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How the End of Maternity Leave Changed My Life 

Updated: Jan 11

Happy New Year, friends!

Emily here, your writer and cheerleader. 

I’ve been researching the countless benefits of skin-to-skin contact for three years. When I’m not reading medically reviewed studies, I’m interviewing doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, doulas, and parents about the importance of skin-to-skin contact. It is my privilege to share my findings and inspirational stories with you. I think it’s about time I share my story about how I got here and why I’m SO passionate about Bonsie’s mission. 

Becoming a mom has been the most extraordinary, challenging, and transformative experience of my life. My greatest challenge was not exhaustion, breastfeeding, or changing endless dirty diapers…quite the opposite. My biggest challenge was returning to work full time and missing my baby girl. This painful experience threw my life on a completely different course and led me to Bonsie. 

Emily and her youngest daughter snuggling on a bed

I never considered quitting my teaching job after I got pregnant. I was working on my master’s degree, loved my students, my school, and coaching in the evenings. Plus, there was no way we could lose my income. Like most families I know, two incomes are a necessity. 

Then, I held my newborn baby in my arms. If you’re a parent, I don’t have to describe the overwhelming feeling of joy, protectiveness, and love I felt holding her for the first time. I was, and still am, completely enchanted. Leaving her for any length of time now seemed impossible. 

I kept thinking it was just hormones. I’ll be okay once I return to work, I told myself. But as maternity leave drew to a close, my feeling of panic only heightened. 

I was a mess the first several weeks I had to drop my daughter off at daycare, to put it mildly. It was so bad that our daycare provider asked me to drop her off without saying goodbye. I arrived at work daily with puffy eyes, a red face, and wondering how I could possibly survive the day. I didn’t even bother with makeup anymore because I always cried it off. I literally sprinted out the door at quitting time. 

Sunday nights were the worst because I didn’t know how I could face another week of 40 hours apart. I kept wondering the same thing: How do other moms do this? This feels so wrong! Am I the only mom who feels this way? Every fiber of my being SCREAMED at me that I needed my baby. 

I spent every minute of my evenings and weekends with my baby. She napped in my arms, breastfed, and I said NO to all plans that didn’t involve holding my little girl close. 

Each morning I determinedly reminded myself that the next school year would be different. As I woke up my sleeping baby, nursed her, pumped, then packed her bottles, I resolved that I was going to do whatever it took to stay home with my daughter full time. 

Many other moms, and anyone who thought I needed unsolicited advice, told me that daycare was the best place for my daughter. She needs to be socialized. She needs to learn independence. It’s good for you to get a break. I tried to believe this to make myself feel better, but I knew the truth.

My two-month-old baby didn’t need to be socialized or learn independence, she needed her mom. She needed my loving arms, kind words, and familiar face, and I needed her. 

Other comments I received:

  • Well, everyone has to work. That’s just the way it is. 

  • Maybe you have postpartum depression. 

  • Try not to be so sensitive. 

  • Your baby is fine. She’ll never remember this. 

  • If you stop breastfeeding and pumping you won’t miss her so much.  

  • You just need to get out more. 

  • It’ll get easier. 

Well, it did not get easier, but I did get tougher. I stopped listening to what society said and started following my heart. I didn’t care if daycare and working full time away from home was expected, that didn’t work for my family. I didn’t want someone else telling me about my baby’s day, her schedule, how much she ate, or the milestone she reached. 

My husband held my hand through these difficult six months and together we created a plan. He wanted me to be at home with our baby almost as much as I did. 

I didn’t know it then, but every minute I had to spend away from my baby I was being forged, molded, and carved into the mother I am today. I will stop at nothing to create the life I want for my children and spend as much time with them as I can. I will teach my daughters that they create their own destiny, and that they don’t need to meet anyone's expectations but their own. 

The next school year I taught part-time and watched my daughter and my nephew in the afternoon. I also tutored on the weekend, started building my writing portfolio, and began freelancing to earn extra money. 

This new schedule was possible because my mom rearranged her work hours to watch our baby in the morning. Each day, instead of a tearful daycare drop off, I got to see my mom joyfully hug her granddaughter. If my mom couldn’t watch her one day, her Gammy, Grandpa, or Papa stepped in to help. I will be eternally grateful to them for saving me that year. (This plan also required a lot of self advocacy, sacrifices, and budgeting.) I taught each morning with enthusiasm and again raced out the door to be with my daughter. 

