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    This Mom Shared A Heartfelt Post About Maternity Leave In The US, And It's Going Viral On LinkedIn

    "As a majority income source for our family, I was forced to suck it up, put on a smile, and get back to work."

    Rachael Larson — mother of two — recently shared a heartfelt message about returning to work postpartum that's been gaining a lot of attention on LinkedIn:

    In her post, she says, "It took me four years to have the courage to share this photo. Even now, it's hard to look at. The shame around raising a family and working full-time is real. I took this on my first day back to work after my second daughter was born. I wasn’t ready. My daughter wasn’t ready. She wasn’t sleeping and was extremely fussy. I woke up five times the night before to feed her. I was exhausted. As a majority income source for our family, I was forced to suck it up, put on a smile, and get back to work."

    Rachael sitting in her car in tears
    Rachael Larson

    "I know that I am extremely privileged. I was able to have some partial pay during my maternity leave and I was able to take 12 weeks off. I had a job that I loved at an amazing company with great bosses. I had a daycare facility that I could afford with great teachers I trusted. But… I was not ready. We need to do more to support parents and families. It may have taken me four years after I knew I’d never have another baby to share this photo. But, I’m glad that I have the courage to speak my truth now," she concluded in the post.

    People in the comments started pointing out how the workplace is not designed for parents:

    One person remarked, "Well said Rachael. There is so much work to do in understanding and reintegrating parents (especially mothers) to work after family leave and in the many stages thereafter"

    And many moms started sharing the struggles they faced going back to work after giving birth:

    Another mom says, "This America is not working for women. We must do better"

    Some moms even shared that the lack of maternal support from companies is the reason they left the workforce altogether:

    One person says, "This is why I left the workforce...even though I was working from home. I couldn't do any of my roles well...mother, employee, wife"

    People who are from other countries also shared how big of a culture shock maternity leave in the US was for them:

    "When I was pregnant with my first child, being here in the US, in Poland the new maternity law was just established giving women 8 months to 2 year paid time with their children"

    The post even made some of Rachael's colleagues respect her so much more:

    One person said, "Rachael, I think this was the day we met, and I look back on it now in a new light. Thank you for sharing this"

    BuzzFeed spoke to Rachael, who said, "I wanted to share the picture the last few times it popped up [on my memories], but I was too scared. I shared it on LinkedIn because that is where most of my professional connections are. At work, I'm known for having it together, but the truth is that sometimes I am barely holding it together. I hoped that by sharing it with coworkers, they would feel more welcome to be honest about how they are doing. I want everyone I work with to know that they have permission to not be okay all of the time. We are humans, not robots," she said.

    Rachel on the couch holding her two kids
    Rachael Larson

    The photo Rachael posted of her crying was taken right before she backed out of her driveway to go to work. "My C-section scar still throbbed, and trying to find professional clothes to wear was horrifying. I made my husband drop the girls off at daycare because I knew I'd be an absolute mess. I felt embarrassed and powerless for not being physically or emotionally ready when I was expected to be. There was grief, heartbreak, and shame."

    Rachael Larson

    And, even though the photo was taken four years ago, Rachael said it is still very hard for her to look at. "I'm not a big selfie person, but I took it because I knew that it was a defining moment for me as a professional and a mother. I also knew the circumstances weren't right. It is not normal to separate parents from their babies so soon."

    Rachael understands that she was actually privileged to have three months off for maternity leave because some women don't even get that. "One of the most misunderstood parts of my post comes from people who had less resources than me. The intent of my post wasn't for sympathy, it was to create awareness about this human experience that so many people go through but never share."

    Rachael Larson

    She added, "My heart breaks for every parent who has to leave a child before they are physically or emotionally ready. I can't have any more children, and I have nothing to gain from a policy change other than knowing that millions of other parents won't have to have the same pain."

    Rachael also received negative comments saying she should just quit and get a new job. "They are sexist. Can you imagine anyone saying that to a man? They assume that I provided no value to my employer. Six months after I returned, I won an Employee Of The Year Award and went on to help build software that saved them millions of dollars."

    Rachael Larson

    And Rachael can't help but laugh at the commenters who tell her to suck it up. "That is exactly what I did. It's what we all have to do, but that doesn't make it normal or okay."

    And, when it comes to companies, Rachael has this message for them: "Whether you know it or not, employees are judging companies by who is stepping up and going above and beyond what FMLA requires. If you truly care about the well-being of your employees, you'll find ways to be more supportive. That doesn't have to mean you give everyone six months fully paid. Even small things, like allowing employees to work from home, adjust their hours, providing facilities for mothers who breastfeed, or assign returning employees more project-based work so productivity can be flexible will help with the transition," she said.

    Rachael's kids playfully sitting on her back and she types on her laptop on the floor
    Rachael Larson

    "Family medical leave isn't just for having children. It allows you to take time to care for a family member without having to worry about losing your job. That is a benefit that everyone should have," she added.

    Special thanks to Rachael for shedding light on this issue — parents, how can employers better help and support their employees who have children?

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