In the United States, the average vacation time for employees is a measly 10 days per year (compared to the mandated 20 days European employers provide their workers). With such limited paid time off, much of which is reserved for holidays and family engagements, it should come as no surprise that some New York women are now turning their maternity leave into a time to travel, with a newborn in tow.
“I was in an apartment that’s dark because we live on the first floor, and [I was] not able to go outside for more than an hour because it was so cold,” Vika, a Software Engineer at Bloomberg, told The New York Post. “It started getting depressive.”
Vika and her husband decided to use her 18-week maternity leave to travel to the Caribbean instead, taking their newborn child with them. Vika’s decision to travel with her baby – one that is mirrored by other New York mommies – does have its risks.
Sheri Bayles, a registered nurse, tells The New York Post, “I would think long and hard before I put a baby on an airplane before four months [of age]. It’s so risky. How many people step on an airplane and get sick?”
Despite the risks, a combination of limited vacation time and lack of stimulation during their maternity leave, is driving some New York women to travel instead. “We’d take walks along the beach in the morning and feed [our baby] on the patio,” Stephanie Smith told The New York Post. “We went to this restaurant for breakfast every day and had our cappuccinos and crepes, and the baby would be next to us [taking] a nap.”
Stephanie’s maternity leave sounds idyllic, after all who wouldn’t prefer to spend time on a beach with their new bundle of joy? The choice to travel with a baby though can be met with disapproval and doubt. “When I got back, the first thing people said was, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe you took your newborn on that trip!’ ” said Smith.
Bayles adds that the risks of traveling with kids might outweigh the bliss of heading somewhere warm. “Especially if the babies haven’t had their vaccinations yet . . . I wouldn’t have felt safe doing so with my kids.”
At the end of the day, whether a new mother should travel with her baby is a debate best left to that family. Perhaps the larger question rests with the U.S. employment system and the need for more vacation time.