On Monday, Chris goes back to work. He has 26 weeks of family leave in total, but he chose to take just seven weeks upfront. Given that he had 26 total weeks, I didn’t think that it made sense for him to only take seven weeks upfront. When would he use all of the other 19 weeks? He was only planning to use about a month or so at the end of the year to go back to Australia, so I had no idea how he planned to use the other weeks. And I told him that it would get messy if we were to hire a nanny and then tell her that we didn’t need her for big blocks of time because he would be on leave. That is a very easy way to send the signal to your nanny indirectly that she should look for a new job.
Both Chris and I are extremely privileged by American standards in terms of the amount of family leave that we both have. I have 16 weeks, and he has 26 weeks off. Americans are lucky to even have one week off, as there is no official family leave that is recognized at a national level (the Democrats tried and failed to push through 12 weeks of leave, and are looking at a dismal 4. This is despite the fact that OUR tax payer dollars are paying for federal employees, which include Congress, to have 12 weeks of family leave). That goes to show how little this country values families. It’s quite pathetic and absolutely infuriating, and every day that we have gone further and further into my leave, the more viscerally angry I have gotten about how sad our society is. In Australia, new moms get an entire year off. It is very similar across all of Europe. The United States is the only industrialized country in the world to not have paid family leave. And yet, people who are so used to how stupid our system is defend it and say that they should not be responsible for paying for other people’s choices to have children. This completely ignores the fact that the same people benefit from future generations being born. Who the hell is going to be fund their Social Security? Who is going to be doing all the work at the stores and businesses that they need to survive?
So given our privilege, I told Chris that he really should be taking more time upfront and he disagreed. Men have a lot more pressure to not take all of their leave, even if they work at a company that has generous family leave. He was worried about how it would affect his career growth at his current company, plus general perception. While I understand all of this, I also am looking at how our day-to-day has been structured over the last seven weeks, and I am genuinely concerned.
While there are certainly pros and cons of having your baby exclusively nursed, one major pro is that whenever you feed your baby, you are actually interacting directly with your baby and taking care of her right then and there. However, when you are pumping, the only thing you are really interacting with is… the damn pump. And when you have bottles connected to your breasts, It is very difficult to try to hold your baby or feed her, particularly if she is still a newborn and needs to have her head held up. So I got worried about how I was going to be able to balance feeding her on schedule while also accommodating her grazing habits… Along with my pumping schedule, both have to happen every three hours during the day and one has to happen before the other… Because I cannot allow my baby to starve while I pump… That makes no sense. I am pumping milk specifically for her to eat. Having someone else bottle feed her has allowed me to pump on schedule pretty much every day in the last seven weeks. It has also given me a little free time to do things like shower, go to the gym, cook, clean, and nap. If I have to bottle feed her and pump, especially given that I pump seven times a day, this would be very challenging for me to accomplish all by myself with no help at all. I told him this, and he said that he would see how this would go for the first few days or the first week. So, I am bracing myself.