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Jehanara Haider's picture

You would think a first time mother’s reaction to “congratulations, you are pregnant” would be happiness and not an anxiety ridden look of utter confusion. We had been trying for quite some time and I even went on a dose of Clomid so yes, we were hoping and expecting this news, but what I was not expecting was a wave of uncertainty that washed over me as I drove back to work. All I could think of was what if I had a difficult pregnancy and would need rest or worse had to quit my job which gave me health insurance. To add to all of this was the fact that I immigrated to the US after my marriage to my husband, almost six years ago. I come from a culture that places great importance on a family support system, I never went to day care and my mother was a homemaker. I kept thinking about family leave, child care arrangements, pumping breaks—not cribs and rattles.

On top of it all, I kept feeling guilty that I was not elated at this amazing blessing. My first reaction to anxiety has always been…reading  and so I read a host of pregnancy books and working mother books.  All of these books gave such a positive spin to pregnancy and balancing it all that after I got hit by post-partum depression right after my baby was born, I felt like I got hit by a car at 150mph. I just could not understand where the rainbows and unicorns were and why somehow most of books skipped over this and no one talked about it. Fast forward to my return to work after three months…yes, only three months. It just wasn’t enough time – and some parents get less! It is unfair that our policies mandate that a woman who went through nine months and counting of hormonal upheaval, an enormous life change, tremendous physical and emotional toil is expected to leave her infant and return to work in a few weeks.

My gripe is with all politicians and elected representatives who are quick to strategically place their families on the stage with them, smiling and clapping while majority of our policies relating to women are massively stacked against us and our upward mobility. How can it be that the US is one of the only three countries in the world with no paid maternity leave? All politicians seem to be big on family, but when it comes down to it, I do not see a lot of focus on issues like affordable child care, child care credits or paid family leave. I got lucky because my mother-in-law left her life overseas and came to stay with us for a few months to look after her grandson. 

At 19 months, I had no choice but to start looking for a day care for my son. All the while guilt ate away at me. It seemed subsidized day care was next to impossible to find and my only choice was a day care close to work.  Their cost and timings threw me for a loop; a full day was from 9 to 3. Okay, that definitely does not work for a full time working mother and an “extended day” was 7 to 6:30, which of course was our only choice and the cost just had to be accepted. Ever since he started day care I am constantly looking to cut back on other things to afford these additional expenses. That’s just not okay.

My heart goes out to the teachers as well who I knew were not paid as much as they should for the care that they were required to give which would lead my thoughts to a much darker side, that if you were not paid appropriately, how would you be able to give so much of yourself to other people’s children. I urge all of you to bring these issues up in every way that you can. We all need moms to rise up and put these issues on the forefront so that policy makers are forced to deal with them and not drown them out by political rhetoric.

Editors Note: If you want to raise your voice on early learning and share your own story like Jehanara did, you can do so by visiting this link:

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