I quit my part-time teaching job one week before I found out I was pregnant with our second daughter. I quit before I was making enough money writing to pay our bills. My husband believed in me, and my desire to stay home with my babies was all the motivation I needed to grow a career I could do from home. 

Emily and her family standing in a sunflower field.

Being with my daughters full time is more wonderful than I ever imagined. I don’t have to miss a second of my girls growing up. Instead of daycare and 40 hours apart each week, we have tea parties, story time, long walks, and picnics. When they sleep or my husband is home to help, I work. 

Bonsie Skin to Skin Babywear was an answer to my prayers. Anna and Joey, Bonsie’s founders, took a chance on me three years ago by hiring me as a contract writer. I help Bonsie by providing encouragement and education on the importance of skin-to-skin contact, grow brand awareness, and find ways to help new families. Anna and Joey truly want to make their community a better place for new parents, and their faith in me and their business decisions reflect that. Our partnership is a perfect fit because our goals align, which is supporting moms and dads in giving their babies the best possible start in life. 

I want every mom to know that it is possible to find creative ways to spend more time with your babies. If I made it happen, you can too. 

This is my anthem, my war cry, and my passion that fuels my work and my writing:

Moms should not have to choose between time with their newborn babies and putting food on the table.  

Many new moms can’t even afford to take maternity leave. In These Times reported that one in four employed moms in the United States return to work two weeks after having a baby. TWO WEEKS. This is unfathomable. Not just for the mom who is separated from her newborn baby and still healing from childbirth, but also for her baby who craves and needs her mother’s closeness above all else. 

I know that many women prefer to return to work at some point after childbirth, which is awesome. What I specifically want to address is the short amount of time that moms get with their newborn babies before returning to work: eight weeks IF they are fortunate. 

Babies need longer than eight weeks to bond with their mom or primary caregivers. They need time for skin-to-skin contact, time to breastfeed and establish a milk supply, time to heal, time to get to know each other, and time to find their new rhythm. Our society needs to better support new moms, starting with improved maternity leave, greater parenting education, access to quality health care, and lactation assistance. Our country would be a far better place if moms and babies had more time to bond within a loving community of family and friends. 

I wish I had a perfect solution so that every mom and dad could spend more time with their children, but I believe this is possible if we begin to make small changes within our own communities. 

Parents can start by looking for flexible careers or jobs they can do from home or part-time. Budgeting and life-style changes also go a long way when prioritizing more time with your children. Employers should realize that they will attract motivated employees if they offer more flexibility. Families could consider living with grandparents or extended family to pool resources. Schools can incorporate greater education by providing parenting classes and practical financial planning.

If we take small steps every day we can create communities that are more supportive of the time new parents need with their babies, which will create a better world for our children. 

It is possible to fix our broken system and nurture the time that moms need with their babies, and it starts with each of us setting an example and making changes within our own family and workplace. Pausing my teaching career to spend more time with my children is the bravest and best decision I have ever made. This decision also led me to you, dear readers, a community of fiercely devoted moms. 

(If the end of maternity leave is as difficult for you as it was for me, please read this article for more inspiration.)

I’ll leave you with a letter I wrote to my oldest  daughter several years ago:

Dear Darling,

In 10 days I have to go back to work. How is this possible?? You belong in my arms, and I’m not ready to hand you off to anyone else. Everyone says it will get easier to be away from you, but I don’t buy it. 

My most comforting thought is knowing that I do not have to accept this. If being away from you is as difficult as I think it will be, then I will figure out a way to stay home with you before the next school year. I will teach online, waitress on the weekends, or publish a New York Times Best Seller. (Ha!) I don’t care what it takes. 

This is my promise to you: You and I will have an extraordinary life. We are the authors of our story. So, if it’s best for us to be together, Monday through Friday, then I won’t sleep until I make that happen.

I will not wish for this time to go quickly because I refuse to rush a single day with you. We will get through it together: you, me, and dada. (And the dogs!) 

I love love love you. 

Love, Mama

P.S. I wish we were kangaroos so I could carry you everywhere with me. 

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