When I anticipated my first maternity leave, I thought that I would have all this free time to do what I want. I had visions of myself on a patio overlooking the cityscape and enjoying a glass of wine with friends while my baby slept in his stroller peacefully.
Boy, was I delusional.
The first few weeks post partum were not like that at all, haha.
Nonetheless, I’m a couple months into my year long maternity leave (thank you Canada) and despite the sleepless nights, I still think that maternity leave feels like a mini-retirement from the daily grind and hustle of my 9-5 job.
How Maternity Leave Differs from Retirement
First off, I’m going to start off reviewing how maternity is not exactly a mini-retirement. Obviously, you have a newborn and baby to take care of that will take up about 80% of the daylight hours and about 50% of the night time hours. Between feeding, burping, changing diapers, and looking lovingly at your beautiful miracle, there isn’t much time to focus on your own endeavours, let alone focus on trying to take a shower.
In retirement, you don’t feel so tired, like you got hit by a bus (every day for the first few months) because of sleep deprivation and you don’t feel like you’re in survival mode.
In other ways, I do feel like my maternity leave is a mini-retirement and here’s why:
You Have to Budget For It
Depending on your employer benefits or even whether you are self-employed, you have to budget for your maternity leave unless you’re lucky enough to be taking maternity leave in Sweden, which pays 80% of your income for the full 18 months. Even if you get a top up from your employer (which may replace up to 70-85 or even 90% of your gross pay) for a few months, you will still have to budget for the remaining year which will only be funded by EI payments. The maximum EI payment is around $2000 a month. Unless you’re taking maternity leave in Sweden, which pays 80% of your income for the full 18 months.
In addition to the hit to your income, baby expenses can be very costly in the first year, diapers don’t always come cheap. Of course, there are lots of free baby stuff in Canada that you can sign up for to decrease the cost. 32 Newborn Huggies diapers can last you three days, haha!
There is Some Income During the Leave
Just like a retirement in Canada after age 60 or 65, you will get some government pensions such as CPP. However in this case, the government provides you with some income during your maternity and parental leave. For a 12 month leave, employment insurance will pay you 55 per cent of your average insurable weekly earnings if you qualify. To qualify, you’ll have had to work 600 insurable hours and also be hit with a 40% decrease in income during your leave. EI payments will be paid for 15 weeks for maternity leave and 35 weeks for parental leave (which can be shared between the parents).
For me I am getting just over $2000 a month for the latter part of my parental leave, and I’m appreciative of the income and it helps me stay at home with baby GYM for the full year.
In Canada, the Liberal government recently announced an 18 month parental leave, however, the total amount received is the same just dispersed throughout 18 months instead of 12 months.
You’ll Feel Like You Miss Work Initially Then You Don’t
Initially on my leave I was contacting my colleagues and asking about how things were, I was still reading my work emails and wanting to find out how certain meetings went. Initially I missed work and felt a bit disconnected from the team at work. I felt a bit left out. Then I realized I was given this opportunity to spend time with my baby, might as well not waste it thinking about work.
Although I like do like work, I don’t miss the stress and I don’t miss the hustle and bustle. I don’t miss the exhaustion of coming home from work. I am exhausted but it’s a different kind of exhaustion, an oxytocin induced exhaustion. And to be completely honest, I am not too excited to go back to work at the end of this year. I do miss the beefier paycheque that I was getting when I was working, though!
The Days Go By So Fast
Of course half of the day is spent feeding my baby so obviously the days will go by quickly. Even though my day is not filled with work from 9-5, the day goes by so quickly. As I’m writing this it is already past noon and I don’t know where the day went. I anticipate this will be the same with retirement, you’ll fill your days and it will go by so fast. In my prolonged retirement, I hope to learn how to play the guitar, how to use Excel, and continue with my physical fitness a few times a week.
I’ve asked my retired friends if they are enjoying it and so far it has been a unanimous and resounding ‘yes’. Some of my retired friends were initially hesitant to retire, worried about not being able to fill up their days.
You’ll Want Your Partner to Join You
Just like with retirement, you’ll want your partner to join you. It’s more fun when you have your partner to spend the days with. I am fortunate that my husband is self employed and I am employed so he is flexible with his schedule and we are able to go to Hawaii for 5 weeks with baby GYM to see what mini-retirement might be like.
Hopefully in about 10 years time this will become reality and mini-retirement will become real retirement! In the meantime, I’m going to continue enjoying my mini-retirement, or maternity leave.
Readers, do you think your parental leave was like a mini-retirement? Did it allow you to appreciate the simple things in life and get away from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind?