Yesterday, Netflix announced unlimited maternity and paternity leave and flexibility for employees during their child's first year -- WOW! (I actually wanted to write that first sentence in all caps as I am so impressed and it is such a big deal!)
Why is this such a big deal? Because it is not just about time off, in my opinion - the key to maternity/paternity leave is FLEXIBILITY. Depending on whether the mom had a traditional or C-section - physically they may take different amounts of time to heal, and then get into the groove of having a new roommate with whom she needs to cater to every single need.
From a paternity standpoint, that also means the father often needs to overcompensate on household chores and keeping sanity in the household. Every errand, household chore and responsibility (paying all of those hospital bills- not to mention electricity, cable, and mortgage) ended up on my husbands plate - along with building baby gear, running the laundry and keeping mama fed!
Those first few weeks are a beautiful chaos, but to be honest, even though I had a really really really difficult delivery (thank you 9.5lb Gracen!) I felt physically recovered by 6 weeks, emotionally recovered by 8 and truly ready to engage mentally at work at 10 weeks when my paid maternity was up. I was ready to dive back in!
This isn't the case for everyone though.
That said, I was working for an amazing company, Rally Health, that generously gave me the flexibility to get my family on track - and often that meant coming into work at 10:30 after a pediatrician appointment, taking morning calls from my kitchen while figuring out pumping/breastfeeding, working from home when the nanny was sick or when Grace's kidney issue developed, taking a Friday off to sit at Children's Hospital with her- guilt free.
The flexibility Rally Health allowed enabled me to give 110% at the office, without ever feeling like I was missing out at home. I wanted to be at work, building an incredible product to transform lives even though I missed Grace terribly by 2pm. Sure, I felt left out when my colleagues and friends were heading to happy hour after work and I was scrambling to get home to my baby who didn't quite recognize me yet. But I always felt supported in my new role as mom, as well as my existing role in the office. The key to that support, in my opinion, was gracious flexibility.
My Issue with Virgin's Policy
Back in June, Virgin Group announced that it's year-long maternity/paternity leave policy would be coming to the U.S. While in theory I think it is a phenomenal example of addressing the issue that the U.S. has the worst maternity policies out of any first world country, it still rubbed me the wrong way.
Now that I have been a mom for an entire year - and have dipped a toe in everything from full-time employment when we lived back in D.C. to part-time contract work now here in California and a few weeks as a stay-at-home-mom, I just don't understand the 1 year policy. What Virgin failed to address is flexibility.
If both my husband and I had this entire past year off, we probably would have killed each other :) Joking aside, it just seems unnecessary - and irresponsible. The adjustment after a 10 week maternity leave was a lot to handle getting back to the work place - having to dress like an adult, maintain a strict schedule with deliverables, and engage in adult conversation. While the policy is very generous, I cannot imagine how I would be able to go back full-time after a year off -- where we probably would have been vacationing even more than we do now!
Obviously each family is different, which is why I again will stress flexibility is key, for the first year. There are a lot of pediatrician appointments - but even with Grace's kidney diagnosis and frequent appointments and scans, I may have had overwhelming days, perhaps even weeks, but I cannot imagine stopping my life for a year, and then readjusting back to work cold-turkey.
In conclusion, Netflix, you are a gem! Keep paving the way both in the workplace and in programming. I am officially in awe. Let me know if you are hiring :)