Guest Blog Post: Jennifer Malicoat
Mother and Advocate, Cincinnati, Ohio
After struggling with infertility for a few years, my husband and I were elated to find out we were pregnant in June of 2016. Our excitement was dimmed a bit as we discussed our time off after the baby arrived and the reality of our maternity and paternity leave options sunk in.
My husband, Derek, and I were both employed by nonprofit organizations, worked hard to put away the savings that we had, and stocked up as much sick and vacation time as possible in hopes that a child would be in our near future. Despite the planning, I was crushed when I learned that I would be unable to take the 12 weeks off after our son arrived that I so desperately wished for and had been planning on taking.
I’ll never forget the day, about halfway through my pregnancy, when my boss entered our office, beaming with news to share with me. She couldn’t wait to tell me about a new agency policy that would go into effect just one month before my son was due: 6 weeks paid maternity and paternity leave. There were tears from both of us as I realized that this 6 weeks, combined with my saved sick and vacation time, would allow for a more adequate time period to heal and bond with my baby!
Being in the early childhood field, I know the importance of those early relationships and the effect those bonds and experiences with caregivers have on brain development. I was thrilled that I would be given the opportunity and time to build that strong foundation right from the beginning, but unfortunately, my experience is not the norm for most new parents.
At the time, I felt lucky that my husband was able to take two weeks of paid vacation after the birth. With fathers, it is so much more difficult for them to get the time off they deserve, a shortfall of paid parental leave policies that fail to provide adequate and equal time to new dads. When my labor ended in an unplanned C-section, we needed every bit of that time for him to help me recover from surgery as well as care for and bond with our new son, Cooper.
But our experience, combined with currently being pregnant with our second child, has me advocating for better paternal leave for new mothers AND new fathers, like Derek.
It is still hard for me to believe that next month, I will be having another C-section to welcome our second child into our family, and I only have two weeks of my husband’s help to recuperate before I am on my own for the majority of the day caring for a toddler and newborn. My husband will be back to work before I’m even cleared to drive a car, and we all deserve more than that.
I feel extremely blessed to be in a workplace that supports families with paid leave. The time I was able to spend with Cooper, tending to his needs, watching him grow, and allowing my own body to heal, was incredible.
I returned to my job in a good place mentally and physically, and that allowed me to feel confident as a mother, wife, and employee. And that is something every parent deserves.