If you are banging head over what could be the best baby shower gift for your pregnant co-worker, there is a new trend. Probably the most valuable gift for a working new mother is a little more time which she can spend with her young one before duty calls her back. While most countries in the world are now coming around to allowing extended maternity leaves for pregnant working women, no amount of maternity leave is too much.
In January this year, Nebraska’s governor Pete Ricketts launched a maternity leave donation program in the state. It enables new moms who work for the state to receive donated time once they have used up their own statutory leaves.
If you have a tiny sapling to tend to, who refuses to even burp without you, then you need all the leaves you can get your hands on. Besides, motherhood is not just about rearing up a child. It is about infinite exhaustion from sleepless nights, a struggle to keep your body running after childbirth and during nursing. So maternity leave is also a time for women to recharge themselves before they go into the world fighting duties on both personal and professional fronts.
Enabling new moms to gain work-life balance
According to a report in Good Morning America, employees within a state agency where a new mom works get an email that they can reply to and anonymously donate their paid time off. The new mom then finds out during her maternity leave, how much additional time she has received.
- The Maternity Benefit Bill made 26 weeks of paid maternity leave mandatory for all women employed in the organised sector in India.
- Traditional Indian families still frown upon the idea of a mother leaving behind a young child to go to work.
- Many women quit their jobs, as they feel it to be too soon to go back to work.
- A few extra weeks of leaves, donated by their colleagues, could help many women stay in the workforce.
The gift of paid leave is of much significance in the US, where only 15 percent of all private workers have access to paid family leave. But this doesn’t mean new moms in other countries do not need extra time off apart from their maternity leave. In India, the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill passed in 2017, has made 26 weeks of paid maternity leave mandatory for all women employed in the organised sector.
Most families in India still hold traditional views of motherhood. For them, a woman’s prime duty is towards her child. They think a five- or six-month-old is still too young to be separated from his mother for a long duration. Most women thus are encouraged to give up their jobs, since limited maternity leave doesn’t suffice. Even if a new mom fights it out or joins work with staunch familial support, she constantly lives with the guilt of leaving her child back home.
Marital discord, upset at home, accusations of neglect, etc eventually gets on to many women and they rather quit their jobs, than suffer under this burden of expectations and guilt. Sometimes, a few extra weeks of leave are all that may be a deciding factor in whether or not a new mom must keep her job or quit.
Only mothers who have to return to work before they are mentally, physically and emotionally ready to do so, know what difference a few more days make.
So instead of pooling money to gift your pregnant colleague strollers or rockers, why not gift them something much more precious? New mothers will forever cherish the extra days they get off from work. It will not just help them be by their child’s side, but also give them time to concentrate on their individual well-being.
In the struggle to sort out work-life balance after pregnancy and childbirth, a few extra days of paid leaves can make a lot of difference. Hence donating leaves to new moms is probably the most valuable gift her colleagues could ever offer her. This is one gift she will cherish for her lifetime.
Picture credit: Telegraph
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.