Just over six weeks ago I had a baby. Just over five weeks ago, exactly a week after the baby was born, a great job opportunity came my way. While the gig wasn't a sure thing, it had the potential to become an ongoing and well-paying job. As most freelancers know, when an opportunity like that comes your way, it's hard to ignore. In this uncertain publishing climate, freelance writers in particular know that turning down the opportunity to write for a good publication on an ongoing basis is a bad idea. A really bad idea. But I was on maternity leave. Or was I?For a freelance contractor, maternity leave is tricky to figure out. Katherine's post a few months ago, Women Entrepreneurs and Maternity Leave provided some very sound advice about how to plan for a maternity leave. I found it reassuring to read her recommendation to announce your pregnancy on a need-to-know basis with clients, mostly because it was what I had been doing. However, this job opportunity created a problem for me.
Obviously, the client needed to know something, but what should I tell them? Did I say that I'd had a baby a week ago and, that after having been on nearly two months of bedrest prior to the birth, I was an exhausted, drooling mess? As my teen would say that seemed like, TMI. Did I politely say I was on maternity leave for the next month and ask if they could wait that long? That seemed like a good way to lose a good gig. I truly didn't know how to handle the situation.
So, I made what I thought was a compromise. The client needed four articles over a period of four weeks, beginning that week. I emailed back, explaining I'd just had a baby and asking for a week's extension, essentially bumping the assignments by just enough that the first deadline was when the baby was about two weeks old. No problem, I thought, my husband is taking some FMLA time, I'll just research and write while he takes care of the baby. And I did.Last week, I completed and sent off the last article and am awaiting a final decision as to whether it will become an ongoing gig. Situation handled, right? Everything worked out, right? Technically, yes. Emotionally, no. I underestimated a number of things, not the least of which being the need to recover and get some sleep while I could. More importantly, I realized I lost my maternity leave.
My husband took time off to spend with the baby because, as he put it, you never get that time back. Now I know I will never get that time back. I don't get to say, "OK, I'll take my six weeks of rest and recovery now." I don't get to have that time of no work stress, no worrying over deadlines or trying to find just the right source.
The truth is, I don't know whether I did the right thing or not. I really want this job, but I really regret not taking the time off. Maybe it's a downside of being a freelancer. Anyone else feel like screaming, "Where's my maternity leave?"