Photo: Facebook, Amber Scorah.
“The state is raising your baby, lady. Tsk tsk tsk.”
I walked around the random man working on the sidewalk at my son’s day care center. I held back the knot in my throat until I reached our classroom and I handed my four-month-old baby to his beloved provider, Diana, and I burst into tears. Diana hugged me and reminded me I was making the best choice possible, but understood how hurt I felt that a random stranger could make such a harsh judgment of my parenting decision to place my first baby in public day care.
Even now, more than seven years later, that man’s words still rattle me. He was removed from his job as a landscaper with the day care center that very same day, but I was reminded of his words last month when I read an essay in the New York Times by fellow day care mom Amber Scorah. Scorah and her partner, Lee Towndrow, lost their baby Karl on his first day at public child care (also the first day of Scorah’s return to work after her maternity leave) this past July.
Scorah’s essay sheds light on how parental leave policies could potentially help us parents avoid such heartbreaks as the terrible tragedy her family went through. She asks, “Why does a parent in this country have to sacrifice her job, her ability to provide her child with proper healthcare…to buy just a few more months to nurture a child…?”
I’m with you, Ms. Scorah. Why must we quit our jobs in order to spend more than just a few weeks with our new babies? I was very fortunate that my employer’s policy provided me with twelve weeks of leave for my first child, but I was not paid for all of that time and on my baby’s birthday I found out my benefits were discontinued weeks before due to a clerical “error” with my insurance provider. I also felt the worry and stress from my male co-workers with digs like, “Wow, would you really take all three months off?” or “Your team may find ways to work without you if you’re gone that long.”
The twelve weeks flew by. When my allocated leave ended, I secretly hoped I would fail my corporation’s physical exam that would allow me to return to work. My husband and I knew we were making the right choice when we got a spot at a well-reviewed, reputable center for our baby and we were accepted after spending time on their mandatory waiting list. I also knew it was the best option if I wanted to keep my job – but I still cried every day for almost a month when I dropped him off.
And then came the statement from the landscaping man, “the state is raising your baby…” I still shudder when I think of what he is implying with his words. What choice did I have? What choice did my family have? What choice do other families have?
We at Moms Pump Here applaud you, Ms. Scorah, for creating a conversation and raising awareness from your grief. We know nothing can bring back your precious baby, but today any more people are now talking about parental leave and why we so desperately need it.
Please join the conversation at their family’s recently launched website, www.forkarl.com, which allows visitors to easily contact their legislators and presidential candidates to share their thoughts on family leave.
As Ms. Scorah states, “It’s up to us parents to demand more.”