I am a college professor working at a CT State University. My employer allows for 6 weeks of unpaid leave following the birth of a child, and I was fortunate enough to be able to bank enough sick time beforehand so that I was able to collect a paycheck during that leave. I worked, full-time, until I went into labor – at 41 weeks plus 2 days. My leave began the following day and I immediately began feeling anxious about the limited amount of time that I would have to bond with my first born. Just a short 6 weeks later, and I was headed back to work. Admittedly, I was more fortunate than most in that I was able to rearrange my schedule to overlap with the time my husband would be home. This allowed us to avoid having to send a newborn baby to full-time daycare, but meant that my husband and I were each effectively functioning as single parents. He would leave for work around 5am and the baby would wake shortly thereafter. I would struggle to answer emails and phone into meetings during the day. The baby wouldn’t nap unless she was touching me, so that meant that work would often pile up – school work and work at home. By 3pm my husband would arrive home and I would dart into my office. First, I would pump in order to make a bottle for my husband to feed the baby the following night. Then, I would begin a solid 4 hours of lecture. Afterwards, I would return to my office to pump again, this time with a sign on my door that read “office hours in session – please knock when you arrive”. I’d work for a few more hours before returning home to a waking baby. My daughter only slept 30-60min at a time during that first year and a half, so I would often have to lecture on only 2-4 hr of combined sleep (some times in 15 minute increments). Meanwhile, everyone and everything around me was suffering – work was stacking up, household duties were falling by the wayside, my marriage was tenuous, the baby struggled to eat and sleep, and I was literally delirious with lack of sleep and stress. I returned to my regular day duties when my daughter was 10 months old, and she went to daycare full time. But using all of my sick time following delivery meant that I had to take unpaid leave when daycare closed due to bad weather or when my daughter was sick. I know men who have retired with literally months of sick time saved up, but women who dare to have children struggle to get enough days to cover their little ones, let alone have enough time to cover their own illnesses. Having a child doesn’t have to be a luxury- in fact, anyone who has done it knows that it’s anything but – but it shouldn’t come with a punishment either. Sadly, most women and men in this country who elect to have children are punished – our careers suffer, our relationships suffer, our children suffer, and we personally suffer. It’s time for people to realize that, when family leave is not provided, no one benefits – not the businesses, not the families, and not the children. Something needs to be done.
-Kelly, Oxford CT