When you are pregnant people ask you a lot of questions about your baby plans. Some of these questions are pretty innocuous (“when are you due? is the baby a boy or a girl? do you have any names picked out?”) and some are way too intrusive (“are you planning on breastfeeding?” FROM TOTAL STRANGERS, like no I don’t care to discuss my boobs with you), but no question has come to inspire more dread in me than “when are you stopping working?”
In Canada we have 50 weeks of paid maternity leave. I assume many people take it, at least some of it. I took it with Sym and I took it with Gwen, and everyone expects I will be taking it with this baby. But the thing is, I’m not. I’m using my vacation days to take the first two weeks of October off work and basically keeping my fingers crossed (and my legs uncrossed?) and hoping this baby is born during that time because I really don’t want to stop working at 9 months pregnant and start working at 9 1/2 months pregnant. Based on my previous births (Sym 4 days early and Gwen right on her due date) and the fact that this baby just FEELS like they are gonna be ready on time, I’m pretty confident that I have nothing to worry about. I have to be, because what else can I do?
But when I tell people about my plan, the look they give me is just like… SHOCK and HORROR and DREAD, like I’ve said I’m planning on idk, having my baby in a public bathroom and leaving it in the trash? Like not taking maternity leave is literally the most appalling thing people can think of. They always shriek “WHAT???? HOW IS THAT EVEN GOING TO WORK?????” like people have never had a baby and then gone back to work soon after. Newsflash: people do it all the time! And there are lots of different reasons why they might do it. Maybe they really love their career. Maybe their partner is going to stay home with the baby while they work. Maybe they don’t have a choice. Maybe life costs money and they can’t afford to stop working for a year, or even a month.
Something people might not know about Canada’s 50 weeks paid maternity leave is that the government doesn’t just give you your whole annual salary in a shower of loonies and toonies. The benefit is 55% of your regular income. So like… cut your paycheque basically in half, and add diapers (and in my case, formula) to your monthly expenses. You still have to pay all your bills, your rent or mortgage, loan or credit card payments, car payments, whatever. Everything you were paying before, but do it with half the money. Or depending on your income, less than half, because there is actually a maximum amount the government pays, and it’s $537 a week. When I took my maternity leave with Gwen I was getting nowhere near the maximum amount, and were I to take it this time I’d be getting even less, and here’s why:
I’m self-employed. As a self-employed person I am eligible to take paid maternity leave, because I’ve opted into it. But since I don’t have a paycheque from an outside employer to base my payments off of, instead they calculate it based on my net income from my previous year’s tax return. Gwen was born in late 2012 so they calculated my maternity leave benefit off my 2011 tax return. In 2011 I was working a lot and earned a pretty ok amount of money, but for this baby my benefits would be calculated using my 2015 return and let’s just say… it would not be a lot. It basically wouldn’t be anything. So while TECHNICALLY I can take the time off, I can’t afford to take the time off, and unless people are keen to give me many, many, many tens of thousands of dollars to live off of for the next year I would appreciate it if they would shut up. Actually not even the next year, the next year plus however long it would take me to once again rebuild my business from nothing. Because if I take a year (or even a few months) off work, I will lose all my clients and when I start working again I will have to find brand new ones. So let me reiterate: unless you want to give me all your money, I don’t want to hear your opinion on my not taking time off of work. Tbh I probably don’t want to hear your opinion anyway so maybe just keep your mouth shut while your hand over that cheque/click that paypal link, mkay?
The other thing people like to bring up when I say I’m not taking leave (and I think this one is very stupid) is HOW am I going to keep working at my job when I’m up all night with a newborn baby?!?!?! I will never get any sleep! It will be so hard! Obviously as an almost-40-year-old-woman having her third child I have no idea what I’m doing! I’m dumb, so fucking dumb! Well. Here’s how I’m going to work at my job when I’m up all night with a newborn: I’m not. After the baby is born Taylor is going to work from home for a few months, and since he works nights he will be awake and available to tend to baby needs while I’m sleeping. How do I know this? BECAUSE IT’S EXACTLY WHAT WE DID AFTER GWEN WAS BORN. When we had her Taylor took a week? two weeks? off work entirely, and then worked from home until January. I got 8-9 hours of sleep every night and there was actually only one time when he had to wake me up to look after Gwen , and that happened at like 6am anyway. It worked for us before, and it’ll work for us again, and even if I do sometimes have to get up during the night and then work the next day like… ok? Like millions people before me, parents and non-parents alike, I will suck it up and do my job while I’m tired, wow, what a novel concept.
Do I sound bitter about this? I’m sure I sound bitter, and the reason why is yet another reason I wish people would stop judging me for not taking time off after having this baby: because I’m already judging myself enough, thanks. I feel super guilty about it all the time. I’ve cried about it. Hell, I cried about going back to work when Gwen was one because I didn’t go back to work until Sym was three and I felt guilty that I couldn’t take that much time off for Gwen as well. So how do you think I feel, knowing that I can’t really take ANY time off with this baby? I feel like a piece of shit, and the only way I can make it through most days is to try to stay positive and confident and believe that my plan, our plan, the plan my husband and I came up with because ours are the only opinions and concerns that matter, will work and I’m not going to ruin my baby’s life. So when I have people act all horrified and disapproving that in their opinion I’m making the wrong choice it is pretty much devastating because I am already devastated. So like congrats on making a pregnant woman cry? Nice work.
And like… obviously I can’t KNOW that everything will work out. There are a lot of unknowns when you have a baby. Sure, I don’t know the baby’s sex or the exact day they will be born, but I also don’t know if they will have a serious health problem that hasn’t been detected, or if they will have special needs. I don’t know if they will be a very colicky baby who cries all the time and no one will get any sleep. Like you can plan for things but life doesn’t always agree with those plans. I don’t know that I won’t go into labour right now. I don’t know that everything is gonna be okay and the truth is NO ONE DOES. We just have to believe things will work out and they probably will, maybe not exactly according to plan but we all just do our best with what we have (and if what you have is lots of money please feel free to send it my way).