Working for myself definitely has its benefits; however, paid maternity leave is not one of them. I made up a maternity leave for myself by putting some boundaries around my work during this fleeting time and easing back into it without haste. Even when I was not self-employed, I did not have a paid leave like I should have. In fact, I have had three babies, and I never once got a paid maternity leave. Unfortunately, that is the case for many women and babies.
Roland is 2 months old now, the age my first baby was when I started back at work. I remember the first day of dropping her off at daycare and the mixed feelings I had as I drove to work. I was a teacher, and it was the beginning of the school year. I was feeling a lot of excitement about being back in the classroom. I had timed my pregnancy perfectly to line up over the summer, so while I didn’t get any maternity leave, I never had to miss any time in the classroom.
If I had had my baby during the school year, I would have had to rely on short term disability to give me a maternity leave. I would have only made a fraction of my salary during my time at home caring for my baby. When I returned to work, I thought about my baby all throughout the day as I was away from her, but I loved the freedom I felt of not having to worry about anyone but myself.
When I had my second baby, I knew I was not going to be returning to the classroom. The cost of childcare for two children was a significant portion of my teacher salary. I didn’t want to get paid to care and educate for other people’s children just to be able to pay someone else to care and educate my own.
So, once again, I didn’t get any maternity leave, but this time I did not have to leave my baby so early in her infancy. I still needed to make an income for my family, but I decided to take a risk and try something new that would allow me to be home with my kids. We have luckily been able to make it work, and now I’m able to have more time with my third baby at home.
I know I’m not alone in my struggle to self finance my own maternity leaves, and I know families are all too often forced into making difficult decisions about their careers based on the prohibitive costs of childcare. I am ever so thankful that we had the financial flexibility to have choices within these dilemmas.
Furthermore, having children actually gave me the courage to change career paths late in life, something I’m sure I would have been too afraid to do if I did not have to be creative about making an income with young children. I know I am lucky to be able to make it work in a way that allows me to spend my days with my babes.