Maternity Leave Is Not 'Me' Time

by Valerie Williams
Originally Published: 
Image via Shutterstock

Childless woman wants “meternity” leave, is apparently not joking

If you’ve ever been on maternity leave, you know it’s not exactly a pleasure cruise. Taking care of your infant alone (because most dads hardly get a paternity leave) while also recovering from a vaginal birth or c-section isn’t what anyone would call a vacation.

Oh, wait. Yes it is.

Author Meghann Foye wrote a book called “Meternity” about a woman who fakes a pregnancy and discovers some “hard truths.” Yeah, ok, lady. She also wrote an essay for the New York Post all about why she deserves some kind of maternity leave despite the fact that she isn’t having a baby. She calls it “meternity” leave. To which I say, lol forever. But no, this woman is quite serious.

She writes, “And yet, after 10 years of working in a job where I was always on deadline, I couldn’t help but feel envious when parents on staff left the office at 6 p.m. to tend to their children, while it was assumed co-workers without kids would stay behind to pick up the slack.”

If this was the case at her office, something needed to be done because that is simply unfair, but moving on.

She bemoans the fact that most women take the path of wedding, pregnancy and babies over their 20s and 30s. And if they don’t? “That socially mandated time and space for self-reflection may never come.”

Oh my God. Someone hold me and pass the smelling salts. This woman is actually suggesting that maternity leave is a “socially mandated time and space for self-reflection.”

What did you gals reflect on during the first weeks and months of your child’s life? A few things that came to mind for me were: Exactly how little sleep can I get and still be able to drive a car and remember not to leave the stove on? How much blood can I lose from my vagina and remain alive? How many times can I sob over my pre-pregnancy jeans that might never fit again while staring at my National Geographic-style, milk-leaking, bloody-nippled, gorilla boobs in the mirror without punching said mirror?

So much reflection. So much time and space.

As if this assertion weren’t ridiculous enough, she upped the ante. Upped it really hard.

“It seemed that parenthood was the only path that provided a modicum of flexibility. There’s something about saying “I need to go pick up my child” as a reason to leave the office on time that has far more gravitas than, say, “My best friend just got ghosted by her OkCupid date and needs a margarita” — but both sides are valid.”

You heard it here first, ladies. Parenthood provides FLEXIBILITY! I don’t know about all of you, but my life has been flexible as fuck since having my kids! What, with using up all of my PTO time back when I had an office job for their zillion gross viruses and doctor’s visits and days where daycare closed early — my life was totally teeming with flexibility. I could do anything. I’d have to say the pinnacle of my flexible life as a working parent was the day I went to a 9 am meeting with fresh kid barf on my dress because I had no time to run home and change after leaving my sick son with his grandmother so I could get to work on time.

You could literally smell the flexibility wafting from my person. Or baby barf. Sames.

Foye speaks longingly of all those months spent away from work, where one can realign their focus and decide what really matters. “And as I watched my friends take their real maternity leaves, I saw that spending three months detached from their desks made them much more sure of themselves. One friend made the decision to leave her corporate career to create her own business; another decided to switch industries.”

Actually, they probably just required a whole new job situation because their current one wasn’t at all family-friendly. But feed your delusion, lady. Yes, moms spend their maternity leaves plotting career moves because they have all that extra time to reflect.

She continues on her apparent quest to make me die laughing saying, “From the outside, it seemed like those few weeks of them shifting their focus to something other than their jobs gave them a whole new lens through which to see their lives.”

Yes, a new lens. A rosy one full of possibilities. Or, a cloudy one where all you see is your baby and how to fit that baby into your life and career and marriage and home without losing your sense of self. Or your mind. It absolutely changes how you see things, but probably not in the fantastical and dreamy way Foye imagines.

Overall, Foye is driving at why both men and women need a “meternity” leave saying that it’s common for people to burn out from their jobs and that a few weeks or months off would be beneficial. Of course they would be. So, take them. Unpaid. Just like moms at most American companies going on maternity leave.

The fact is, maternity leave is in no way “me” time. It’s part recovery from a significant medical event, part trying to bond with the new human in your life who needs you constantly and hardly sleeps. If Foye is envying moms on maternity leave, she should also feel a bit green when Bob from accounting goes out for a few weeks to have his gall bladder removed. Maternity leave is not vacation time. It’s not recreational. It’s a wholly necessary period for mothers to recover physically and mentally while caring for their babies. And for most women, the time they get isn’t nearly enough.

All this does is distract from the very real problem of women (and men) not having adequate time off from work after the birth of a child. It is 5000% ridiculous to suggest that childless people need “meternity” leave when American parents are only now just barely getting what they need when it comes to paid parental leave.

All Foye is doing with her stunt is coming off like a selfish, oblivious jerk. If she wants some “me” time akin to that of moms having just had a baby, I’m sure one of us would happily let their kid vomit all over her at the grocery store. It will be a nice taste of what maternity leave is actually like.

Reflect on that.

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