I’ve been a working mom all my life. When my son was born in 1984, I was allowed up to six weeks off with no pay. My husband was unemployed. So, I quickly went back to work.
I have to admit, I always resented being forced back to work so soon after birth, but I had no choice. We needed the money and I badly needed to keep that job.
When my daughter was born, in 1988, I asked for 12 weeks of unpaid leave. It was as though I'd asked for a million dollar raise. I was also the only female professional in the office, in a male-dominated profession. After several weeks of negotiation, and being told if I wanted to work in a man's position I had to be no different than a man in all regards, I was given permission to work 3 days a week, for six months, at 3/5 pay, but expected to do my 5 day a week job in those three days or take it home with me. And so I did, because it allowed me to keep my job and my benefits.
So, again, I went back to work early (no six weeks for me) so I could keep my job and stretch out a bit longer the time I might get to at least hold my daughter more than I was able to hold my son. I thought it was grossly unfair then, and I do now. I would have been happy to just get those 12 weeks of unpaid leave, having saved enough money to be able to scrimp by, but it was not allowed.
The hardest thing, both times, was leaving my very young infants with others, and going back to work before my body (and mind) were ready. But, I had no choice.
My immediate supervisor was a nice man. He tried to be helpful. His boss, the Executive Director, was very old school and hadn't wanted to hire a woman in my position in the first place, so he was watching the whole situation like a hawk and if he thought I were getting treated in any sort of favorable way due to my pregnancy or new motherhood, he let it be known that it was not acceptable. If I wanted a man's job, I had to work like one, but of course I didn't get paid like one. Shortly thereafter, my boss early-retired. I was given his job, but not his title or his pay, and was told how lucky I was to be given the "opportunity". I found another job shortly thereafter.
I think it is essential for all people to have access to a reasonable family leave policy. Wrenching parents away from new babies, or older children away from sick and dying parents, or partners away from sick or dying partners, any way you look at it, it's unfair and actually ridiculous in a society as "advanced" as we seem to think ours is.
We now care for our aging parents, because we are the only siblings who are retired, so the bulk of the burden falls on us. We're glad to do it, but it's not exactly what we thought we'd be spending our retirement doing. Our siblings help on weekends when they can but that all they can do.
Caring for one another is our primary responsibility as thoughtful human beings. Nurturing and raising up the next generation is critical to our ability to continue to survive and thrive as a people. Happy, rested employees are productive employees. People who are treated well, respond in kind. Investing in others is never a bad investment.
As an employer, I strove to provide my staff with the benefits, the treatment, and the human decency and respect that I didn't experience as a young parent. It was well worth it. I had a loyal, dedicated staff who knew their needs would be listened to, respected, and, if at all possible, met. I'm most proud of that part of my career.