I took maternity leave in 2014. As I had been at my job for less than a year, I could not use FMLA and did not have access to my workplace’s parental leave (3 weeks paid). I was forced to use all of my sick and vacation time, which meant that I had to save up and not use any of these days before going out on leave. I took 6 weeks (the maximum that I could take under my employer’s policy. Of that time, I was able to cover 3.5 weeks paid using all of my vacation/sick time but when I went back to work, I had no vacation or sick time and when my baby did get sick, my husband had to stay with him. I personally feel that the lack of access to paid and significant parental leave can lead to less bonding with your child, lack of persistence when breastfeeding, lower supply, and postpartum depression/anxiety.
I struggled with post partum anxiety and found it very hard to concentrate on my work and to bond well with my child. I see the differences in my post partum experience very strongly now that I have had another child and was able to take 12 weeks off, all of which were paid with vacation/sick time in combination with my employers parental leave pay. I feel much more connected to my baby and I have not experienced anxiety as I did with my first child. Others are not as lucky as me and do not even have access to 6 weeks off as they must work and get paid in order to support their families. Paid leave policies along with longer leaves are essential in women continuing to participate in the workforce and for women’s overall health and bonding with their children. I hope that we can achieve a paid family leave policy for all of our citizens especially for those who are not protected by FMLA.