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Why Maternity Leave Should Include 'Me' Time

05/05/2016 10:39 | Updated 05 May 2016

This week parents Stateside have had a mini meltdown after the author of a new book implied that maternity leave is all about "me" time - and she wants in.

"Meternity" is a novel about a frazzled editor who pretends to be pregnant so she can take some time off to figure out her life. But after Meghann Foye, the 38-year-old author explained to the New York Post why she believes all non-parents (and particularly non-mums) should be able to take similar paid 'meternity' leave to enjoy this 'socially mandated time and space for self-reflection', mums and dad's tweeted their disappointment about the implication that parental leave is some sort of holiday.

Foye's comment that she felt 'envious' of women who get to go off on maternity leave and can let their personal lives 'take centre stage' highlights the imbalance experienced by some who give their heart and soul to their career whilst forsaking their personal needs. Ultimately, what Foye admits she learnt from taking her own "meternity" leave was that any pressure she felt to compromise was an internal pressure she couldn't blame on others.

Whilst no-one seems against the concept of a career sabbatical for non-parents that Foye suggested and more enlightened employers are offering widening flexi-options for staff, many appeared upset at the way she equated maternity leave to a time for self growth, fun or relaxation.

As Bumps and the Boardroom Founder I have spent 14 years working closely as a maternity coach and therapist with over 2000 high-potential women on their transition to motherhood. In doing so I have come to the same realisation as Foye that shifting our focus to something other than work and opening up to the emotional insights pregnancy offers, provides women with a new lens through which to see their lives, and a new set of skills which are valuable for all.

Her views are based on a far shorter maternity leave than is the British norm and this is partly where the rub appears. Those first few weeks provide little time for naval gazing but by challenging and reframing the belief that pregnancy provides business with a bundle of problems to solve - including keeping non-parents happy; maternity leave is a drain on company resources; and is all work and no play for parents I have proof that women, men and business can thrive when the experience is viewed and managed differently.

I believe the pregnancy journey is a catalyst for positive growth that everyone can - and should - benefit from. Changing how maternity leave and mothers are seen will allow a new power and femininity to rise throughout the business world and into our corporate boardrooms. Parents can lighten up around proving how tough a time it is.

Many women I speak to say the transition to motherhood did allow them to shift their priorities and reflect on their goals going forward. Not all day, every day but in the moments when they were breastfeeding, their baby was sleeping or they were out for a walk enjoying the peace and tranquility of a park or garden. They found some space to connect to their feminine intelligence and away from the masculine focus of many workplaces, thinking differently as a result.

The way we work is changing with talent demanding flexibility and freedom and smart businesses creating a shared connection to goals. We need to disrupt the patterns and behaviours that are the norm, seek out or create businesses who focus on profit and people and feel that it's ok to value our own needs.

"Meternity" leave may not be on the corporate horizon for all and there is no dispute maternity leave is a constant rollercoaster of caring, cleaning and crying (you and your newborn) but with planning and being personally open to growth, the transition to motherhood can be a good time for you and your baby.

I'm up for that.

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