I’m starting to believe the expression that a mothers lot in life is to feel guilty. A case in point – this week. I’ve been on maternity leave for two and a half months already. I’m scheduled to return to work at the beginning of May. However, as part of my very hotly negotiated maternity leave benefits is that I would start from the 1st March assisting with some admin from home. Initially I was happy with the arrangement, that is before we settled into our lives as a family of three. Now, I’d much rather stay at home and take care of my little darling for the remainder of the two months of my leave.
The problem with this is that, although South Africa has a very progressive constitution, we’re still living in the dark ages in terms of maternity benefits and maternity leave. W worked for a large Swedish corporation up until last year, he travelled to Sweden and I was so jealous to discover what Swedes are offered…. 18 months maternity leave @ 80% of their salaries. It kind of makes the South African allowance of 4 months with no pay seem harsh and really unfair.
Add to that, its almost impossible to register for UIF benefits because our child is adopted and we’re pretty much sitting in a tight financial position. My UIF benefit, while I qualify for the highest payout, will only pay in around June, and will be back dated for the time of my maternity leave because the labour department don’t pay Mom’s through adoption until the final adoption order is passed, we estimate we will get ours in May, but can’t be certain.
As a result, I’ve agreed to assist from home in order to improve my earnings. But its been a hard decision to come to terms with. I’ve felt sick with guilt over having to do this. I feel like I’m depriving my child of precious time with me in the early days of her life. I’m disappointed in my employers for putting me in a position where I’ve had to make this choice, granted, by law, I’m not entitled to anything but really, after 5 years of service I would have hoped for more. Especially because this is our miracle child, our only child, its not like I will take maternity leave ever again and I just wanted to be able to enjoy this time and look back on it without regrets. But I suppose I can’t really expect them to care about that now can I?
Sadly, because of the unusual circumstances of our arrival at parenthood, I can’t just sit back and live on our savings for the next few months, we still have an adoption to pay for. So, it was with a very heavy heart, red eyes and tear stained cheeks that I headed into the office on Wednesday to collect a company laptop and be brought up to speed with what has been happening with my clients. I swear I heard my heart crack when I kissed my little darling goodbye and left. The entire time I was there, which was only 2 hours, I couldn’t stop thinking about how I wanted to get home to her.
I really hope that this is going to get easier!!! Somebody tell me it will??? The thing is, I’m not cut out to be a stay at home mom, I’m not cut out not to work. I’ve tried it once before, for 18 months I was a housewife and I nearly lost my mind in the process. So now I’m trying to figure out what will be the happy medium. What will allow me to go to work but also not feel guilty about leaving my baby. I know because of the type of person I am that I will be a better mother to her if am working outside the home but how do I get past my feelings of guilt and this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach?