When I said this, I meant that I could finally take paid leave!
Not that I was taking a permanent break for anything. Most people would probably not think much of that because it was such a natural entitlement. The truth was I had no annual leave to my name for the last 9 months!
I was supposed to return to work in April 2013 after using up all 16 weeks of maternity leave. However, knowing that X was going to be my last and final child, bundled with childcare arrangement concerns, I used up all my possible leaves and even took no-pay leave. In doing so, I was able to care for X till he was 6 months’ old. Trust me, there were times when I truly wished the 6-months’ maternity leave motion was passed.
Having had two kids, I stood by the fact that it was good to return to work when the child was 6 months’ old. Z had started infantcare at 14 weeks’ old because I had to return to work at the 15th week. When I had to hand him over to new caregivers, he was still so tiny and fragile. Guilt trip rendered 3 days’ worth of tears.
When X entered infantcare at 6 months’ old (26 weeks’ old!), he was bigger and stronger, and I felt less heartache naturally. Cancerian moms were a painfully sentimental bunch, I had to admit.
While I did not regret maxing out my leaves, what entailed subsequently was painful. I returned to work in mid July. In between, X had roseola, HFMD and a viral fever over a span of 6 weeks in Sept-Oct. I could not be there for him.
Just when I thought the turn of a new year meant I could finally take annual leave, I changed jobs. I could not take annual leave during the notice period. When I joined the new company, I also could not take annual leave for the first 3 months’ of service. Worse, new staff were not entitled to paid sick leave too. That really saw me crawling to work even when I was running 39°C fever.
The point of this blog entry? To be thankful that I had the buffer of paid annual leave now.
Perhaps, it would really be nice for the government to consider stepping up the quality of babycare options or to consider giving a proper 4 months’ maternity as opposed to 16 weeks (which translated to only 3.5 months).
We could do without 6 months’ maternity leave but today’s eco-system could be further enhanced.
Children were truly bundles of joy but when caregiving options were limited, costly or weak, the challenges were really daunting.