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A 5 day maternity leave? I don’t think so.

Categories: Balancing Act, Parenting & Family, Working Women Issues, Your life


After my daughter was born I took a 12-week maternity leave. I didn’t fully appreciate at the time how lucky I was to have a fully-paid three-month leave, but it felt nothing but too short and not enough the day I went back to work.

Going back was brutal. I did a bit of work while I was at home but from the first moment I was back at the office I was expected to be on and at 100%. If you’ve had kids, you know it’s entirely impossible to do that so soon after having your life change completely. Eventually I managed to get back into a work routine, but it took a while.

Which is why I was sitting there with my jaw wide open when I read about Rachita Dati, the justice minister of France, who returned to work five days after giving birth. No, not a type, five as in 5 days after giving birth.

The article talked about how different groups and people were reacting to her coming back to work so quickly. Some were denouncing her for setting a horrible example for other women, others hailing her for dedication and energy. But all I kept thinking about is how in the world is this woman even managing to be focused on her high profile, highly demanding job, just days after giving birth? I am not sure I could even walk straight up or sit for longer than a few minutes at this point after giving birth to my daughter, not to mention wear some slick, highly fashionable outfit and attend meetings with top government officials.

What do you think? Is it crazy of her to go back so soon or is it crazy to judge a working mom if that’s what she chooses to do?

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12 comments so far...

  • Nobody knows better than she does how she feels, what she is capable of, what her priorities are, and exactly how grueling that first day/week back was. The suggestion that she has no choice because of what her choice might mean for other women is completely unreasonable to me. We are all individuals and that is the whole point of having choices in the first place. I had a boss who was back to work the day after she gave birth. That didn’t stop anyone else from taking their leave.

    Historically, women have gone back to heavy labor right after childbirth, and while that caused problems for some, many got through it just fine. Just because something wouldn’t be right for you doesn’t mean it isn’t right for anyone.

    I personally wouldn’t wear high heels. Any podiatrist will tell you it’s unhealthy in addition to being uncomfortable and inconvenient. But I assume all other women make a conscious choice every day to torture themselves or not, and as long as nobody is forcing me to wear heels, it’s not my business.

    Women need to be aware that suggesting that another woman was wrong to choose her own path will come back to bite each of us in the long run.

    SKL  |  January 23rd, 2009 at 9:36 am

  • One of the moms at my sons preschool had one of her sons in at 6 days old and one at 9 days old. It made most of the other moms very sad to hear. She owns a hair salon and said that she had clients she has to service in order to make money. I guess as true as that may be, I would think that she could get someone to cut and dye their hair for at the very least a month while she, and the babies, adjust. Aside from that she owns tha salon so she must make something off of the other employees. On top of that, I think taht this is too young to leave a child in any daycare/preschool. Mine was only 2 months when I left him and many people think that was too young, too, but 6 and 9 days, come on. Of course, I’m not in her situation so I really shouldn’t judge her. I just know that both physically and emotionally I could have never done it. I also don’t think that it’s fair to the new little life that is trying to adjust and get to know it’s surroundings.

    Oceans Mom  |  January 23rd, 2009 at 10:08 am

  • Keep in mind that some of us have nannies or other solutions to keep our little ones close even during working hours. So as long as we’re not in non-stop meetings, we can spend time with our kids and continue the bonding process throughout the day. Do we know whether this woman’s arrangement prevented her from bonding with her child? Probably not, so again, we shouldn’t be judging.

    SKL  |  January 23rd, 2009 at 10:53 am

  • She had a C-section, too. It’s still difficult to move around, just five days after one of those…

    I have to wonder how people in general define “returned to work.” I wondered this about Sarah Palin, too. Did she show up and work a full day? Attend the single meeting mentioned in the article? Answer email from home for an hour? Have a GrannyNanny holding the baby in the next room while she was at her office? The phase “returned to work” conjurs up images of a wee tiny newborn alone in a crib somewhere, but that’s not necessarily the case…

    I think that, while more of us in the US are lucky in that we don’t have to return to the office right after giving birth, we return to work, per se, more quickly that we realize.

    Lylah  |  January 23rd, 2009 at 1:02 pm

  • I have no idea about the justice minister of France but I know that the mom that has her kids in my sons preschool/daycare was not allowed in and out and left them there all day from 6 and 9 days old. They don’t allow parents in the school at all (we have to wait in the lobby) and once they pick them up, they are not allowed to bring them back - even for doctor appointments. However, I think that the justice minister of France is probably a pretty important job so I can see how that one might be hard to miss much time. My boss’s wife went back to work 2 weeks after a c-section. I took longer to recover and wasn’t allowed to drive for 4 weeks so it would have been impossible for me.

    Oceans Mom  |  January 23rd, 2009 at 1:48 pm

  • Did anyone read The Red Tent? The new mother mother stayed wrapped up in blankets with many women in their family/community tending to her and the newborn.

    Sharon  |  January 23rd, 2009 at 2:17 pm

  • Wow that’s crazy! We are so lucky living in Canada to have a whole year of maternity leave off. That’s one thing our governments gotten right and I’m so appreciate of that extra time.

    Org Junkie  |  January 23rd, 2009 at 3:08 pm

  • As a parent– you do what you must do to survive. If your child is left in the care of others because you must work ( if 1 income or 2) to keep a roof over your head or food in the stomach you must make it happen. That doesn’t mean you haven’t bonded any or that you love your child any less. It means you have to make a hard decision and work.

    jq baby  |  January 23rd, 2009 at 4:37 pm

  • I think everyone is different. For some, even the thought of leaving our child at 5 days, even for 5 minutes leaves us feeling crushed and emotional and we just can’t do it. But I’ve worked with people who feel the opposite. They feel stiffled and restless sitting at home with a baby all day. They prefer the fast-paced environment of their work. So I don’t think we can judge them on that. Everyone has different feelings and everyone acts on them differently. I don’t think we can look down on someone who follows their heart and does what they feel is best for them.

    As for being in pain, again everyone is different. I didn’t have a c-section, but I had absolutely no pain afterwards. The next day I was up and walking and sitting and doing everything normally. Everyone heals differently, and you can’t assume that she was in pain after 5 days, because she may have felt fine!

    Tricia  |  January 23rd, 2009 at 5:07 pm

  • FYI: Rachida Dati was forced out this week.

    Mary  |  January 24th, 2009 at 5:55 pm

  • Holy cow. I couldn’t function 5 days after giving birth. I was a hormonal mess.

    Was it really her choice? Or was it a “choice” that she was pressured into making? We’ll never know, but I’m curious.

    Robyn  |  January 26th, 2009 at 2:14 pm

  • You know, to each her own and all that, but HOLY COW, five days?! I’m still trying to understand how that’s possible let alone desireable!

    Leah K  |  January 27th, 2009 at 11:04 pm