By Brandee, Guest Blogger
Brandee is a marketing professional distracted by mommy blogging, with a passion for writing and a lust for shoes. Mama to her 1.5 year old daughter Everly, Brandee spends her days racing between work and home, precariously balancing the role of the working mother. She calls herself “driven”, which is really just a cover-up for the fact that she’s extremely high strung. Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, (eh!), she has a degree in Criminology and Psychology, and has probably even taken a marketing course or two. Former party girl turned oh so responsible mother, you can catch her (sometimes fueled by wine) tweets as @Babe_Chilla.
Married for 3 years to the guy who crushed on her for 10 before she considered dating him, Brandee documents her family adventures in an honest and sarcastic tell all blog Chill Mama Chill, It’s Only a Baby.
I have to say that, becoming a working mother in Canada seems to be at least somewhat easier than becoming a working mother in the US. I say this without any sense of the actual system in the US, and with a completely biased opinion based solely on my own experience, but I say it none the less. That’s how this blogging thing works anyway, right?
In Canada, there are just so many options for maternity leave and returning to work. First of all, we get an ENTIRE year off work, paid for by the government. Now, for any of us lucky enough to be working above the poverty line, this does not come without a cost. I made roughly 51% of my salary for that year, because the government does max you out at a certain level, but that’s still a heck of a pay check for staying home with my daughter. Then the government also pays you between 1 and 3 additional benefits per month, depending on your income, until your child is 18 or something (I am full of FACTS). For me, that’s $120 a month (I only get the Universal benefit). For my sister, who gets the universal, the federal and the provincial? That’s a whopping $350ish dollars a month (PER KID). Not to mention that when you do return to work, you get to write off your child care expenses and are reimbursed a HUGE portion at the end of the tax year.
It’s raining money up here in Canada apparently, damn socialism.
Obviously, it’s not all about the money. That just makes taking the time off a lot easier. Of all my American mama friends who go back to work when their babes are just wee, it’s ALWAYS because their family needs the cash, and whose doesn’t?
Add to this the fact that, as long as you’re a full-time, permanent employee when you go on maternity leave, your company is required to hold your position for your return. Or at least, they are required to offer you a similar position, for the same pay. Free money AND job security? It’s a baby making PARTY up in this joint.
It gets better. Our time off options are even more flexible than mom blowing off work for a year and getting paid (I know I know, it’s not easy) because you know who else can blow off work and get paid? Daddy! That’s right; daddy is allowed some of those perks too. Family focused Canadians we are.
Firstly, for many (but certainly not all) dads, you get some “paternity leave” from your company, which is basically an extension of your vacation time (and nothing to do with government requirements). For us, the hubs got 3 weeks off, paid and not affecting his actual “vacation” time. This was AMAZING for me, especially after I had a c-section. And then? Well then there are dad’s rights to government paid paternity leave that can kick in at any time.
It’s not quite the same as mom’s time off, and the time can’t be taken simultaneously between parents but, if after 6 months mom decides she just MUST get back to her desk job? Dad can take the last 6 months as paternity leave, and be entitled to the same benefits. The basic rule is you get 12 months in total for parental leave, with daddy entitled to 6 if he chooses. How you divvy it up is up to you. If you want to take 10 and him 2? Go for it. If you want to take 12 and leave him with none? That’s your prerogative. However you want to work it, it works. This is great for mothers who make more money than their partners, or who have a job they just have to get back to. It’s also great for fathers who want to try their hand at the SAHD thing, before deciding whether or not to trade their ties in for smocks.
It’s all about option here. And it’s great. Money, flexibility, job security, it sure does ease the mental burden of preparing your life for the addition of a child. There is less to worry about, less to think about and more time for your babies.
In the end, it’s time that makes the transition to working mom easier on us up here in the North; at least it did for me.
I had an entire year with my daughter before I faced the prospect of returning to my job. I went through the tiny little infant stages, survived the long sleepless nights (which in our house lasted MONTHS), was there for her first roll overs, her first crawls, her first smiles and coos. You get the picture. I didn’t have all the guilt and sadness that comes from knowing someone else would likely witness all those firsts, and I got to just live in the moment for a year, waiting to see what new and wonderful developments my daughter would have.
