We all know that when it comes to paid maternity leave, American women have a tough deal. Alongside Oman and Papua New Guinea, in fact, the worst deal in the world. As any mother knows, even those blessed with a rare babe who sleeps through the night (apparently that happens sometimes) dealing with swelling and healing, hormones and sleep deprivation, fear of failing and terror of breaking your baby is hard enough without having to worry about your finances.
After six weeks of getting the hang of being a new Mom, most women’s bodies aren’t even physically recovered after the birth, let alone their mental state. In my personal experience, not only was I not fit for work, but I was still struggling with dressing myself and taking a shower in the morning. With the World Health Organization recommending that mothers should exclusively breastfeed for at least six months, that’s a double whammy of social pressure paradoxically making women feel inadequate if they don’t go back to work and guilty if they’re forced to give their infants formula.
The first few weeks of being a Mom for many women are not the magical ones they were promised, where they would be serenely rocking their babes to sleep, while having a “nice rest” from work and uploading joyful photos to a family website.
In my personal experience, the first half of my maternity leave I was desperate about keeping my job and the second half spent worrying about how to manage without it, as I was simply not physically or emotionally ready to go back. As an independent woman used to being and working alone, generating my own income and not asking anyone for help, all of a sudden I found myself adrift and faced with the prospect of being an unemployed stay-at-home Mom; something I didn’t want to be.
Never would I have thought during those first dark days where I circled the edge of the abyss that being a Mom would actually, finally give me the boost I needed to give up my 9-5 and take control of my life and finances; or that being a Mom would be the main reason that I’m able to keep being successful. Here’s how:
Being a Mom gave me the courage to quit my job and start up on my own. OK, so I was sort of forced into the situation, but it made me realize that in a sink or swim situation, I have a mean freestyle.
Being a Mom has made me more confident. There used to be things that I would let slide, like people cutting in line in front of me in a supermarket, or allowing myself to get side-lined by work colleagues. But Lord help the queue-cutter these days. You see now, whatever I do, I’m speaking up for my daughter, not for myself. Before I make a sales call, or ask for donations or contributions (something I previously hated), I think of her before I do it and suddenly I feel calm and collected.
I know how to use my time valuably. Being a Mom makes me appreciate the value of time like I never have before. When you literally have to fit in a meal in three minutes or jump in and out of the shower in between wakings, you learn that you can do many things with two minutes, and I never waste a single one.
I put things into perspective – Nothing is more important than my daughter and I think that actually learning to say no to people and rescheduling a meeting for tomorrow when I have more time, gives people the best version of me. Instead of trying to be everyone to everybody, family fun time is more important. Having my priorities straight in life seems to help with direction.
I know that I can always handle one more thing – I don’t get as stressed as before because I now know I am capable of so much more and that the busier I am, the more I can handle.
I can multi-task for the Olympics – Once you’ve learned how to nurse your infant while replying to an email and eating dinner at the same time, multi-tasking in the workplace is a breeze and I’m way more productive than I used to be.
Above all, I have a new motivator I never had before. I want to be an example to my daughter of something she might aspire to be one day. I want her to know that she can do anything she puts her mind to and most of all, I want my baby girl to be proud of her Mom. The fear that she may feel anything of the contrary is enough to keep me moving forwards.
Sam Jones is a Relationship Manager at Marccx Media. Sam got her start at RazorFish and continues to work with publishers and advertisers on various SEO and SEM campaigns.