So, the laid down plans were changed last week. Instead of having another month off before starting to work again, I became a working mum this week! Only half-time though, which I realised was a very good idea. A soft re-introduction to my professional life which means that I can still spend time with little V (5 months old already tomorrow!) during the day and his father gets to spend time with him as well as he works from home during the afternoons when I work.
Of course I would have preferred to have not started to work already, and ideally I would have loved to have the generous parental leave of Sweden where most mothers stay at home for one year and then [some of] the fathers take ~6 months parental leave. However, that is not possible in Belgium where the maternal leave is 15 weeks (with my European contract I had 20 weeks) and the fathers have 10 days off. I do have the right to 6 months of “parental leave” (to be taken before the child turns 12) but with minimal pay. We would have been ok with the decreased income but my office would not have been happy if I had taken another 6 months off, especially considering that I was on medical leave for 3 months before giving birth. The reason why I started to work half-time this month is that a colleague had an accident and is on sick leave so the office called me to ask if I would consider coming back earlier than planned.
I know that it is shocking for most Swedish parents (mothers) that I have already started to work, while most European parents (mothers) would say that they would be relieved to “be out of the house”. We all adjust to our own reality and I have heard so many French and Belgian women say that they could never consider staying at home for more than 3-4 months, as they would be so bored. Bored with taking care of your own baby?? I find that crazy but then again, I am Swedish! So yes, my heart bleeds that I have to leave V to go to the office but I also believe that he (and I) will be O K.
Next month I will work full time and my parents are coming to take care of V. My mother has taken unpaid leave to spend time with her first grand-child, isn’t that so lovely? We haven’t decided yet but will probably put V in the creche (day-care) after Easter in April. He will then be 7 months old, which will be FOUR months older than most Belgian children starting the creche.
Before criticising us (me), consider this: in Sweden it is still the norm that mothers work. House-wives are a rare breed and well, not really considered to be strong, independent women. Important in a country that prides itself on being very equal… At the same time people find it shocking if you go back to work before the child is at least 1 year old. Do you think that I should have resigned / not applied for a job when pregnant to stay at home and take care of V? Honestly, I was considering it, and I have to admit that I wouldn’t have been too upset if I had found myself unemployed last year… But as I always say, Belgian / French and other European children grow up to be “normal” people as well so it can’t be that damaging to be separated from their parents that early.
Don’t get me wrong, I would jump at the chance of staying at home for another 5-6 months or longer but this is my reality living in Belgium.
And the commuting… it takes me at least 40 minutes to get to work by metro, that is frustrating! I will read a lot of books though…
How can I leave this sleeping angel without feeling a little (a lot) guilty?