely vital to her wellbeing and life and yes, if something horrid had happened to me (like if I had to return to work after 12 weeks) he and she would have coped but it would not have been in her best interests.

A new baby needs their mother. I don’t care how much anyone disagrees with me on this because I’m not budging.

It’s basic biology. It’s instinctive. It’s fact. If at all possible, a baby needs their mother. I believe that’s why they come out of us after all. They are for that first year, often an extension of us. And that’s completely natural.

Fortunately, my partner absolutely would agree with me on this. He would also probably have preferred to have stuck hot pokers in his eyes than be at home in those first, fractious months but that’s by the by. If however, I had a partner who had wanted a chunk of my maternity leave – sorry I mean “shared parental leave”, then I might have been faced with a problem. In fact, I would have been faced with a choice that I bet most mothers wouldn’t want to consider – sharing their very new, very important, little bundle and heading back to work as though nothing had changed. Because y’know – the government said it’s ok.

Well you know what? The government isn’t going to be there when you hand your very new baby over and head out of the door. They aren’t going to feel your heart and breasts explode in defiance to this “equal opportunities” situation. They couldn’t give a toss if you feel that you can’t breathe, focus or concentrate on anything at work because of the desperation and anxiety that such an early separation will cause. Nope they don’t give a shit.

There’s only so long a new mother is going to last, pretending that that’s an ok situation before they hit breaking point.

So providing this option to share your “parental leave” (wanky term for forcing mothers back to work early) is just not something I can get on board with for the majority of women.

I certainly wouldn’t be able to entertain the idea. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t and I just don’t get it even if it’s in the name of equality. Because you know what? Parenting isn’t equal. It isn’t meant to be and it never can be until you change the basic facts of biology.

 

 

 

 

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4 Comments

  1. May 8, 2017 / 2:14 pm

    Honestly, before I had my second child I would’ve agreed with you for the most part. But then my second child came along and he was really sick with severe GERD and I was exhausted from being up all night and staying home alone – and arguably insane – with a baby all day and I would’ve loved nothing more than to be able to go back to work while my husband stayed at home with the baby. Just to get some of myself back. To remember what it felt like not to hear a backing tracking of screaming and puking all day. Maybe it makes me a bad mother – I don’t know -, but that was how I felt. And I didn’t ever judge another mother for feeling otherwise. I think you have to judge this idea on the individual merits of every journey through the early days of motherhood. I’m glad for you that being the one to stay at home has been the right thing for your family, but it isn’t the right thing for every family.
    Davina Taylor recently posted…This is a true storyMy Profile

  2. May 8, 2017 / 4:38 pm

    We were totally up for sharing parental leave. I wanted to go back to work, and my husband is more homesy, so it seemed like a perfect match. We could both be really and equally involved in little dude’s first year. We had it all planned out and everything and then little dude came along and wouldn’t take the bottle for 8 months. I think it’s a great concept and has worked for some friends of ours, however like you say parenting isn’t equal. Especially at the beginning and this is what we found. In hindsight we would have made different choices so we could share parental leave and I’d like to 2nd time around but we shall see!

  3. Julia
    May 8, 2017 / 7:50 pm

    I totally agree with you, politically incorrect or not. It has now become a “choice”, apparently, but I wouldn’t mind betting that most mothers ( Not all, I realise there are exceptions & also circumstances where fathers have no choice but to take parental leave, & they can do a good job) really would be bereft at leaving a young baby & going back to the office, leaking boobs & hormonal swings ( Yes, they really do happen & are biologically driven…)!
    I certainly could never have gone back to work & left my very tiny babies with anyone, father included, unless forced to by illness. I chose to “make do” & stay at home & don’t regret doing so at all.

  4. May 8, 2017 / 8:29 pm

    I think there’s definitely a place for shared maternity leave. In some families the mother is the main earner and they may not be able to survive financially with her having long off work. In other cases the mother may want to go back to work sooner. I have friends who were just not that maternal and they went back to work after a month or two, organising childcare. I’m sure they would have preferred to pass the reins over to the dad for a few months instead, giving him time at home with the baby. I’m sure, as well, that a lot of Dads would relish this opportunity and I think shared parental leave is a great thing and definitely a step in the right direction but with everything it’s not for everyone and it’s not like the government are saying you have to do it. You don’t. If it’s not for you then you can have the whole maternity leave, however long you choose to stay off, to yourself.
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