Parental leave in Canada :
12 months to welcome her baby
Dominique tells us about her experience of a year of parental leave in Quebec.
This article is not intended to make mothers feel guilty but only a desire on our part to be able to open the discussion and move things forward to stay within the objective of our mission: to meet the needs of parents.
Canada, this superb country across the Atlantic fascinates many French people, with its grandiose landscapes, its economic attractiveness but also its quality of life which is balanced harmoniously between professional and personal life.
Listening to the needs of parents and their children, Canada allows parents to take up to 18 months of leave to welcome a baby.
We wanted to know more about the experience of the maternity leave of Dominique who lives in Montreal and her granddaughter Sofia. How did she approach this period, how was the return to work after this year entirely spent with her daughter?
Currently pregnant with her second baby, she will also tell us how she envisages this new maternity leave which will undoubtedly be very different from the first. Dominique will tell how she had fantasized this year and how reality with a newborn soon caught up with her.
Hello Dominique, first of all, can you tell us briefly about how parental leave works in Quebec?
Standard maternity leave is 1 year. However, we can organize with the second parent to share this leave as we wish. For example, I have friends who took the first 6 months and then the father took over taking care of the baby for the last 6 months.
You should also know that Canada allows parents to take up to 18 months of leave, that is to say 6 months more after the classic 1 year, but these 6 additional months are not paid.
I find that this possibility reassures us as parents, especially if, for whatever reason, we need to extend parental leave. Especially for the first baby as you never know what to expect.
During your pregnancy, how did you imagine your maternity leave of 1 year ?
During my pregnancy, I fantasized about this maternity leave. Like many people, I had never had the opportunity to benefit from 12 months without working so of course I had made a list of everything I wanted to accomplish. I really thought I could dedicate myself to activities alone and with baby, take care of myself with personal development, travel but also dedicate myself to decorating my family nest.
I must say that a year seemed long and distant to me. I told myself that I would have the leisure to devote myself to all the things for which I never had time by working full time.
I should also point out that it was my first baby and that I had almost no mother friends so I didn’t really know what to expect.
So tell us how your maternity leave actually went
Well, like any new mom, I quickly realized all the things to do to take care of your baby’s basic needs and the little time you have left to take care of yourself.
On the other hand, here in Canada, we are lucky to have a nurse who comes to the house after the birth for a few weeks. Sometimes she came every three days to discuss with me the challenges I might encounter, such as with breastfeeding. I must say that this help has been very beneficial.
Maybe this will make people cringe in France but this year slipped through my fingers and like any new mother, my daughter took priority and all the activities I had planned to do fell into the background. The first few months, the days with a newborn are unpredictable and not alike so it’s hard to plan things.
In one year, I was really able to discover the different stages of a baby’s first year, such as the 6 month phase when the baby starts to eat and all the organization that this requires. Honestly, I really admire working moms during this stage because I found it to be a good challenge to manage the diversification of the baby.
In short, this year when I was able to devote myself entirely to my daughter allowed me to see her grow up, to see her smile for the first time, to say her first word and see her first steps… these are precious moments. which I am very grateful to have been able to attend.
I must add that these 12 months without having to go back to work allowed me to find my body after giving birth. I was able to take the time to see professionals who helped me get back in shape.
How did you organize yourself for social life ? Did you feel more isolated ?
I did not necessarily feel isolated except at the beginning after giving birth. The first months were difficult, we were in the middle of covid but little by little I found a rhythm. On social networks I also met new mother friends too.
After a few months I started to be able to better plan my days and organize myself to see my friends with my baby. There are many groups of mothers, groups of meetings to meet between mothers during this year.
Around the 10 months of Sofia, I felt the need to go back to work. In reality, I found it very physical to have to take care of my baby 100% all day. I also wanted to find a woman’s life and find my colleges, my job.
3 months before the recovery, we managed to make a trip I dreamed of pregnant a reality, we treated ourselves to a trip to Italy, to Puglia for 2 weeks with the family.
How was the return to work after this year of maternity leave ?
The recovery went very well and was very smooth. I felt it was the right time for everyone.
I was ready as I said above to resume my position. We were able to have this luxury of making the smooth transition to daycare a month before my recovery. Sofia was therefore 11 months old.
She was able to take the time to acclimate to daycare and get to know the people who would take care of her and me to adjust to the separation.
How do you envision this second maternity leave of 1 year ?
It will be very different from the first. Already because the covid restrictions are over. The sports centers will be re-opened, so for sure I will plan some time to practice activities with baby such as post-natal yoga.
I also have friends who are pregnant at the same time as me, so we will be able to spend quality time together with our babies. I would also like to be able to take the time to develop new connections with other moms in my neighborhood so that my children can make friends. I also already know what to expect with a newborn and I think I would be better able to organize myself to be able to devote more time to myself.
My first daughter at 16 months, my pregnancies are really close together, I feel the need to be able to take more time for myself. I will try to take advantage of this year of my second maternity leave to try to find a balance between my family life and my life as a woman.