A Brave Journey Past Postpartum
As the proud papa of two adorable babies born just 15 months apart, it never ceases to amaze me how much work goes into parenting. There’s lots of blocking and tackling, if I can use a sports metaphor, and by the end of each day and night, mom and dad often feel like they need to be carted off the playing field – or should I say playground?
Kids will wear you out. Why didn’t all my family friendly pals tell me these details before I took the plunge into parenthood?! I thought writing deadlines were brutal. They’re nothing compared to juggling a heavy workload with dual diaper duty, midnight bottle feedings, bath time, toddlers, tiaras and tantrums. Add to the mix two little ones who like to pinch their way to sleep for added comfort, and I literally sport the battle scars to show the sweat equity I have invested.
In short: I’m exhausted.
But I can only imagine what it must feel like for my wife, who also had to juggle breastfeeding with postpartum depression following the birth of our youngest child. It has been an eye-opening experience that mirrors some of the stories told by actress Brooke Shields in “Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression,” which gave me great comfort knowing we weren’t alone in dealing with this mysterious and frightening condition.
It got me wondering how women, who now slightly outnumber men in the U.S. workforce, must be coping not only at home, but also on the job. Talk about a harrowing work-life juggle. It’s hard enough dealing with all those moving parts without suffering from something like this, so the mere thought of another layer of complexity added to the employment equation can trigger some seriously high anxiety.
I don’t know how these brave working women do it, but as a close observer of the human resources field for more than 20 years, I sure hope that they’re getting the support they need from their group medical insurance plans and employee assistance programs. For employers, it can help them move the needle on the talent wars, considering how demographic trends make recruiting and retaining female employees a necessary step toward attaining a competitive advantage.
Having been removed from the corporate world’s daily grind for nearly 12 years and counting, I have no sense how this issue is playing out by the water cooler, or in conference rooms or corner offices. All I know is what I read, which isn’t much.
On a hunch, I conducted a few Google searches about HR and postpartum depression and found virtually nothing written about any links between the two. But the first news item caught my eye. In it, an appeals court ruled that it was okay for (ironically) a medical center to deny an employee time off under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to care for her adult daughter, who had postpartum depression and, thus, needed help caring for her newborn. Her employer had what was described as “a no-fault attendance policy that assigned points to each employee based on the number of unexcused absences incurred. Approved absences such as FMLA leave were not included in the point total.” The woman, who also had suffered a back injury that would have been covered by the FMLA, was fired.
My wife is lucky in that as an independent contractor for two different creative career paths, she doesn’t have to deal with any corporate policy restrictions or office politics, nor is she beholden to short-sighted supervisors who don’t understand what it’s like to experience postpartum depression. But for other working women with this affliction whose careers and lives hang in the balance, there just may be no escaping these hassle or pressure to be a super mom, super wife and/or super worker. Let’s hope that their respective journeys through postpartum depression lead them out of the darkness and into the light for their sake, as well as the sake of their families and employers.