How was your vacation?
The last time someone asked me the question, How was your vacation?, I had just returned from my maternity leave. I was vulnerable, exhausted, and couldn't believe the words that were ringing through my ears. The question stopped me dead in my tracks and I was so unbelievably shocked that my only reaction was to let out an embarrassed laugh. I thought we could take a few minutes to talk about your last vacation and see how it compared to my maternity leave.
Where did your amazing trip take you to? Did you head to some beautiful, white sandy beach in the Caribbean or go hiking in the Grand Canyon? Did you and your spouse relax, sipping cocktails by the pool or taking in amazing views from 3000'? My trip took me to a place that was a little different than yours: I went to the hospital a few miles away to deliver my baby. It was over 30 hours of labor with contractions so painful it felt as if 30 bones were breaking simultaneously throughout my body. It was vomiting, sweat, and tears that I poured into the effort that is childbirth. And then they put me in a diaper and sent me home with a $6,000 bill and a new baby.
I bet you went out every night only to have an amazing dinner, celebrate your time off with a few drinks, and come back to your hotel to sleep the night away. After the hefty hospital bill, we decided that we would probably never go out to eat again, but we did have generous family and friends stop by with homecooked meals. We most definitely did not fall into bed with ease every night after a few cocktails. Although I have to admit, sleep deprivation did allow me to feel a constant state of being drunk and/or hungover (can you feel both at the same time? I feel like I did). The sleep deprivation came from being woken up every 2 hours to feed my son. He would scream at my boob because the milk wouldn't come out quickly enough and I would inevitably end up in tears and scream back at him. I was exhausted, sleep deprived, and felt like a failure.
After you woke up from your full night's sleep, were you seduced into having glorious morning sex? I must admit I am a little jealous. Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to have sex for at least six weeks postpartum. The diaper I was sent home in wasn't exactly a turn on for my husband. I hated my body and desperately wanted to fit back into my prenatal clothing. As I am certain you can imagine, hot sex wasn't on the menu for us.
Did you worry at all while you were gone that a male, the species who biologically cannot birth a child, would take your position? Or did you completely shut off during your time away knowing full well that the only thing that would be waiting for you upon your return would be a mountain of work and four hundred emails? I got online almost every single day to ensure that I was still in-the-loop, even sometimes attended meetings to show my boss that I was capable of handling both a family and my managerial position. I feared the entire time that my position would be gone when I returned. Work was something I felt like I could control, because this baby was so unpredictable. I felt so helpless.
Do you still feel like I was on vacation?
Just as insecure as I felt about my position while on maternity leave, I have to think that is probably how threatened a man feels by my capabilities. I believe that is the reason he is asking me that question in the first place: to put me in a place he feels I belong, because he certainly doesn't feel I belong in the workplace. But I could be wrong.
To the men who made the comments about my "vacation": You should know that I wasted precious time with my baby worrying about you before we even spoke. I had heard similar comments before about women taking such a long leave and how it "must be so nice to be afforded such a luxury", so I anxiously waited for my turn. I have heard that we are just a cost, not billable during our time off, and that you don't want to pay for such an expensive benefit. And I sent myself on a mission to be the first woman to not "get that turn". It turns out I only ended up sacrificing time with my baby to prove a point.
I could have had more snuggles, taken a nap next to my son during the day, and felt less anxious. I could have kept my computer shut and ignored you for ten weeks, but I allowed you to control my feelings. I allowed myself to believe that I needed to be more like you so that I could still pursue a successful career. As a result, I tried to hide my maternal side and be a workhorse. Was I overwhelmed? Yes. But nothing is more important than my family and I won't ever allow you to take that away from me again.
You should know that I was hurt when you made a comment about my "vacation". But you know what? The love that I have for my child trumps your hurtful comments a million times over. To any woman who has ever had to endure the pain of this question: I hope you do better than me. I hope you stand there with your head held high, a baby attached to your boob, high heels on and remind yourself of the strength and character that you have gained by going through childbirth and raising a baby. Know that you are a Rockstar and no asshole comments can take that away from you.
If you enjoy my blog, please consider purchasing a children's book to give back: Freckle Faced Gus and A Stay-at-Home Dad?