Finally! A company got it right. Netflix announced this week they will be giving new mothers (and fathers) paid maternity leave up to one year. Can you believe that? I can. Kudos to the big wigs at Netflix.
I had my first child in 2011 and prior to that, never paid much attention to maternity leave. Don’t get me wrong, having worked in Human Resources for a good many years, I am very familiar with the FMLA Act of 1993. Thank you, Mr. Clinton. But, the FMLA policy only allows women to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to bond with their child. And a few stipulations. For instance, you must be employed for one year with your employer to qualify. While this is a no brainer, I can’t believe it took until 1993 to become a law?! And only twelve weeks? Once you become a parent, your entire world changes. It will take you 12 weeks to just get the hang of things. Actually, for us women it starts even before we deliver our bundle(s) of joy. Here’s why…
Let’s face it. You are pregnant for almost a year. During your first trimester you will feel sick, you will have aversions to food, you will smell everything, and you will be falling down tired. But, you have somewhat a light at the end of the tunnel — the second trimester. You will start to feel like yourself again. However, you will think every little discomfort or ache in your tummy means something might be wrong. Then you enter the third trimester. You start to have anxiety about your delivery, crazy dreams (sometimes about your baby) with frequent bathroom breaks, and don’t forget to shop for slip-on shoes. They are a must. Try bending in your third trimester. That’s painful. And when you have a younger child in tow — you will feel the pain. Why am I going on about this you ask? To bring me to my point. Your body changes over the course of those 9+ months. It goes through a surreal transformation. And guess what? That transformation takes time to transform back. Internally and externally.
I remember my first day back to work after the birth of my first child. It was as though it was someone else’s reality. I cried leaving for work, I cried at work. Everyone told me it would get better. Can’t say that statement is true. I guess the feeling dissipates as your baby grows and you see them becoming more independent. But, it shouldn’t be a society norm. I went back to work after 10 weeks. I didn’t have much choice. Standard postpartum recovery time is six weeks for a natural delivery. Any OB will tell you that. What a joke. Anyway, it was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I would’ve gone through labor all over again if it meant I could’ve been home with her longer. It was awful. But, not only that. It was unfair to her. A 10 week old baby NEEDS its mom. They are still so new to this world. Mothers have a bond with their child — a gravitational pull. Leaving my 10 week old felt wrong and unnatural. And have you ever heard the saying, “If something feels wrong, it probably is.”
The pediatrician who wrote Happiest Baby on the Block (Karp, Harvey) refers to the first three months postpartum as the “fourth trimester.” He explains this is when babies are becoming familiar with their environment outside the womb. During this time they should be swaddled, soothed, and just comforted to bring back that womb-like environment. This book was a National Bestseller. You know why? Because it makes sense. Babies need to adjust and it doesn’t happen overnight. Parents need to learn their babies cues. This takes time and oodles of patience. Time employers need to give new parents to allow them to re-enter the workforce rested, alert, and ultimately productive. For anyone who had a colicky baby… we are talking weeks of continuous night crying. Which, coincidentally peaks around six weeks (oh, you know, when your postpartum period is supposedly over). For us, after the colic ended, the sleep never returned. I was a walking zombie for the first two years, my daughter woke continuously through the night. In fact, she didn’t sleep through the night until she was three! By that I mean she was no longer waking and coming into our bed at wee hours of the night. Almost four now and she has never slept past 7:30 a.m. Her norm is 6:30 a.m. Sigh.
I hope more and more employers will put family first. After all, our babies are the future. They learn from us. What example are we teaching them by leaving them with someone else, all day, before they learn how to eat solids, walk, talk, or sleep through the night. I know I want to be present when my second speaks her first word or takes her first step. You will never get that time back, and it flies.
Thank you, Netflix! Maybe by the time my girls have children they will never have to sacrifice what I did. There will be a change in law or at the very least… a new society norm.