Three Years of Maternity Leave in Switzerland

My friend Nicole’s sister just married a Swiss man. They’re living in London, where working women get a year of paid maternity leave, but if they move home to her in-laws’ neck of the woods, Jamie will get three years of paid maternity leave, no questions asked, no strings attached.

Compared to our meager six weeks – or three months if you’re lucky – I’d say something is skewed in America.

It’s not just a message about having babies and nurturing our young. It’s also a message about caring for ourselves.

This week, I’ve been on a short fuse. Traveled back from sunny, hot, relaxing Arizona to arrive in a dreary, rainy, cold Detroit at 1 a.m. Monday. Jet lag has led me to not sleep much or well all week. And of course, there’s work to be done, children to feed, groceries to buy…you get the picture.

I simply lost it easily and often yesterday. But it’s no wonder – the message in our society is that we must care for everyone else before focusing on ourselves.

It’s considered selfish if a woman takes time for herself away from her kids, family, spouse or work. Imagine if I had said to my staff and clients, I’m not coming in Tuesday either – I’ll go get a massage.

Already, I heard it for being gone for three work days. THREE WORK DAYS. Seriously? 

And I am not complaining. Truly, I love my work and am grateful for my clients and staff.

But our societal perspective on priorities are completely out of whack.

It’s why I make it a company benefit of working for Your People LLC to go to yoga on Fridays in the middle of the work day. It’s a small gesture, but an important one.

Still. I haven’t quite learned the message and taken it inside myself.

After posting on Facebook about my bad mood, a dear lifelong friend said, “Have you eaten well and healthy? Slept well? Exercise?” Answers: Sorta, no and no.

Well, then, it’s no wonder that I’m out of whack. How jarring for a system to go from complete and total relaxation and nurturing to hard-pressed deadlines, complaints and running?

I’d like to propose that we Americans build a revolution. Not a political one – one to save our souls. It’ll look something like this:

1. Every day, every person spends 15-20 minutes before even showering in meditation. And then, later in the afternoon, when the stress has mounted, take another 15-20 minutes in meditation – wherever you are. The car, the office, the dentist’s waiting room. It’s necessary.

2. Every day, every person moves their body. Whether it’s a full-on workout at the gym, running 5 miles or simply a walk around the block, let’s do something to move our bodies. Preferably in the fresh air and sunshine (or cloud-cover if you live in Michigan).

3. Begin the day with water that’s steeped in lemon and orange slices. Fill your plate first with vegetables and fruits and then with all the other stuff. If at all possible, buy only foods with five ingredients or less and which can’t sit on a shelf for a year and a half.

4. Take at least two full days every week to disconnect. I mean no checking email, no extra work on the side, not even reading industry publications. Two full days. And it’s best if they are consecutive.

5. Relegate email to beginning and end of each day. Ignore it in between.

6. Eliminate all the complainers and whiners and takers from your life, and do it fast. They suck the life force right out of you.

7. No TV before bed. I hate this one but I think it’s necessary. Read a book. Make love. Take a bath. Cuddle with your kiddos. Don’t play Words with Friends or text or watch jarring bright shows. Chill. Completely. Let it seep in.

8. If you own a company, find a way to offer every employee three paid weeks of vacation a year PLUS holidays. And make sure you take it yourself, too.

That’s a great start. Imagine if our whole country could do this! Imagine the difference it would make for our well-being, our livelihoods, our sense of satisfaction in life and in work.

Imagine if we were all nurtured and appreciated. If the message we received early on and always was to stop, think, redirect and immerse in soul-filling practices rather than surface activities. Imagine. Just imagine.

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