I’ve decided to take 6+ months of maternity leave to start with.
I know it is shockingly long for some.
I also know it is shockingly short for others.
One of the things that any working expecting mother has to deal with is how to balance a young baby/child and the career. For many who work in the corporate, it comes down to one single question: how long the maternity leave will/can be.
Australian law supports up to one year of unpaid leave, which may be extended to two years with the agreement from the employer. This is unheard of in many countries incluidng China where I come from. One statistics I read the other day says that Australian women take about 7 months of mat leave in average.
I have very mixed feeling about taking long mat leave.
On the one hand, I don’t know how I will feel dealing with a crying baby 24*7 without being able to have adult converstaion most of time (yes I will read to her in Chinese from early on, but that’s rather monologue for a while at least, isn’t it?). I’ve never imagined myself a motherly type, and I’m not known for being patient with children. Mature and spiritual conversation has always been my type of tea and in fact crucial for my wellbeing. So, am I going to go nuts after 6 months of nappy changing and ‘yi yi ya ya’?
On the other hand, I truly believe what I have been reading about the early education: the more attention and love you can give to the baby and the more communication and bond you can establish with her in the very early part of her life, the more secure she will feel thus the more ‘ready’ she will be for growing up healthily (mentally). Time is probably the best gift a parent can give to a child. So 6 months is definitely not long. After all, child is child only once. You miss it, and you miss it forever.
Then I started to venture into the child care options for post-mat-leave arrangement (after all, regardless of the eventual duration of mat leave, I’ve never thought of not going back to workforce). What an adventure! Do you know that most of the child care centers around Sydney have more than one year of waiting list, and some more than two? Do you know that it costs a fortunue (we are talking about 100-120 australian dollar A DAY!!) to put your child into one of these, if you are lucky enough to get a place? Do you know that you have to start to put your name down in multiple centers AS SOON AS you know you are pregnant, and even that doens’t guarantee you a place by the time you are back to work?
By simple mathmatics, I start to understand why some women (or men) choose not to return work. After all, if most of what you earn goes to the child care anyway, why bother? Despite the fact that work/career often means much more than just payslip (sense of achievement, social networking, self esteem, etc etc. Oh that’s a whole different topic on its own), it’s not a surprising choice out of financial reasons to choose child caring over career.
It’s a very different story in many Asian countries. Young parents with new born babies in China are better supported in terms of having grandparents or nannies (live in helpers) to look after the child when the mother goes back to work after three months or so. It’s not unheard of to have 2 helpers at home – one takes care of the child and another takes care of house chores. You like it or not, nannies are affordable for financially-better-off couples in many cities. Alternatively some would simply let the grandparents take over the responsibility of raising the child. One might very well debate if it’s a good thing to leave the care of your child to another person (grandgarent or nanny) – I am on the ‘against’ camp – but choices are there.
Sometimes I feel fortunate that I am under no pressure to have to choose work over child raising (at least for the first year). Sometimes I have this strong anxiety of not being able to do it all by my own. Sometimes I ask myself what I would become.
Time will tell.
A few days later, there is this piece of news that caught my eyes that is sort of related to this blog:
Lack of affordable childcare keeps 70,000 mothers at home