Throughout your pregnancy you’ll want to prepare for when the baby is born, including how long you should take off of work for maternity leave. It’s well known that the U.S. doesn’t have the most enjoyable benefits for new mothers. In fact, the U.S. offers new moms no paid time off and around just 12 weeks of protected leave. Compare those numbers to countries such as Estonia that offer 108 weeks of paid leave and 180 weeks of protected leave, giving moms plenty of time off to bond with their children and adjust to motherhood.
This often leaves it up to the father return to work and bring home enough money to support the family. Although it’s important to save your money when you can, having a child isn’t always an event that you can totally be prepared for in a financial sense.
Why I took three months off for maternity leave
Despite the drawbacks of not getting paid time off to spend time with your child, it’s important to enjoy the 12 weeks of protected leave available to you through the Family Medical Leave Act. When we found out that I was pregnant, we weren’t completely financially stable. David was still in medical school and, although I had a college degree from Miami University and a full-time job, I hadn’t completely established myself in the professional world. Nevertheless, it was something that we were excited about. My doctor, our friends and family members reminded us that no one ever has money (or at least enough of it) when they have children, and really isn’t a reason to avoid becoming parents.
We saved what we could and got much appreciated help from family before Audrey’s arrival, which helped me make the decision that I was going to take the full 12 weeks of leave available to me after she was born. After all, we were in a city without any family nearby and because we were new overprotective parents, we weren’t completely comfortable sending Audrey to a daycare or hiring a babysitter just yet. Plus, I wanted all the time I could possibly have to bond with her.
I breastfeed Audrey, and while we created a mother-daughter bond through that aspect, it was still nice knowing that I could wake up with her every day for three months and spend those weeks adjusting to our new lives. Since I was home with her, I was able to get a fair amount of sleep – probably more than other new moms who go back to work sooner – and nap when she went to sleep during the day.
When she developed respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) at six weeks old, I didn’t have to worry about taking time off to be in the hospital with her. Being on maternity leave for three months was also good because Audrey was born during a very cold and terrible winter, so we didn’t have to transport her to a sitter or daycare in below-freezing temperatures.
Since I was able to take three months off of work and spend that time with my new daughter, I was able to learn her signals and personality. It may seem like babies don’t do much at just a few months old, but it’s amazing to see how quickly they pick up on things and what each of their own little quirks mean. I think that being home with her also helped me to take on my role a lot easier than if I had been required to pick up on the work-life balance sooner, although that may have made it easier on me down the road.
Mostly, I think it’s important to take your maternity leave because your children aren’t going to stay little forever. They’ll eventually grow up, go to school, make new friends and make you wish that you could go back in time to when they were little and wanted only you. When she no longer wants to be around me all the time, I’ll be glad for the months that I did get to spend with just her and myself, playing with toys, napping and learning new things. Of course, money helps you stay in your home and feed your family, but i feel like the memories are the most important of them all.
Do you plan on taking maternity leave? If so, how long will you be home? Share in the comments below!