As if returning to work after maternity leave wasn’t hard enough already for women from all around the world, the US parental leave policies are putting even more strain on new mothers.
But despite being overly stressed and exhausted, being the key source of income, the financial burden makes them put on a smile and open the office door just 12 weeks in from maternity leave. For most European countries, such a short period of leave is simply incomprehensible.
And one of the unsung hero moms, Rachael Larsen, took 4 years to finally have the courage to share her tearful story of going back to work. Rachael, who’s a director of product operations at a Salt Lake City education company, wrote: “The shame around raising a family and working full-time is real,” and added that no matter the circumstances, “she wasn’t ready.”
Rachael’s post shared on LinkedIn shed light on what’s really going through so many women’s heads as they have no other choice but to suck it up and do their best; even then, deep inside, they may feel totally defeated. So let’s read it in full right below.
Bored Panda reached out to Rachael Larsen, the author of this viral Linkedin post who was happy to share her experience of that tearful day.
When asked what took her four years to share the picture, Rachael said: “It took me so long because I knew the default response from many people would be critical of my desire to be a career-loving mother. The pressure for women to fit in only one box is real and you can see it lived out in rude comments.”
“Returning to work after family leave might be one of the most difficult things you do, or it might bring you relief to feel like your old self. Every situation is different.” With Rachael’s oldest child, she returned to work after 8 weeks. “It was a breath of fresh air for me to be able to take a break from the grueling work of caring for a newborn who wants to eat every two hours and cries non-stop.”
However, many parents out there stay silent about what they’re really going through at that incredibly stressful point of their lives. “We don’t want to be viewed as weak, or unable to manage the demands of our lives.”
According to Rachael, “It is difficult to ask for help, especially when many companies only provide what FMLA requires and their corporate policies don’t allow them to provide more paid time off or flexible return options. For many managers, there is literally nothing they can do.”
Rachael’s confession resonated with many others as they shared their support in the comments
For comparison, in Austria, women are obligated to take leave from eight weeks before the birth to eight weeks after, during which they cannot work. According to an OECD report, Austrian employees are paid their full average net income for the previous three months in maternity benefit with no cap.
People from foreign countries shared their experiences and many agreed 12 weeks is far from enough
“It’s no surprise that the parental leave in America is the worst of any developed nation. To break free from the individualist mindset of ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ we will need a national change of heart where we acknowledge the value that families and communities provide to our country.”
Rachael believes that “we need to value the humanity of our workers just as much as we value corporate profit. It doesn’t have to be one or the other; when the interests of both are balanced, you see companies thrive.”
But there have also been some critical opinions
To all parents out there who feel silenced, miserable, and hopeless, Rachael says: “No matter how you feel about it, you are not alone. There are millions of parents out there working through the same emotions and guilt that you feel.”
According to a 2019 report by Unicef, which analyzed which of the world’s richest countries are most family-friendly, Estonia leads the field for new mothers with over 80 weeks of leave at full pay.
And from 41 reported countries that are part of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and European Union, the US made it to the bottom of the table, giving a total of zero weeks with no national paid leave.
And a few general comments that summed up the whole situation