Devastated Mom Shares Why 12 Weeks Of Maternity Leave Is Just Not Enough

When Rachael Larsen had her first child, she went back to work after 8 weeks. She told Bored Panda that at the time, going back to work felt like a good idea. She enjoyed getting a break from “the grueling work of caring for a newborn who wants to eat every two hours and cries non-stop.” 

When Larsen had her second and final child, she took 12 weeks maternity leave. Then, it was time for her to go back to work. This time, the experience was different. Unlike with her first child, she didn’t want to go to work yet. She loved her job, but she felt like she needed more time at home.

Larsen took a selfie her first day back at the office after having her second child. She never shared that selfie or her story until 4 years later when she decided to share on Linkedin.

In the picture, Larsen clearly looks distraught, holding back tears. In the post she explained that she knows she is “extremely privileged” for getting any paid time off work, but she feels “shame around raising a family and working full-time.” She added that the only reason she went back to work after only 12 weeks maternity leave was because her family needed her income. She wrote, “As a majority income source for our family, I was forced to suck it up, put on a smile, and get back to work.”

Larsen’s post resonated with many parents on Linkedin who commented with their own stories of returning to work earlier than they would have liked. For example, Katarina P. wrote, “I was ‘lucky’ to have 3 months maternity leave with my last 2, but really, who are we kidding? At 3 months old, babies are just barely starting to learn to sleep through the night, which means a mother is returning to work sleep-deprived. Not just ‘didn’t sleep well’; I mean where you maybe got a few hours of sleep (interrupted sleep) every night for the past not just 3 months, but also, who sleeps through the night in the latter half of their pregnancy? To put another perspective: Sleep deprivation is also a torture-tactic in some military settings. Yet we expect mothers to return—sleep-deprived— ready to pull up their sleeves & bounce back & be like ‘normal’ when nothing about their experience there is normal.”

Marta Tubielewicz (Nestorowska) commented, “Maternity leave in US was one of the greatest cultural shocks I had to deal with. When I was pregnant with my first child, being here in US, in Poland the new maternity law was just established giving women 8 months to 2 year paid time with their children. Fathers were also given paternity leave. I didn’t take a picture on my first day back to work after maternity leave, but it was one of the hardest days in my life…without any exaggeration! Thank you for sharing!”

If you are a working parent, did you find it hard to return to work after your children were born? Do you think moms should get more than 12 weeks maternity leave? How much maternity leave do you think would be appropriate?