parents

Would everyone please calm down about mums going straight back to work post birth.

“Would much rather be looking at my newborn baby than a laptop.”

“How sad that she only takes three hours off work after giving birth. Not something to brag about.”

Last week Celebrity Apprentice star Roxy Jacenko, 33, gave birth to her second child, a boy named Hunter Curtis.

Less than one hour later, Jacenko was back at work sending emails and updating her Instagram account.

You read that right — Jacenko’s micro maternity leave lasted mere minutes.

Jacenko famously took three hours’ maternity leave with her now two-year-old daughter Pixie and at the time, the reaction from the community was swift and scathing.

This time round, the vocal criticism is missing (if you don’t count Instagram comments like the ones above) but the collective eye rolling and silent judgment is palpable.

Even Jacenko can feel it.

“I don’t doubt there’s several people out there with their opinions on [it] being right or wrong,” she said.

Her swift return has brought up the age-old debate on how soon is too soon to go back to work. The general community sentiment on maternity leave goes something like this:

Twelve months: acceptable.

Six months: well, if you have to.

Six days: not enough.

One hour: are you serious?

Marissa Meyer

As became apparent after Marissa Mayer’s decision to go back to work two weeks after giving birth and France’s justice minister Rachida Dati’s return less than five days after giving birth, our culture expect mothers to spend this time bonding with baby. Rarely is the issue of whether Dad is emailing from the maternity ward or returning to work after the birth ever brought up.

Interestingly, I noticed the people within my circle who reacted with a wince to Jacenko’s swift maternity leave were the ones who don’t have children. Because as most mothers know, the hours following the birth don’t turn out like they appear in the movies. You think you’ll be basking in the afterglow, babe in arms, staring adoringly at this new bundle of joy. And sure, for a time you do that. But the reality (for me, at least) is once your baby falls asleep, you’re left thinking now what?

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I emailed a colleague within two hours of giving birth to my daughter — not because I run my own business like Jacenko or had any pressing work to do, but because my baby arrived more than four weeks early, so I was expected to be in the office that day. With the all the hormones and adrenaline still kicking, I then shot off a few more emails, because truthfully, I had nothing else I wanted to do at that exact moment. No one was harmed. I still got my fill of baby-staring.

Working from her hospital room was something Jacenko pre-planned, and makes no apologies for.

“What am I to do when Baby Hunter is sleeping, stare at him? He was right next to me in his crib, peacefully sleeping!”

“As any new mother would know when a baby is born they sleep all day – they wake for 4 hourly feeds. The rest of the time you are strapped to a hospital bed with a catheter so what should I have been doing? Reading a book? I chose to use the time to work on my laptop and ensure my other responsibilities were managed in good time and with a level of professionalism.”

Roxy just after having her baby, Hunter.

While I didn’t receive any criticism for doing so, no one would’ve batted an eyelid if my husband ducked out to answer a few work emails; neither did they when he returned to the office a day later.

For some, the decision to return to work is easier than others. Some women love their jobs, and can’t afford a long break from their businesses or careers. Similarly, not everyone has the luxury of taking 12 months off.

It’s hard to be a parent, let alone a good one, when you are depressed and financially challenged. Mothers need to look after their own well-being as well as their children’s – whether that means returning to work, staying at home or doing a combination of both.

I know women who have returned emails during labour and gone back to work hours after giving birth. Far from judging them, I’m amazed and impressed at their level of multi-tasking.

When did you return to work after having your baby… and when would you have LIKED to return to work?

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