On my recent blogging travels catching up on other bloggers posts I came across a post from ReadySteadyMummy about A Working Families Campaign entitled Six Months for Mums and it inspired me to write my own post about the campaign.
It seems the lovely Government are yet again considering attacking the great average British Family with more un family friendly policies. This time they are considering reducing maternity leave to 18 weeks (4 and a half months)
Current law allows most women to return to work after 2 weeks, but it is presumed that most will take 52 weeks leave unless they state otherwise. Under potential new Government plans, it will be presumed that women will take 18 weeks of maternity leave after which they will have ask for more leave and negotiate with their employer about how it may be taken.
My immediate alarm bells ring here, in that many employers, especially in the current climate may refuse mothers the extra time or state that it must be taken unpaid, which as my previous post The Tightening Belt already shows that many women are struggling on maternity leave and ending up in debt. By reducing the amount of leave women can presumably take, it is undoubtedly going to add further pressure for mum’s to return to work earlier than they want to.
It’s not just that though, by shortening maternity leave and forcing women back into work the Government are failing to look at the additional impact this may have.
Many parents don’t have the luxury of a baby who sleeps through by 4 months, I did (please don’t throw something, I’m sorry!), however many are still feeding during the night or dealing with teething etc. By making mums return to work early there will be an influx of sleep-deprived zombie like new mothers staggering their way to work every day! It will be like a scene from Night of the Living Dead! Seriously though, the first few months are so exhausting, there are so many changes to routine and sleep patterns, obviously the people recommending this haven’t been there!
WEANING AND BREASTFEEDING
Babies are weaned at 6 months, a process most parents want to be actively involved in, if they have to return to work early then this will mean that someone else is going to have to take on the responsibility of this and that the average parent will not have much of an involvement. This in turn may mean that processes aren’t followed as parents may wish (due to nurseries or childcare providers not having the means to follow desired methods ie baby led weaning etc) or even that we generate a society of new parents who lack a basic understanding of the requirements of child nutrition etc that many learn through the weaning process. Many women breastfeed (or aim to) until at least 6 months, once their child is ready for weaning. Whilst some organisations MAY provide facilities for breastfeeding mothers, it frankly isn’t that realistic. I couldn’t pump enough milk, it just didn’t work for me, I tried manual and electric breast pumps but I got nothing. I HAD to breastfeed. Making women return to work may mean many mums have to stop breastfeeding or choose not to do it at all because of this. This isn’t a major issue but perhaps they would have chosen to or continued to do otherwise, and isn’t it contradicting what all the advice and guidance suggests to us of breast is best and exclusive breast-feeding for at least the first 6 months???
The first year is so important, the first roll, the first sit unaided, the first crawl, the first steps… these are moments parents long to be involved in and to witness. By four and a half months most of these haven’t yet happened! My daughter didn’t sit up until 7 months, bum shuffled at 11 months and didn’t walk till 17 months! If parents have to return to work, chances are they will miss most of these… that’s a huge shame and quite sad really, one or two fine, but to miss most of the major occurrences in your child’s first year…?
The first months of a baby’s life is about them bonding with those closest t them. I had an amazing few months with my little girl as you will read below, we did all sorts and I really believe it helped her development and our bond. However at four months she developed the most extreme separation anxiety, in fact it was the worst my HV had ever seen! I will post about this in more detail another time, but basically I couldn’t leave my daughter with ANYONE for four and a half months. She was HYSTERICAL every time, even if I just went into the kitchen. I had to go into work one day and came home to find my little girl still screaming. It had been over 3 hours and apparently she hadn’t stopped once. No matter what we did she screamed and screamed, sobbing uncontrollably. Babies feel the need for closeness to their parents / mums and mums in turn often feel the same need, this often doesn’t change until well after 6 months at least. I was so stressed out during that four and a half months, it really took its toll on me emotionally. It’s unfair for mums to have added pressure put on them by potentially having no choice but to return to work.
ACTIVITIES AND SUPPORT
When I was on maternity leave I took every opportunity to get out and about with my little one, to meet new people, attend support groups and activity groups to not only get support myself and meet like-minded mums but to help me learn how to stimulate my daughter too. I went to a breastfeeding support group every week and had dinner with girls from the group after. I did baby massage, baby yoga, treasure boxes, music and sensory groups and messy play, all through my local Sure Start Centre as well as a weaning course when my daughter was 4 and a half months (which was invaluable) and rhyme and music sessions at my local library. I had a lovely time learning new skills, making new friends and spending quality, fun time with my little girl. I did this through the whole year I was off. As the months progressed we also attended soft play centres, swim sessions and had coffee mornings and play dates at friends houses, it was lovely and it really helped make me the mum I am today, I am sure of that.
If the Government go ahead and reduce maternity leave to 18 months they will change the modern mum and potentially further impact on the modern family, young people and society as a whole. They stress the importance of “Society” and “Family” and “Education / Child Development“, well my response to that is don’t proceed with a policy that has the potential to have a detrimental impact on all of these important areas.
Working Families are campaigning for a minimum standard of 26 weeks (six months) of maternity leave for all women.
They want to know if six months matters/ed to you. Whether you’re about to have a baby, are in the middle of maternity leave or you’re back at work, they would like to hear your stories.
You can visit their site to find out more or ‘like’ the Working Families Facebook Page and share your story there with them.
Please show your support and protect the future of our time with our babies
- 10-week maternity leave too short: mothers (dailystar.com.lb)