In 2001, the federal Parental Benefits Program in Canada increased the length of sharable paid parental leave benefits from 10 to 35 weeks, combined with 15 weeks of maternity leave.

My children were born in 1997 and 1999; I did not plan to have anymore children. I figured words like “parental leave” and “maternity benefits” were not a part of my future, or so, I thought.

In the September edition of Canadian Business magazine Jasmine Budak wrote an interesting article about the ”dark side” of maternity leave, here, in Canada. In it, Budak highlights some of the difficulties that employers and (also other employees) face when an employee takes maternity leave.

Budak says:

Today, the year-long mat leave is standard practice…yet even as employers accommodate parents, particularly in fields that fiercely compete for talent, their concerns haven’t changed much from a decade ago. Many businesses struggle with the financial and efficiency burdens of filling temporary positions, especially if they’re senior or highly skilled roles.

They can’t be sure if the new parents will return after their leaves or choose to cut back their workload—or quit altogether. Meanwhile, resentment may brew among remaining staff forced to shoulder extra work demands. Perhaps worst of all, employers can’t even complain.

As I near my Rainbow’s first birthday, I am very lucky to have had the chance to stay home with him for a year. However, the pressure to go back to work has been very present, and frustrating for me. My boss asked me to return to work in June because my replacement did not work out, and they didn’t want to go through the process of finding another only to have me return in October or November.

In June, Rainbow was 8 months old. There were people who believed that this request was not totally unfair, because “…he’s past 6 months…”, some of them said. Others (colleagues) argued that “…it’s better than the 6 weeks that some women get…”

Boy, did I feel guilty, and selfish about wanting to take the full year. Worst yet, I felt a great deal of anxiety over my decision to even consider it.

In the end, I said I would return, but my heart was not into it.

The truth is that many other women in the world do not enjoy a long maternity leave (as Canadian women do).

However, I would like to separate the issues. Women are in their child-bearing years for quite some time, wouldn’t you agree? How society expects to go around that is unclear.

There is a nagging feeling in the back of my mind however, that if and when women exercise their rights to go on maternity leave, and have their employers reserve their position for that year that they will lose out. I fear that employers will resort to the easiest route – hiring more men than women in professional/management positions.

The reality is that I continued my post-secondary education so that I could have options, and I took maternity leave because it was and is my right as a Canadian woman who has worked and contributed to society.

What are the parental benefits in your Province/State/Country? How do you feel about it?

(PS. My husband took a position in another province. We relocated in July…so I never made it back to my job.)

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Salma of Canada.  You can find Salma blogging at The Imperfect Stepford Chronicles and Chasing My Rainbow Baby

Photo credit to George Ruiz.  This photo has a creative commons attribution license. 

Salma (Canada)

An Imperfect Stepford Wife is what Salma describes herself as because she simply cannot get it right. She loves decorating, travelling, parenting,learning, writing, reading and cooking, She also delights in all things mischievous, simply because it drives her hubby crazy. Salma has 2 daughters and a baby boy. The death of her first son in 2009 was very difficult, however, after the birth of her Rainbow baby in 2010 (one day after her birthday) she has made a commitment to laugh more and channel the innocence of youth through her children. She has blogged about her loss, her pregnancy with Rainbow, and Islamic life. After relocating to Alberta with her husband in 2011 she has found new challenges and rewards- like buying their first house, and finding a rewarding career. Her roots are tied to Jamaica, while her hubby is from Yemen. Their routes, however, have led them to Egypt and Canada, which is most interesting because their lives are filled with cultural and language barriers. Even though she earned a degree in Criminology, Salma's true passion is Social Work. She truly appreciates the beauty of the human race. She writes critical essays on topics such as feminism and the law, cultural relativity and the role of women in Islam and "the veil". Salma works full-time, however, she believes that unless the imagination of a child is nourished, it will go to waste. She follows the philosophy of un-schooling and always finds time to teach and explore with her children. From this stance, she pushes her children to be passionate about every aspect of life, and to strive to be life-long learners and teachers. You can read about her at Chasing Rainbow.

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