Meghann Foye is the author of the book Meternity about an editor who pretends to be pregnant so she can take some time off to figure out her life. Foye faced criticism last year for saying all women should be given paid maternity leave to focus on their personal lives, regardless of whether they have children. Since she has never given birth to a human I have written her this letter so she can understand what actually transpires during a typical maternity leave.
Thank you for your piece in the New York Post about wanting to have all the perks of having a maternity leave but without any kids. How awful it must have been for you all these years to watch parents on staff leave the office at 6 p.m. to tend to their children, while you were always expected to pick up the slack for the rest of the corporation. If only you were given a break of equal measure so you could shift your focus to the part of your life that does not revolve around your job. Why waste your allotted vacation on travel and yoga retreats? As you see it a traditional maternity leave is an opportunity for a woman to have some self-reflection and parenthood is a path that provides a modicum of flexibility.
Here’s what you need to know. You are out of your mind. Here’s why.
MATERNITY v. METERNITY
Maternity leave is a temporary period of absence from employment granted to expectant or new mothers during the months immediately before and after childbirth. It is aimed at supporting a mother’s full recovery from childbirth, the culmination of nearly ten months of gestation resulting in the expulsion of one or more newborn infants from a woman’s uterus. To put it simply the act of childbirth is like pulling a watermelon out of your vagina. Believe it or not a human being needs some time to physically and mentally recover from this experience. You are not swilling champagne and flipping through stacks of magazines. It is not a time spent tasting expensive olive oils and going to concerts. You are squatted over a toilet while holding a railing as a nurse you just met takes a water bottle and squeegees your swollen glove box. You are bracing through post-birth contractions as your baby rips apart your nipples. You are wondering if there will ever come a time when you don’t have to wear a frozen diaper, mesh underwear, or sit on a donut shaped pillow.
Your “meternity” time would be a sabbatical. I am sure you would take the time to work on your tan, call old friends, and go to spas. Maternity leave, however, is spent shuttling your new baby to various doctor appointments to make sure they are no longer jaundice, will outgrow their acid reflux, and are within the normal percent rate for height, weight, and head circumference. A new mother would love to go wine tasting, but she’s got to be home to make sure the infant now residing in their house has enough to food to subsist. She is hoping the baby will nap so she do a load of laundry or take a shower because she’s covered in vomit. Your “meternity” time would be spent taking mid-day naps by a pool on a tropical vacation. A maternity leave is spent power napping while holding a child upright on the floor of a dark nursery with the sound of a wind tunnel in the background.
WHAT TO PACK
For your “meternity” leave you would probably pack a sarong, sunglasses, body oil, and a bikini.
You know what you need for maternity leave? Industrial strength maxi pads, Tucks medicated pads, aloe vera gel, hospital sized changing pads, and a site bath. Awesome right?!
I am assuming on your “meternity” leave you wouldn’t have to explain to the steam cleaning company employee that the body fluid they detected on your couch was something other than your own blood which seeped through your leggings because you were too sleep deprived to notice? You probably would spend yours on a topless beach in the south of France and not topless in the kitchen with suction apparatus attached to it collecting bags of milk. You would meet new friends at museums or theater productions and not feel like the person who knows you best is the cashier at the CVS.
This “meternity” time would be valuable to your relationship with your boyfriend because you could focus on his emotional and physical needs. You wouldn’t have to explain to him that your doctor explained you can’t have sex for six weeks because your vaginal muscles may be temporarily stretched-out, you still have postpartum bleeding, your hormones have destroyed your libido, and you are insecure about the fact you still look like you are pregnant.
You would feel confident that at the end of your sabbatical you would return recharged and hopeful for a promotion and raise and not exhausted, guilt-ridden, and terrified of losing your job.
NOT CLOCKING OUT
Maternity leave isn’t just clocking out. If you still think it is I encourage you to take a tour of a hospital’s labor and delivery wing. Listen to the sounds of a woman wailing as a human being emerges from their lady pocket. Then head to the recovery floor and talk to some of the mothers who look like they’ve just been pulled from a mine. Ask them if they would like to join you on a sailing excursion or roller skating during your “meternity” leave.
Let me know if anyone tries to strangle you with their catheter bag.
Thank you for your understanding.