Would YOU Get Pregnant for a Year off Work?

Article excerpt

Byline: by Lauren Libbert

Sarah and Yuliana did. So are they exhausted by office life - or selfish and irresponsible...

TRYING to explain the beauty of Shakespeare to a group of unruly teenagers too busy sending text messages to listen felt like a soul-destroying way to earn a living.

It was frustrating work, and secondary school teacher Sarah Kerr felt so demoralised that she needed an escape plan. So she took what she saw as her only route out of a job she was finding unbearably stressful: Sarah got pregnant. Now she spends her days at home with her one-yearold daughter, Alex. It's a long way from the chaos of the classroom, and Sarah is unapologetic about the choice she has made.

Choosing pregnancy as an escape from work seems rather drastic. After all, pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood are not exactly a walk in TURN TO NEXT PAGE

FROM PREVIOUS PAGE the park. Yet, according to a new survey by a glossy weekly magazine, nearly half of 2,000 women questioned said they were considering having a baby to get a year off work.

It's a shocking statistic, and one which will enrage many people. After all, using pregnancy to jump ship and leave others to shoulder your responsibilities hardly bolsters the female cause.

Alan Sugar, entrepreneur and host of BBC's The Apprentice, spoke for many when he said recently that EU-driven maternity laws meant people 'were entitled to have too much; everything has gone too far'.

Hard-pushed employers and overworked colleagues will be among those who agree with his analysis.

THE same survey revealed that one in three women now works longer hours than she used to, and more than half suffer sleepless nights because of job-related stress.

In a tough working environment, it's not hard to see why maternity leave -- up to 12 months of partially-paid time off -- can be appealing.

Maternity rights in Ireland offer women 26 weeks' paid leave and 16 weeks' unpaid leave. Women having babies in the U.S., by contrast, can take 12 weeks' leave, unpaid, although a few states do have laws forcing payment for some of that time.

For Sarah, 34, paid maternity leave provided the break she needed from her stressful job. Having worked as an English teacher in inner-city schools for more than ten years, she had reached meltdown.

'I loved my job and was committed to it, but it had become more about reaching targets and drilling for exam grades than engaging with students,' she says.

'The extra paperwork, preparation and lack of resources just loaded on the pressure,' says Sarah.

Escalating bad behaviour in the classroom didn't help, nor did the lack of support from management.

'Some days the kids would be running round the classroom, or even up and down the corridors, refusing to listen to the lesson I'd carefully planned and I felt I had no back-up to deal with it,' she says.

'On one occasion, I ran into the management office in tears, saying: "I can't be in that classroom any more" because it had got so bad.

'From the time I arrived at school at 8am, it was non-stop teaching, prepping and supervising, with a 15-minute window to grab lunch,' Sarah recalls.

'When the official school day ended around 3pm, there'd be meetings or children asking for help with their course work, and I could never say no.' Evenings and weekends were spent marking and planning for lessons.

'I was committed to my pupils and wanted to give them the best, but I started to feel bitter about the lack of support I received.' Watching colleagues go off on maternity leave or move to new jobs started Sarah thinking. She and husband Sean, a painter and decorator, had been married for two-and-a-half years, and while they'd discussed having children one day, Sarah's desperation meant she seized upon it as an escape route.

'I started to think pregnancy could be my way out,' says Sarah. …