Today's glimpse into maternity leave and child care in Mexico comes to us from Hellobee community member sloaneandpuffy.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I packed up myself and my dog Puffy (RIP), and came here in spring of 2007 after realizing I was not having the life I had always dreamed of (corny, I know). Within 6 weeks I had met my husband and found a job in administration at an international school. So you could say there was some divine timing there. My husband is Mexican, I am a U.S. citizen and our 16-month-old boy is both. We are expecting another baby in October. We are pretty settled here, but you never know what will happen in the future. We are open to living in the U.S. or somewhere else if the right situation were to come together, but we're not doing anything to make that happen. We like it here!
at a local park
How does maternity leave differ in Mexico compared to the United States?
Maternity leave in Mexico is guaranteed for employees who are on an official payroll. This doesn’t include the self-employed, freelancers, most domestic employees, etc. Government workers have their own thing, too. But if someone is on a private payroll, the law says he or she is entitled to IMSS (Mexican social security), which is the agency that deals with all sick leave, disability leave, maternity leave, etc., beyond offering free health care service. Maternity leave consists of six weeks’ paid leave before the estimated due date, and six weeks' paid leave after the birth of the baby. Many employers (like mine) also provide private medical insurance. However, a private doctor cannot get you maternity leave. You have to go through IMSS.
In order to get maternity leave, you must have your pregnancy monitored at an IMSS clinic, even if you’re already seeing your own OBGYN monthly. The rule of thumb is at least five monthly visits before the doctor will sign off on your leave. These visits are very basic: weight, temperature, blood pressure, fundal height and questions. The clinics don’t have dopplers so they don’t listen to the heartbeat until halfway through the pregnancy when they can use stethoscopes or this little metal device. Sometimes they order lab tests. Depending on the doctor’s orders, you may also be required to meet with a public health nurse, a dentist and a social worker. I was required to attend a presentation on prenatal care, infant care and breastfeeding. I should mention that all of this is free of charge, and in the end, women may opt to give birth in an IMSS hospital, which is also free of charge, even in case of a c-section.
Once the baby is born, the mother (or father, or someone else) must take the birth records to the IMSS clinic to initiate the 6-week postpartum leave.
Many women complain about going to IMSS. For those with money to access private doctors and hospitals, it’s probably the first time they’ve ever gone to the clinic, even though these clinics offer healthcare, medications, lab tests and vaccinations free of charge. I myself have complained about IMSS because it’s not always the most pleasant experience. There’s a lot of waiting and bureaucracy, and sometimes the doctors seem annoyed when they have to deal with people who are clearly just there to get their papers signed. However, I think it’s pretty impressive that a developing country can provide this service to people.
When I attended the required presentation about prenatal care and infant care, to be honest, I didn’t really want to be there. However, during the Q&A afterwards, I realized what an important service this is. Many women were asking questions that showed that they have little access to good information. They’re not on Hellobee and they may not have a lot of educated people in their lives to give them good advice. So, I’m very glad this exists.
Is maternity leave paid at full salary?
Yes. IMSS pays the employee directly in two lump sums before and after the birth.
Does Mexico offer subsidized childcare after maternity leave?
People with IMSS access (again, people on a payroll) have access to free daycare centers starting when the baby is six weeks old. We have not chosen to take advantage of this. Many people opt for private daycares or nannies. However, I have heard good things about IMSS daycare. I think it depends largely on your neighborhood and what center you’re assigned to as well. We have a day nanny, which is a good option for us because it means we are not scrambling when our child is sick. We don’t even have to dress him in the morning and we feel extremely comfortable leaving him in her hands.
What do you love about raising a child in Mexico?
Mexicans love babies, children and moms. I can’t think of many places here where small children are not welcome. Being with a baby on a plane full of Mexicans is an incredible relief – it’s not like they love hearing your child fuss, but they’re extremely tolerant. In general, Mexicans are very tolerant. I never thought of gringos as uptight until I moved here, but now when I go back I feel like everyone is in everyone else’s business, telling other people how to live (e.g. “the mommy wars”), and that’s not something I experience often here. Also, like I said, motherhood is almost a cult here! Mother’s Day, which takes place every May 10, is either a holiday or a half-day for most offices and schools. It’s like an orgy of motherhood. Sometimes it’s actually too much!
