Parental leave. Feeling guilty and lonely.
“I didn’t expect it to be as lonely as it was. You do sometimes think like, are people going to want to hang out with me if I’ve got a baby with me… when they literally can just do whatever they want.”
Parental leave exists to enable you to spend the time you need and want with your baby without worrying about the demands of your job. Sometimes, however, it’s not that straightforward.
If you’re experiencing feelings of guilt and/or loneliness, it’s important that you know you’re not alone. It’s a simple fact that many parents report feeling the same way during their parental leave. Have a chat with your GP or health visitor about the feelings you’re experiencing and they’ll be able to provide you with the advice and support that you need.
Here we’re taking a look at parents feeling judged when it comes to shared parental leave, mums feeling lonely on maternity leave, and what other families are saying about raising their babies their way - whether they’re heading to work or staying at home.
Feeling judged on taking shared parental leave
“There was a point where I kind of felt a bit guilty, where I was thinking: have I made the right decision? I thought, should I actually still be off work?”
Shared Parental Leave1 was introduced in 2015. The idea behind it was to provide families with choices when it came to who looks after the new addition to the family, who goes back to work, and when. If you’re eligible for Shared Parental Leave, then as a couple you can share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay once your baby arrives. One of the great things about Shared Parental Leave is that it’s available to those parents who are adopting, too2.
Whilst Shared Parental Leave is certainly a step in the right direction for more love and less judgement, it’s thought that the number of parents taking advantage of the scheme is as little as 2%3.
But why is that?
Well, it seems that parental judgement is raising its ugly head yet again when it comes to how we’re choosing to raise our children.
Despite the fact that there are numerous benefits to dads taking paternity leave4, those who want to spend more time with their children in the early weeks and months are often asked why on earth they’d want to do that. As for mums, those who would happily share parental leave with their partner are often faced with other people’s shock and disapproval that they’re not taking the chance to spend every waking moment with their little one.
Here at C&G baby club, we believe that no one should be judged for the decisions they make when it comes to parental leave. It’s all about finding a balance that works for you and your family. Shared parental leave goes some way to demonstrating that it’s perfectly acceptable for mums to go to work, and for dads to be happily left holding the baby. And vice versa.
Feeling lonely on parental leave
In one survey, 90% of new mums stated that they have felt lonely since giving birth5.
There are lots of myths and misconceptions out there about parental leave. Like the idea that mums and dads are counting down the days until they can leave work and skip happily into a year of baby classes, meeting with friends and snuggling with their tiny tot.
But in reality, it isn’t always like that. You, like many parents, may enjoy working. You might be worried about missing the day-to-day interaction with your colleagues and the challenges your job presents. And that’s more than OK.
Experiencing these feelings doesn’t make you a bad parent. It simply means that you’ve got your own take on what parental leave means to you. You shouldn’t feel worried about sharing how you feel here for fear of someone judging you for having those feelings in the first place.
Your feelings are completely justifiable. It’s the judgement that’s out of place.
Going back to work early from maternity leave
You might be reluctant to return to work after your maternity leave. After all, having that unadulterated time with your baby can be really magical. On the other hand, it might be that you’re ready to get back to the world of work before the end of your maternity leave.
Either way, and whatever your reasons and feelings, you should always follow your instincts and do what’s right for you. And you should be able to do that judgement free.
If you’re thinking about returning to work before the end of your maternity leave, here’s a couple of things you’ll need to think about:
- By law, you’ll be required to take a minimum of two weeks off. This increases to four weeks if you work in a factory environment6.
- You’ll also need to give your employer 8 weeks notice if you intend to return before your maternity leave is up7.
What if I'm still breastfeeding?
Well that’s OK too. The fact that you’re still breastfeeding shouldn’t be a barrier to you returning to work. Your employer is required by law to give you adequate time and a comfortable space each day to express the milk your baby needs8.
At work or at home, let’s show a little more love and no more judgement
The more you’re encouraged to do what feels right for you as a parent, the more confidence you’ll have to follow your instincts. Whether that’s to stay at home and with your baby, return to work early or explore Shared Parental Leave, the only choice is the one that works for you and your family.
Whether you’re a stay at home or working parent, read more articles to help you feel loved, not judged.
From feeding your baby, to understanding their development, at C&G baby club, you’ll find a wealth of information to help you raise your baby your way.
At C&G baby club, we love, we don’t judge
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