The importance of 4th Trimester Family Leave
Donald Trump recently released details about what maternity leave would look like under a Trump presidency. As of right now parents across the country have the protection of not getting fired from their jobs while they take three months at home recovering and bonding with their newborns. Unpaid family leave laws don’t really take into consideration that most people don’t have the luxury of taking three months without a paycheck even if the threat of unemployment doesn’t hang over their heads. Under a Trump plan, moms would get six weeks of paid leave. While this may appear like a step in the right direction it seems to only apply if you are legally married and have a vagina. It does not take into consideration that those legally wedded vaginas are not the only ones who might want to connect with their children.
I feel pretty privileged as I am currently on maternity leave that is paid and is three months long. This 4th Trimester bonding session is important. For one, it took me six weeks to even start feeling like a human being again and that was after a pretty easy birth experience. It’s a big adjustment, whether it’s your first child or your third. This one is my second and, while easier this time around, I couldn’t truly prepare for the sleep deprivation and weird hormonal body shifts. Plus, every child is different, so you really don’t know what you’d be preparing for. My son doesn’t sleep well. He’s fussy and grumpy and nothing like my smiley daughter was. It took sixweeks to figure out the subtleties of what those grumpy faces meant.
My husband still doesn’t know. And he’s a great dad. He doesn’t fall under the Donald Trump method of parenting where you brag about having never changed a diaper. My husband changes tons of diapers. Far more than I have in my life. But he’s not home all day. He doesn’t know what the cries mean and when the baby needs to sleep versus when he’s hungry. He’s missing out on this period when you first get to know someone and learn their unique quirks. Because of this I am closer to my son. I get him. His cries aren’t nails on a chalkboard to me the way they can be when you’ve just walked into the house after a day out in the world, especially if you are like my husband and suffering from a horrible ear infection the first three weeks of the baby’s life.
That is not to say I am not tired and frustrated. It’s hard to be home alone with a newborn for this long. You start to feel isolated and stir crazy. I feel like I’ve read the entire internet and watched all of Amazon. And I’m lucky. I had my parents with me for the first two weeks. Yes, it is totally possible to take care of a newborn on your own. But how great would it be if parents could both do it together or take turns? After all, they participated in the initial part of this journey together. Then mom took over and spent the next nine months having to make all decisions about her body and well-being with someone else’s needs in mind. And now when she can finally start relying on someone else again she’s all alone. Dads should be able to bond with their kids. They should be able to help their partners figure this confusing time out. And they shouldn’t have to do it while worrying about how they are going to put food on the table or pay for rent.
This shouldn’t be limited to just a woman who gave birth either. If you adopt a child or are in a same sex partnership most of this confusing time still applies. It applies whether someone put a ring on it or not. The idea that you have to be legally married to be a parent is absurd. Just as absurd as thinking you have to have pushed a baby out of your vagina to be a mom. You might not be recovering from surgery, but you’re still recovering from lack of sleep every morning and still need to figure out how to take care of this new person in your life. Trump has four kids and doesn’t seem to know or care about any of that. He doesn’t seem to understand that not all parents look the same, just like he doesn’t understand that not all Americans do either.