My children were born in 1997 and 1999; I did not plan to have anymore children. I figured words like “parental leave” and “maternity benefits” were not a part of my future, or so, I thought.
In the September edition of Canadian Business magazine Jasmine Budak wrote an interesting article about the ”dark side” of maternity leave, here, in Canada. In it, Budak highlights some of the difficulties that employers and (also other employees) face when an employee takes maternity leave.
Today, the year-long mat leave is standard practice…yet even as employers accommodate parents, particularly in fields that fiercely compete for talent, their concerns haven’t changed much from a decade ago. Many businesses struggle with the financial and efficiency burdens of filling temporary positions, especially if they’re senior or highly skilled roles.
They can’t be sure if the new parents will return after their leaves or choose to cut back their workload—or quit altogether. Meanwhile, resentment may brew among remaining staff forced to shoulder extra work demands. Perhaps worst of all, employers can’t even complain.
As I near my Rainbow’s first birthday, I am very lucky to have had the chance to stay home with him for a year. However, the pressure to go back to work has been very present, and frustrating for me. My boss asked me to return to work in June because my replacement did not work out, and they didn’t want to go through the process of finding another only to have me return in October or November.
In June, Rainbow was 8 months old. There were people who believed that this request was not totally unfair, because “…he’s past 6 months…”, some of them said. Others (colleagues) argued that “…it’s better than the 6 weeks that some women get…”
Boy, did I feel guilty, and selfish about wanting to take the full year. Worst yet, I felt a great deal of anxiety over my decision to even consider it.
In the end, I said I would return, but my heart was not into it.
The truth is that many other women in the world do not enjoy a long maternity leave (as Canadian women do).
However, I would like to separate the issues. Women are in their child-bearing years for quite some time, wouldn’t you agree? How society expects to go around that is unclear.
There is a nagging feeling in the back of my mind however, that if and when women exercise their rights to go on maternity leave, and have their employers reserve their position for that year that they will lose out. I fear that employers will resort to the easiest route – hiring more men than women in professional/management positions.
The reality is that I continued my post-secondary education so that I could have options, and I took maternity leave because it was and is my right as a Canadian woman who has worked and contributed to society.
What are the parental benefits in your Province/State/Country? How do you feel about it?
(PS. My husband took a position in another province. We relocated in July…so I never made it back to my job.)
Photo credit to George Ruiz. This photo has a creative commons attribution license.