Paid Leave? What about Paid Childcare?

I went back to work after 8 weeks of maternity leave.

I was sad about that — it impacted my nursing relationship with my daughter, my general health and recovery post childbirth, but … I had *fun* that first day back. It was the first time since I’d had a baby I felt like myself. I wanted to be there.

I am so, so lucky, however. My husband stays home with our child. (That’s one of the reasons I went back so early — with both of us home, and not getting paid, it started to feel decadent.) I lived ten minutes from the office, and had a boss and a team that was not looking for me on a structured timeline; I could come in at 7 and leave at 4 during the periods of time my daughter was up for the day by 5 and asleep for the night (“night”) by 6. I could change that when her sleeping schedule changed. etc.

I could not have gone back to work — a thing I wanted to do and and I thing I’m grateful I could do— if I had not had reliable and trusted childcare and a degree of flexibility at work. Sure, I would have loved to be paid to stay home longer, but I don’t know that paid leave is the most important part of this story. The solution is not just about enabling a longer period of time home with a baby. Babies do not stop getting sick inconveniently or needing care after 4 months. If I had to ask for assistance and help from an employer or from the government, I would be begging — screaming — to make the need for child care AFTER maternity leave a thing that is easier and more reliable to have.

That means I can stop looking forward to public school to serving as a babysitter and instead do what it’s intended to do — educate my child — while having options for care if I have to work at a schedule not convenient to school hours. That the important cognitive formation years that occur BEFORE public school is even an option do not lay dormant.

Paid leave sounds great. I’d love to get paid to spend time with my kid. But paid leave is looking at a finite window of time, and my child — and my job — need me after that magical 4 month mark.

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