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Maternity Leave Guilt


The last time I had five months of unstructured time on my hands I was three years-old. Am I worried that I won’t be busy? Absolutely not. But is the idea of such a large chunk of unregulated (non-class or work) time intimidating? In the vernacular of the legendary film, Fargo, “you betcha.”

And maternity leave is not just intimidating because of the duration of nebulous time – there are career concerns and my ego to be reckoned with.

Is my job secure? Yes, thanks to the national and state maternity leave laws that protect it. But what about career advancement? How will this time off affect upper management’s perception of me? Will I still be eligible for that promotion that I would have otherwise been considered for next year? Will I get my raise or bonus? When I return to work, will I be treated like I’ve been on vacation instead of bonding with and raising my newborn child? Though it’s easy to have a supportive Human Resources department and bosses on face value, what is the real “cost” of my maternity leave on my career? And how do you prove any injustice that may occur that isn’t a blatant violation of one of the maternity leave laws? These are the things that keep me up at night – well that and the rib kicking. I’ve heard several women mention to me that they just “couldn’t” take the allowed maternity time off because they felt that they had too much work to do or the timing was bad for their project. But this brings us to that pesky ego…

We all want to feel irreplaceable, but the reality is if we were hit by a bus tomorrow, it is unlikely that our company would go out of business. And at least for me, this is hard to accept. I love my job, I love the project I’m working on, and I gain immense satisfaction out of knowing that people panic when I go on vacation. This is not to say that I will not have a huge sense of achievement from being a mother to a newborn baby. I expect to be humbled daily by the advances he makes, what he has learned, and what he has taught me in patience and stamina. But it will be different and it will definitely be a blow to my ego to know that life went on without me for five months on my project – though I must admit it helps to know that they need two people to fill in for my one position while I’m gone.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 08/29/2011 21:00

    I can relate to you – in Canada I had a year of paid maternity leave. Two people replaced me too. Surprisingly, the year of maternity leave gave my career an edge when I got back. I also returned with more perspective (although also sleep deprivation and a second baby on the way!). The career may slow down a little bit but it can come back strong. Enjoy the baby!

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