When I first moved to the United States, I hadn’t thought much about having children or how maternity leave differs here from the U.K. I was only 25 and it seemed so far away and I didn’t even know when I wanted children. Fast forward to my early 30’s and we were ready to start trying for a family and that meant thinking about whether to leave my job or try and persuade them to let me take more time off than is typical in the U.S.
Luckily I work for an extremely understanding company who allowed me to take 7 precious months with my daughter, keeping my job open for me and being encouraging and helpful when I returned. Not all mother’s in the U.S. get that same opportunity, with companies only required to offer a new mother 12 weeks of protected leave, which doesn’t have to be paid (and has other restrictions).
In collaboration with a group of other wonderful Mom (Mum as most are in the U.K.) bloggers, we put together a list of 10 questions that we hope will give more insight into our choices around our careers and motherhood and how they can both work together.
1. How Soon After Having Your Baby (Or Finding Out You Were Pregnant) Did You Decide How You Would Continue After Maternity Leave?
When I first discovered I was pregnant, my plan was to leave my job just before I had my daughter. Other women at the company had taken 3 months off after having their children and being from the U.K., I just wasn’t comfortable with that option. After talking with my boss and the higher-ups, they were very understanding and agreed to let me take 6 months off to be with my daughter. It was a compromise I could cope with (in the U.K. most women take a year off work), so I returned when my daughter was 7 months old, a month later than expected due to childcare arrangements.
2. Who Else Had Influence Over Your decision?
As with everything, my husband was extremely supportive of whatever choice I made, even if it meant we’d be on a tighter budget than with both of us working. My employer agreeing to the extended leave had a huge influence on me deciding to stay with the company. They were also extremely supportive when I returned, allowing me to work from home when I needed to and providing a private room to pump.
3. To What Extent Did Finance Have An Impact On Your Choice?
Finances were a big reason for me staying with my job. Even though childcare ended up being half my salary, when I returned to work, we weren’t in the financial position for me to be a stay at home Mom. Los Angeles is an expensive city and having to rent a two bedroom only added to our expenses once our daughter was born, so I needed to be contributing to our finances each month.
4. Do Logistics/ Travel Play A Role In Your Decision?
Living less than 20 minutes away from my job and finding a wonderful daycare a minute’s walk away from my office were huge reasons for me returning to work. Knowing that my daughter was close by and being able to pop in and see her when she was smaller was very important to me. I don’t know how I would have coped if I had a long commute on top of working full time and only getting to see my daughter a couple of hours each day.
5. What Kind Of Judgement From Others Have You Feared Or Experienced?
My friends and family in the U.K. haven’t been judgemental of my decision, but they are definitely bewildered by the state of maternity leave in the United States and the support working mothers receive. I can’t think of one of my female friends or relatives that has returned to work full time, even after their year-long maternity leave ended. It’s pretty standard for women in the U.K. to return to work after a year with their baby for maybe 2 or 3 days a week. Here that is almost unheard of, every Mom I know has gone back full-time.
6. How Has Your Sense Of Identity/ Independence/ Confidence Been Affected?
Before I had my daughter, a co-worker who herself is a working Mom, told me some days I’d feel like a terrible Mom and a terrible employee. This is the feeling I’ve felt the most since returning to work, feeling like I can’t focus on my daughter and I can’t fully commit to working. Not having any time to relax at the end of the day as I’m either catching up on work, making my daughter’s food for daycare the next day, or trying to cook something for dinner, has been incredibly hard and taken a toll on me. In terms of confidence, my daughter has inspired me to stand up for myself and be more outspoken at work, which has been an unexpected bonus.
7. Did You Have Any Career Goals Prior To Pregnancy? How Do You Feel About Them Now?
A huge goal of mine since moving to the U.S. has been to work for myself so that I can go home for longer periods of time and make my own schedule. Now more than ever this is an ambition of mine and it’s one of the main reasons why I went into the SEO/ Content Marketing field, as it’s such a valuable skill that I can use for consulting work. I feel so lucky that I have had the opportunity to work for a large agency as it’s given me the experience I need to eventually work for myself.
8. In What Form Does Your ‘Mom Guilt’ Take On?
Every day I feel guilty that my daughter spends more time with her daycare teachers and friends than she does me. It is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever experienced and the only thing that makes it more bearable is that she does seem so happy there.
9. Name Your Biggest Doubt/ Insecurity Over Your Situation.
My biggest doubt is whether I made the right decision going back to work. In some ways I know I didn’t have too much of a choice for financial reasons, but it’s still something I think about every day.
10. I Am Happy With My Decision Because….
Even though I doubt myself, I am happy with my decision because I have grown so much at work since I returned, getting promoted and being given opportunities I wouldn’t have had if I’d stayed at home. Working in an industry that’s ever-changing, I’ve learned so much over this past year and that is important to me and my future success.
This post was in collaboration with: