Tuesday, July 28, 2009

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Tight job markets forcing some new moms to return to work

When Jennifer Stephens of Corpus Christi, Texas, was pregnant with her son last year, she dreamed of taking time off to enjoy being a mom. But her husband Michael lost his job a few years back and had been unable to find a new position before their baby’s birth. Stephens’ plan to stay at home with her new son took a detour. Instead of taking some extended time off, Stephens says she returned to work six weeks after giving birth.

“I'm the sole bread winner for my family and without my job we would be living out of our car,” says Stephens, who is a biologist for the state. “I was not ready to return to work. The stress of everything affected me more than I like to admit. Physically I was okay, but emotionally I was a wreck. Everything from my milk supply to my mental psyche was impacted.”

Heather Connor of Lexington, S.C., can relate. Connor’s husband has struggled to find a job since graduating with his master’s degree in August 2008. Connor returned to her post as an assistant department manager of a large book reseller six weeks after giving birth.

“I want to be home because I feel that I am missing out on the mothering of my precious little girl,” says Connor. “But our income depends on my job right now.”

Kelly Wels, the founder of KellysCloset.com, an online cloth diapering boutique, says that returning to work quickly can take its toll on new moms. “Going back to work after having a baby is a physically and emotionally draining process for many women. When women return to work so soon after the birth of a baby, their milk supply may be affected and sometimes they have to partly sacrifice attachment parenting initiatives like cloth diapering and ‘baby wearing’ -- the practice of carrying baby in a sling for a good portion of the day and evening.”

Making it work
Candice Broom of Birmingham, Ala. also found herself at the center of today’s unemployment storm. She says that when she was pregnant with her second baby, she and her husband both lost their teaching positions less than one month before their new baby’s arrival.

“We were scrambling to find work -- any work -- so that we could have an income,” she says. “I wanted to find something that I could do with my baby close by so I ended up getting a job at a daycare center. I worked a few days a week in the last trimester of my pregnancy and then brought the baby with me starting when he was two weeks old.”

Because Broom was able to bring her baby to work, she says she was able to continue breastfeeding, cloth diapering and baby wearing, which she says enabled her to remain close to her baby despite the stress of going back to work.

Know your rights
While the job market is tight, many moms have to return to work quickly after having a baby because they fear losing their health benefits.

Andrea Lee of Lincoln, Neb. says she went back to work just two weeks after having her baby. Her husband’s job didn’t offer insurance and she says her employer, a small nonprofit organization, wouldn’t give her more than two weeks off. She adds that small companies with less than 50 employees aren’t protected by the Family Medical Leave Act. If Lee didn’t return to work after her two weeks vacation, she would have lost her job and her family’s health insurance plan.

“The job market around my hometown is abysmal. My husband and I both have bachelor’s degrees with high GPAs and good references and we can’t find any better jobs,” she says.

Wels says that unfortunately Lee’s struggle is like so many other new moms’ struggles these days with a difficult economy and tight job market. “It’s important for women to know their legal rights, although, in Andrea’s case, the time off a new mom needs is different than that what she is legally allowed. In an ideal world, women would be able to take as much time off as they need to fully recover physically and to have time to bond with their babies emotionally without fear of losing their jobs or health benefits,” says Wels.

The upside to tough times
Broom says that while she and her family were under tremendous pressures, everything worked out in the end. After 14 months, Broom's husband found a new teaching position with “great benefits.” Plus, she learned to be more frugal by using reusable cloth diapers and wipes, which she estimates has saved her family hundreds of dollars annually.

Plus, Broom says she started combing the newspaper for sales and coupons, has learned to cook simple meals with few ingredients, became a frequent yard sale shopper, and has even won some online blog contests.

Connor says that knowing her husband is home with their baby isn’t so bad because he’s a “wonderful dad.” Plus, her husband has learned to cloth diaper their baby, which she says has saved her family a bundle during these tight financial times.

“Every little bit counts,” she says.

- By: Jenny L.

28 comments:

Upstatemomof3 said...

Going back to work quickly after the baby comes is reallt hard.

Katrina said...

That must be tough to go back to work so soon after giving birth - esp when you want to stay home. Right now my family is part of the unemployment static too. Since I cloth diaper and already have a huge stash, it's been a blessing not to have to spend a dime on diapers now that we have a tight budget. Of course, I can't wait to have the money to spend on fluff again once my DH finds a new job. (I'm a SAHM)

em said...

Maybe it's been done, but I'd love to see a post about cloth diapering rights and regulations in day cares. I am still waiting to hear back from our day care as to whether or not they will let us use our cloth diapers. I can't find info on state regulations...but if they say no, I'm going to be asking for some concrete proof as to why we aren't allowed!

godfrey said...

Thanks for this post. It was a reminder that people everywhere are going through the same things that we are. I have such a hard time working away from my babies and at the same time knowing that I will NEVER get these days back with them. In 5 years, work and bills will still be there, but my babies will be gone. I want to savor every moment I have with them.

dannyscotland said...

I feel incredibly fortunate that I'm able to stay home, and I hope that other moms who aren't able to do so will stay strong and remember that their children will understand their sacrifices when they're older. I hope these moms will remember that, although it is so hard, they are doing the best thing for their children--providing them with food, shelter, clothing, and a loving home. Their children are so lucky to have moms that love them so much.

Amanda said...

Every little bit dose help indeed.

Amanda G.

The McDougles said...

I can't imagine how hard it would be to go back to work so soon after giving birth. I feel fortunate that I haven't had to go to work and can stay home with my babies.

the McGee family said...

Great post. I am so glad to be able to stay at home with our little one. Things are tight, but I know that the natural parenting (cloth diapers, breastfeeding, etc) has really helped.

Thrifty Mama B said...

I am also fortunate to be able to sty at home with my boys. We had a scare yesterday with my husbands job and I thought for sure he was going to be on the lay off list. Thank goodness he was one that they kept. Though we aren't in desperate need of money right now having our cloth diaper stash has made it that much easier for us to not have to waste a lot money on disposables. We are able to put that money towards other things.

meganbhulsey said...

My husband is a residential electrician and work is slow for him right now because of the slow real estate market. I am currently staying home with our 5 month old but it looks like I am going to have to go back to teaching - that is IF I can find a job. I do not want to be away from my baby all day.

Shaking said...

I hear stories like this all the time. I haven't been in that situation but I can relate to the challenges of balancing emotions, finances and family. I wish child care centers were a little more supportive for families with cloth diapering and breast feeding needs. When I was shopping around for child care for my son there were places that wouldn't accept breast milk. I don't think there was one that would take cloth, but I wasn't using cloth at the time.

Christina C. said...

It is VERY difficult to go back to work right after Baby is born. With DS #1 I had to go back 4 weeks after he arrived because money was so tight. I know cloth diapering and breastfeeding has saved us thousands of dollars. I did not have to go back with #2 until last month (he's almost 9 months)!

Julia said...

I had to return to work after 8 weeks and I cried every single day. My son is now 6 months old and working 8 hours a day away from him has definitely taken its toll on my emotions and my milk supply! In order to help my sanity my husband and I have taken a look at our budget, cut a lot of non-necessities, begun cloth diapering and started coupining...and I'm very very very happy to say that in 30 days I will be leaving my job to work from home! I searched for a WFH job for a year before finally finding something!

the monkey's mama said...

Thank you for this post. As a SAHM I am grateful every day for J's job. I admire and respect all moms who have to go back to work for the sake of their family. I hope they can find a lot of supportive friends and help to encourage them every day!!!

Saisquoi said...

Thanks for this post. Returning to work after I had my baby was the hardest thing I ever did. The only reason I went back was because we need a second income and I haven't been able to find anything part time or closer to home. It's meant that we can only cloth diaper at home (daycare says no), and that I just don't get as much time with my girl as I want. But in other respects, it's made me explore alternatives that would never have occurred to me if I had been able to stay home--such as cosleeping.

Slee said...

as part of the unemployed demographic, it is very hard. especially when you have lost your home and insurance, but little baby makes it seem not quite so awful, except for the part where i haven't bought any baby stuff yet and he's 12 weeks old and it makes me feel all failurely.
it sucks that we live in a nation that makes it so hard for mothers.

Sarahjenne said...

I'm so fortunate to be a SAHM, although it's a shaky situation that could change soon. I can't imagine going back to work before 8 weeks postpartum, as that's when I started feeling human again!

James, Andrea, and Clara Smith said...

Thank you for reminding me to be thankful for the blessing of being able to stay at home with my baby daughter. When MY mom did it, back in the eighties, she was mocked. Now when I do it, I am envied. It really has come full circle.

My husband and I have worked hard and waited on kids for this time. This was the "plan." But I'm fully aware that plans don't always work and circumstances change and babies seem to come and jobs seem to go at challenging times. Thank you for reminding me to be humble and non-judgemental towards women who work and leave their babies behind. I cannot know the reasons why.

Laura W. said...

I am so, so lucky that I will be able to stay at home after our baby is born. We won't be wealthy by any means, but we'll be able to get by. That must be very hard to have to go back to work so soon when your heart is left at home every morning.

Lewru said...

I'm the main breadwinner in our family, too, and my husband has gone back to school full-time. I'm lucky in that I do get FMLA and can take off the full 12 weeks (6 of them unpaid, though...). It's better than returning at 6 weeks, or my goodness - 2! - but I really would like to stay home a year, if that was possible. I now I'm going to miss seeing my son's daily adventures in this world.

Ashley said...

great post. Adjusting to motherhood is difficult enough without the pressure of returning to work full-time after only a few weeks.

Jenney said...

I went back to work when my oldest was 8 months old and I was so depressed. We were not sure we would be able to make it without me working, but around his 1st birthday I quit my job and started a home daycare. Now I am home with my kids, but still working!

Amy B. said...

I just started back to work Sunday after 12 weeks of maternity leave. I was very sad to go back but I am fortunate that I got to spend 12 weeks with my baby and that I have a job to go back too! I hope that while I work I am still going to be able to continue breastfeeding (pumping at work) and cloth diapering!

Shelly said...

I think this post is so relevant right now- I am sure many mamas have contemplated going to work in these difficult times.

MaryAnne said...

Times are so stressful for so many families right now this way...

hosiewosie said...

I've been blessed not to work after having a baby. We definitely have cut back and stick to our budget though... when I return to work I want to do something related to CD. Wouldn't that be awesome!!!

TheClothDiaperWhisperer said...

With my first baby I went back to work 2 weeks after I gave birth as hubby wasn't working at the time. It was extremely rough. I was fortunate that at that time I was a sales rep for a company and hubby and baby we able to go with me when I traveled.
I have the upmost respect for all mama's today whether they stay home with their kids or work out of home.

TheClothDiaperWhisperer said...

Hi Em,
That is a great idea about doing a post about cloth diapering rights and regulations in day cares.
I will certainly look into it.