Maternity leave is not a vacation

Some people, bosses, and companies think maternity and paternity leave is a paid vacation. They falsely believe that during this period, their workers spend their time resting or that taking care of a baby is not a job but an activity that you can do “for a while,” as something that does not require much attention.

The reality is that as the journalist Anna Whitehouse, founder of Mother Pukka, explains in a public reflection on her LinkedIn account, during sick leave due to the birth of a baby is when mothers and fathers assume the work most difficult and important: to take care of a new life.

Maternity and paternity leave is a time to be with your baby

The leave granted by law to parents when they have a baby is known as maternity or paternity leave.

It is a period that, in the case of Mexican women, is 84 days, up to four weeks of the prenatal and postnatal period, and in the case of men, five days.

During this time, the mother or father may be absent from work with full pay. Unfortunately, many still believe that these days are days of rest, without considering how difficult it is to take care of a baby that depends on his parents.

It is not a vacation or a good break

Anna Whitehouse wrote, “A business reminder: maternity/paternity leave is not a holiday. It is not a good rest, and it is not free time. It is a heady cocktail of anticipation, expectation, arrival, and survival. It’s stripping yourself to an initial state and navigating naked through blocked milk ducts, red nipples, bloody sheets, broken minds, blackout blinds googling maniacally”. As a mom or dad, you are necessary.

Caring for a baby is much more than a full-time job; it is a job that requires all your senses to focus on adapting to the new and challenging routine; it is physical and emotional fatigue, it is joy, but also a flurry of doubts and emotions.

“Every second is needed (if not in person, in mind). It is a job. No sick days. Without fair compensation. It’s the most privileged position in the world, but it takes courage, guts (often inglorious), boobs, and any other limbs you can put to work. It is the purest happiness. It is the starkest of contrasts”.

For women, the mix of hormones and wear and tear on the body is immense. No one prepares you to take care of a baby through the pain of childbirth or major surgery like a C-section.

“It’s limping to the park after the birth, high on oxytocin; returning home, collapsing in the fetal position, succumbing to a postnatal slump. It is life in its purest, ugliest, and most stunningly beautiful form. It is rising higher, above your hunger, above your exhaustion, above your needs. It’s raising the next generation #flexappeal #maternitydiscrimination #challengethestatusquo”.

Dad also needs to spend the first few weeks with his baby. Photo: Shutterstock

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Let’s put an end to discriminatory comments

Whether out of ignorance or simply because they are discriminatory and ill-intentioned, the truth is that there is a significant lack of sensitivity to the vital task of bringing new life into the world.

Becoming a mother and father is a unique and wonderful experience, but it is full of new challenges that put us to the test every day. Don’t bosses and employers understand that parenting should be a priority? Isn’t it clear to them that the children we educate now will be the adults of tomorrow?

Hopefully, one day it will be apparent to all of us, not only to those who mistakenly believe that maternity and paternity leave is a vacation but also to the governments that bargain the days parents have for that task.

As data, in Sweden, maternity leave is 480 days and paternity leave is also 480 days. Not all European countries have such an advanced parenting culture, but we are far behind. In Latin America, Venezuela has the most extended licenses for mom (182 days) and dad (14); Chile follows (126 days for mom and five for dad).

In Mexico, initiatives have been presented to increase maternity leave from 84 to 98 and paternity leave from five to 15 days, but it is still insufficient. Remember that our country is within Convention 183 for the protection and recognition of maternity of the International Labor Organization (ILO). On several occasions, the United Nations Organization (UN) has issued recommendations to countries to increase maternity leaves and consider inclusive and friendly policies for childcare workers.

Translated by: Ligia M. Oliver Manrique de Lara

Spanish version: here

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