But really, I like the culture here and I am happy my kids will be raised in it. I also want them to spend as much time as possible in the U.S. so they get the best of both worlds!
Another good thing: The cost of household help is very reasonable. On a macro level, this is troubling because it points to the inequality that exists here. On a micro level, I’m very grateful we can have a nanny on our income, and I think the arrangement is very beneficial to her and her family as well. We like and respect them a great deal. If she needs a day or an afternoon off, or an occasional loan, we do what it takes to make that happen. Sometimes, she brings her little girl or one of her older daughters and our son loves them. We currently pay less than 500 USD per month for childcare. Our nanny is no childhood development expert, but she’s a good person and a good mom and that’s what matters to us.
What do you dislike, or what would you change about raising a child in Mexico?
Mexico is a place where some great traditions have been overcome by ideas about what’s “modern” or “classy.” For example, c-section rates are very high and birth is highly medicalized for the segments of the population with disposable income. Also, breastfeeding rates seem quite low. I have only seen maybe three women (besides myself) nursing in public, and two of them looked like foreigners. The only people I’ve heard of in Mexico nursing in public, uncovered, have been indigenous people. Formula is huge here.
I guess I’d be remiss not to mention security. Mexico is going through a tough time right now. Although I feel safe here, especially in Mexico City, one has to be careful. I obviously wish my kids could grow up without having to worry about things like that.
Describe a typical day in your life.
My husband and I wake up around 6:00 a.m. and our toddler wakes between 6:00 and 6:30. I nurse him and we play with him while we get ready, and the nanny arrives at 7:00 a.m. so we can go to work. Our toddler hangs out at home all day with the nanny. Sometimes they go out to our apartment’s garden area, but they don’t ever leave the property. I come home around 4:30 or 5:00, the nanny leaves, and we usually play at home, eat dinner and bathe before bedtime at 8:00. Sometimes we go out and run errands (like going to Costco!) or have a bite to eat, but fun outings like the park are almost strictly for the weekends. We should probably do more, but this is such a huge city, and the traffic can be so terrible that going to someone else’s house or a decent playground can be just too stressful. My husband works very long days, unfortunately, so often it’s just the babe and me on weekdays.
What's a parenting rule you never break?
I don’t think this is a rule per se, but we are very strict about the television. We have only allowed W to watch TV twice in his life: once for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (I was visiting my family in the U.S.) and once for the Super Bowl. Both times, he was like, “HOT DAMN! What’s this thing?” I know TV viewing will be inevitable in the future, but I want to keep him away from the TV as long as possible.
What's a parenting rule you always break?
Hmmmm… I guess maybe I am not that vigilant about certain things, like letting him eat something that fell on the floor, or letting him play with things that are not totally babyproof. I figure so long as I keep an eye on him he’ll be OK! Also, if we’re eating something that we buy on the street, like tamales or tacos, we usually give him some. I know most gringos would hyperventilate just thinking about that. But, that’s our life! Plus, we have fairly strong digestive systems as a family.
What's the hardest part of being a mom?
The hardest thing for me has been a personal development issue. I never thought of myself as an out-of-control person or someone with a temper, but motherhood seems to bring those things out in a person! Although I’d never hurt my child, sometimes the frustration builds up so much I want to run out of the room and have a kicking, screaming tantrum myself. It’s not healthy.
If you had an entire day off, how would you spend it?
Right now, I am still really tired from my pregnancy, so I’d probably sleep, read books, watch TV and maybe get my nails done. Then take my babe out to eat Mexican sushi!
Thanks so much for sharing Sloane! If you'd like to share a glimpse of what maternity leave, childcare, and parenthood is like in your country, please contact us at email@example.com!
Maternity Leave Around the World part 2 of 31. The Juggle Around the World: Maternity Leave in Sweden by Parenting Around the World
2. The Juggle Around the World: Maternity Leave in Mexico by Parenting Around the World
3. Maternity Leave in France by Parenting Around the World