Coffee Break: Maternity leave = Extended paid ‘holiday’ for mums?

This article first appeared in Capital, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on October 21, 2019 - October 27, 2019.
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Many (and I mean MANY) people think maternity leave is an extended paid “holiday” for mothers who have just given birth.

Some believe it is a golden ticket for employed mums to kick off their working boots and laze around in the comfort of their home, sipping bubble tea as they Netflix on the couch. And oh, let’s not forget the general perception that in the process, these mums are getting out of touch with their work as well.

Is this the #Reality?

Let’s take a closer look at what really goes on during most maternity “holidays”.

First, there is childbirth — the actual physical process that kickstarts this long-extended leave termed maternity. This is the process whereby one contributes to the increase in national population that hopefully contributes to sustained economic growth, which hopefully facilitates the sustainability of businesses that employ these mothers.

A mother goes through excruciating pain for hours (days for some) while in labour, and loses an average of 200ml to 500ml of blood in the process. The pain, according to Google, is equivalent to breaking 20 bones. Some have to be stitched up while others may need an emergency operation (yes, a full-on medical operation) in the event that the delivery process turns dangerous for the baby and/or mother.

And after all that blood, sweat and tears, literally, do mums have time for a complete “rest” to fully recover physically, using the “long” maternity leave to chill and catch up on their favourite K-drama, and perhaps, get their nails done as well as fitting in facials with all that extra time on their hands? Surprise! Surprise! The answer is a big resounding NO.

Guess what? Mothers have a newborn to love, take care of and feed from the get-go.

The bonding experience between mother and baby in the first few months is crucial and precious. There is also breastfeeding that mums and babies have to learn and master to ensure efficient feeding. It is essential to establish a routine and have an adequate supply before mum goes back to work.

Post-delivery, FYI, some mothers experience baby blues while others have to battle postnatal depression ... a #Reality we don’t recognise, address or have enough education about.

Instead of helping new mums through all this, why pressure and rush them through their recovery?

Speaking about recovery, rest is best, and sleeping is one of the best forms of rest.

So, given this looooong maternity leave for mothers, they can sleeeeeep all they want during this time, yes?

Well, guess what? Newborns do not know the concept of night and day or sleeping through the night.

Sleep for parents (not just mums but hands-on dads too) of a newborn in the first few months will be fleeting at best.

This may be new information to some of you out there but believe it or not — sleeping through the night for parents of a newborn baby is something most can only dream of and not experience in #Reality for the first few months after the baby is born.

Having a newborn in the house gives a whole new meaning to sleep-walking for most parents — ;D.

There is plenty to do with a newborn in the house — taking care of them; changing their dirty diapers (up to 8 to 10 times a day if they are breastfed); taking them for check-ups, vaccination and blood tests if the baby has jaundice, which is common with Asian babies ... the list goes on.

And all of that is happening at the same time the mother is recovering from a laborious labour process.

Maternity leave is a basic necessity for working mums. So, if you think it means an extended holiday for them to sleep in and laze around, think again.

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