I came across this article a couple days ago that talks about how all women, regardless of child status, should be granted meternity leave, a play on maternity leave. As with all things on the Internet, it has sparked a complete outrage within the ranks of mothers vehemently declaring how maternity leave is no picnic, there is little time for self-reflection, is over in the blink of an eye, and they are still just as exhausted after as they were before.
I concede that these are all very true and accurate responses, though obviously, things got nastier than that. This author even canceled an appearance on some morning talk show (I can’t find where anymore) because the backlash to her idea and her book was SO severe. Clearly, she hit a nerve in society (and really, who DOESN’T hit a nerve anymore?) and upon my own further reflection, even though I disagree with this idea, I don’t think we should dismiss the point she’s trying to make so lightly.
First, of course, I must state that she clearly misunderstands maternity leave. In the few, short articles I read, she seems to believe that moms come back from maternity able to leave work on time and advocate for themselves because they have had some time, up to three months presumably, to reflect on their life, on what they want, on who they are. Anyone who has had a child knows this to be mostly untrue. Maternity leave is about not sleeping, getting thrown up on, healing from a traumatic event, trying to figure out this new living situation, and praying incessantly to keep this new little lunatic alive long enough that he or she may, in fact, REACH daycare. There is definitely a perception that mothers on maternity leave are kicking up their feet, binge-watching tv shows, and just generally having a good time. The only reason we have time to binge-watch anything is because this new little person thinks nighttime is a great time to be up. Until that little one figures out night and day, it’s really hard.
So now that I’ve said what moms already know about maternity leave, let’s unpack the idea of MEternity leave. It seems the premise is that she was feeling bitter that parents left of the office on time because of their kids, that parents were better able to strike work-life balance because of all the time they spent reflecting while on leave, and just the fact that they got to kick back for three months while everyone else worked late to pick up the slack of the parent. She believes that all women deserve some time off to reflect on their lives, to pursue other things, to figure out how to strike work-life balance.
Okay, friends, stop rolling your eyes and listen up (or read on) for a second.
I think she’s really on to something here, though in an interesting and misunderstood kind of way. It seems that people in all kinds of jobs across all industries are struggling with what it means to work AND have a life outside of work. There is a cultural pressure to be on and available all the time, married or not. While what I mentioned above may have indeed changed about the new parents, I doubt it’s for the reasons she believes.
Where I really think she goes wrong is understanding WHY people make the moves they do after a maternity leave – priorities shift. What once used to be just adults in the house is now adults and a baby. A baby who unashamedly and unexpectedly grabs hold of your heart and soul and refuses to let go (not like you really care). Suddenly, life is about more than just yourself and your work and you realize you don’t want to miss those moments with the kids you have. It doesn’t change as they get older, either. Their lives become more complicated, more involved, and more demanding; though in different ways.
While I certainly think that her life is about as uncomplicated as it gets (It says she has no kids and I see no indication of a husband), there is something to be said about still achieving life and meaning outside your job. We are all deep, complicated people and it takes a variety of means and endeavors to generate a fulfilling life.
For me, I volunteer at church multiple times a month, I spend time in the Bible, I run, I knit and crochet, I watch REALLY weird documentaries, I take care of my kids and teach them, I support my husband in his work by providing a somewhat clean home and meals (most of the time) – all of these things are part of who I am and what I feel makes me a complete individual. I have things that pour into others and I have things that pour into me.
So while this new idea of a meternity leave may make your blood boil or your eyes roll, I want to stress that it is important to give grace to people anyway. Any author presented a kind of insulting idea to give a leave reserved for parents to everyone ‘just because they would benefit’ – give grace. Your husband came home late (again) – give grace. Your kids are being terrors – give grace. Your friend STILL hasn’t responded to you and it’s been two days – give grace. Somebody was wrong on the Internet – give grace.
Instead of getting all up in arms every time something doesn’t go the way you want or you disagree with an idea, give grace first. Stop before you respond and think, reflect. Give grace. Give understanding. Be patient. Act in love. God has given us more grace than we will ever understand this side of heaven, we have a duty to extend the same to all. Give grace. Always give grace.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. –Ephesians 4:1-7