Should We Share Maternity Leave?

As Nick Clegg reveals his plans for shared maternity leave I feel a bit sorry for him. There’s absolutely no way he’ll be able to please everyone with the decisions he makes. Either he hands out paid time off like sweeties and lets businesses suffer further or he offers solutions like these which seem to enrage new mothers.

Personally, although obviously controversial, I think in this equal rights world, where the economy is struggling and businesses are falling by the second, his offer is very generous.

I know many of the population will disagree yet I have my reasons which are:

  • I’m self employed as a freelance copywriter and digital marketer. I adore my job but it does mean no one pays for maternity leave. I had just 24 hours off work which each of my three children, taking them with me or working when they slept. Just one week’s paid leave would have been ample to be able to recover from the birth and enjoy the experience without worry about how the bills would be paid so I suppose, although it’s my choice, I’ve always looked longingly at those who enjoy almost a full year off.
  • I also own a few businesses and employ people. I understand the pressures businesses face not just financing a mother’s time away but finding a replacement for the duration. It’s nigh on impossible to find an employee that will show the same level of commitment and enthusiasm when they’re well aware they’re leaving the company as soon as the other returns to work.
  • I was a single mother with my first two and worked around school, childcare and sleep. I married my best friend five years ago and we had a daughter. I returned to work instantly as he was called away as his father was suddenly taken ill. When six weeks later his father sadly passed away he returned to help with all three children. Since then he’s been a househusband which has taken an extraordinary amount of pressure off me. He is incredible at what he does and now I can work fulltime and get a good night’s sleep.
  • This latter point highlights why I would happily share maternity leave with my other half. In an ideal world there would be enough money in petty cash to pay for both parents to enjoy extended leave but this solution should be well received.
  • It may ruffle feathers but any new mother knows that a day at work is an absolute breeze compared to a day with a baby who won’t sleep. How many women have felt a little jealous as their husbands have left for work in the morning while they’ve got one or more children to care for on a total of a few hours rest?
  • In those first weeks and months just having a coffee (if you’re not breastfeeding) without interruptions is an absolute luxury. As is talking on the phone and being able to complete a sentence or eating a meal without getting indigestion. In a bizarre twist if fathers could share some of the maternity leave, maybe mothers would feel even more rested as the fathers can take over the night time feeds knowing the mother must be functional for work the next day.

This doesn’t in anyway intend to trivialise those first important months between mother and baby or the rest that new mothers deserve but fathers do have an equal right to be able to develop the bond too and to spend time with their child without the pressures of work. So yes I do think we should share maternity leave, if we have it!

I’d happily give up half of my maternity leave to my partner if I had it, not only do I think it would enhance their bond it would also help partners to empathise with the amount of work involved in looking after a new baby.

Of course if giving up half of the maternity leave, I’d fully expect tea on the table, a clean house when I arrive home and uninterrupted sleep for eight hours every night. (That’s a joke).



About Martina Mercer

Martina Mercer is an award winning freelance digital marketer and copywriter. She founded The Consumer Voice on just £4.99 and now delivers expert consumer advice as the Consumer Voice's spokesperson on the BBC.

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