I was also able to look at her first birthday as more than just a milestone of her first year of life. I looked at it as the end of one experience and the beginning of another. The 1 year mark is significant, and by the time we got there, I could see leaving her in the care of someone else and being OK with it. We had bonded so well, we really knew and loved each other, and I really felt like we were connected. Her eyes lit up when I entered the room and I knew that even if I was gone for an entire day, she’d remember who I as when I came back. We really had the time to create a relationship before I had to even think about going back. I didn’t have the extra stress of worrying about what leaving her in someone else’s care would do. Or at least, I had a lot more time to wrap my head around that reality, and come to terms with the normalcy if it all.
I also successfully (but not without initial frustration) exclusively breastfed my daughter for a year; something I doubt I could have done had I returned to work – I’m just not sure I could have kept up with demand. I had pumped bottles so daddy could perform the bedtime routine with her, which was a precious time for them considering the hours he worked. And when it was time for me to go back to work, she self-weaned and made the transition to cow’s milk a lot easier than I transitioned to not breastfeeding at all.
I had the time and energy to make all her baby food; I took her to swimming lessons and had my fair share of play dates in that year. I experienced the joys of a babysitter for the odd time out with the hubs, and I got to stay home with her, undistracted, when she came down with her first cold and when she cut her first tooth. I was there for her first sets of vaccines, I was the one who took her on her first swing set, her first story time at the library, her first everything in the first year. Work was never on my mind, and I never had the guilt or feeling like I should be doing something else.
By the time that 1 year mark rolled around, I had also learned that being a stay at home mom was not easy, and was not for me. I love her more than anything, but to be honest, I missed my job, my coworkers, and my quiet lunches alone (or you know, eating at all). I also realized that I am not creative or intelligent enough to stay home and entertain someone of her age. Sure we played games, we got out and did things, we learned stuff but, honestly, I could not see myself being enough for her on a full time basis. She needed more than I knew how to give, and I needed more than the crappy feelings that came from realizing that.
It wasn’t easy at first. I stressed my entire last month of leave, just wondering how we would survive. I freaked about the routine, about how we would possibly manage to get up and out the door on time. I cried about leaving my baby in the care of strangers, and about the unfairness of it all. I felt the pangs of guilt, the “you don’t love your child enough” bullshit ringing in my ears. I told my hubs we should sell the house and move to the suburbs so that I didn’t need to work, and I EVEN considered taking in someone else’s child, just so I could stay home with mine. All that anxiety was normal though, and in the end never changed the fact that I knew, deep down, I was the working mother type. I had to let go of the past year, and move forward with our new lives. I had to make my own mental leap in order to handle the transition.
She got into an amazing daycare right near my work, which eased the sense of guilt even more. In fact, I was EXCITED to go back to work because I knew she would have the stimulation she needed to grow and thrive, and I would have the time apart from her to truly appreciate how amazing she was. She is excited to go play with her friends, to learn with her teachers, to spend time all independent like, and I am excited that I am supporting my family and using my brain for good instead of evil (and by evil, I mean the mommy guilt that so often plagued me during my stint as a SAHM).
When I drop her off in the morning, she’s like “see ya” and when I come back? She’s like “ugh YOU’RE HERE ALREADY?” In the beginning, that WAS hard, because I started to feel like maybe she loved it there more than with me, but, I realized, she enjoys having things that are just hers, just as much as her mama does. I also realized that even if I DID miss a few of those “firsts” it wouldn’t kill us. The first time is important, but the joy she gets from practicing for my hubs and I OVER and OVER and OVER almost outweighs that initial moment.
It’s certainly not all sunshine and roses. By the end of the day I am DYING to get out of work and see her smiley face. I think about her ALL day. I hate when I get stuck there late, and have to shorten the time we get to spend at home together. I can’t help but wonder if she thinks I abandoned her when it ticks passed the 4:45pm mark. There are days when I just want to stay home and play, and mornings where I miss sleeping in and spending a lazy day cuddling and hanging out with my little love.
For the most part however, I am perfectly happy and content with the way our lives work. And I have to thank the Canadian government for affording me the opportunity to transition into my role with ease.