Jill Hennessy Recommends Short Maternity Leave

05/08/2009 at 06:00 PM ET
Johns PkI/Splash News Online

Making the film Lymelife was something Jill Hennessy considers unavoidable, even if the timing left much to be desired. Although her second son — 17-month-old Gianni — was just 11 weeks old at the time, Jill says of accepting the part: “I couldn’t not do it.”

“I recognized this character. Everyone feels like, if I were a better wife or woman, my husband would love me, my kids would love me more. She comes full circle and makes a very bold choice.”

The logistics were tough, however. Jill pumped her breastmilk in the nurses office of a local school, for the film’s budget didn’t allow for trailers, and cast members like Alec Baldwin pitched in with Gianni. “Alec would … always make him laugh, which drove me crazy,” Jill jokes. “How does he make everyone laugh, even a three month-old baby? It kind of pissed me off.” While some women yearn for an extended maternity leave, Jill feels that her speedy return to the set was best for all involved.

“I think it helped me get through that time, in retrospect. It got me outside, stopped me from focusing on the sheer lack of sleep and the daunting situation of having two kids. It forced me to delegate. I highly recommend it.”

In addition to Gianni, Jill and husband Paolo Mastropietro are parents to Marco, 5 ½. Lymelife is currently in limited release.

Source: CBC.ca

FILED UNDER: News , Parenting

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Showing 46 comments

Lux on

Those times, even if tough and sleepless, won’t come back…..the best gift is to live them, if you can, stay with your baby, he/she will need you more than those in the office, that’s for sure!

Hannah on

The amount of time she had off is exactly what most working mother’s get (if they are lucky). The article is written as if she is somewhat special for having returned to work “so soon” after her son’s birth, I don’t see what is so heroic about it, it seems pretty typical/average to me. Anyone else think so too?

Molly on

With all the respect, while im glad that it worked for her, Short maternity leave is not something i would expect others to recommend, unless that person is not aware of benefits spending time with a baby brings

Nancy on

Hannah, in Canada (Jill is Cdn) we can take up to 1 year mat leave with pay from the federal government. So, taking only 11 weeks is very short and definitely not the norm.

Hannah on

Thank you for that information Nancy, I now understand WHY this is such a big deal to her! I think I may move to Canada…I would so love to have a full year off with my new baby, now I am left thinking she is crazy for returning so “soon”!

Courtney on

I went back to work at 13 days with each of my 4 children. I know, I am a rare case. I found that it helped me focus on things outside of my house, which I needed. Everyone is different. I had my newborns with me when I went back (I own my own jewelry design business, I even made things for nurses while still in the hospital).

I am sure she will get blasted for saying what she said tho…lol

Sam & Freya's Mum on

I agree Lux, what’s the point of having them if you hardly see them or spent time with them, but if it works for her but personally think the time flies by as it is, you can’t get that time back, think it’s a bit selfish in a way, thinking of what helps her, what about her baby needing her?! Will probably get criticised but that’s how I feel, sure she’s a lovely person, just don’t understand having kids later on in life and then farming them out to others!

Molly on

Courtney thats great you were able to take your baby with you to work, even if its your own business. My work would never allow that. But im also getting a full year but if i only got 12 wks like in the u.s. i would probably quit. No money could take me away from my baby so soon. Even 1 year seems so short !!

Finnaryn on

I was allowed only two weeks off after having my first child and while I was at home for 6 weeks each with the other two, I still had to work from home. With my third I had to log in on my laptop, 12 hours after he was born. Sometimes you don’t have a choice. My husband was in school so I had the only income.

Nice to know that there are those who think that I never should have had children. :\

Lorus on

Here in Canada even the husband can take parental leave and be paid. Either Mother of Father get the year off (or it can be split) and get 55% of their income each month.

Aya on

Finnaryn,I understand what you mean. I also think that comment was pretty ignorant.I will never understand why people try to chastize you and make you feel like a bad mother for working after your baby so early. A friend of mine was in the same situation and she had to go out and get a job shortly after having her second baby. Her husband had been layed off from Ford and the only job he could get paid less, so until he got a better paying job, she had to work also. People kept trying to make her feel so bad,which pissed me off. Why should you feel ashamed for trying to put food on the table for your kids ? Situations happen and sometimes you have to roll with them.

On a personal note : My husband told me that I should not feel pressured to go back to work,to just pick if/when was good for me (he would prefer it if I stayed home until baby is 4 or 5). I will leave it up to finances. If we need more money, I’m going to have to go back to work. Some ladies may think that is too much of a long time, but honestly I refuse to work unless I am profitting and not losing most of my pay for childcare. I would mch rather spend the time with my baby. After mat leave is up, I may just get a part-time job with hours where his daddy can be the babysitter.

Children are a blessing. Some people wait for the stars to align peectly so they get job/husband/house/baby. But it doesn’t always happen like that. I remember at my OB’s office hearing so many stories from ladies.Women who waited too long and had infertility problems and even from a teen who had gotten pregnant and had found out that the baby would be the only child she could ever carry because she had internal problems. I am sure that everyone will look down on her and her decisions to have the baby so young, not realizing her situation, but were I in her shoes,I would do the same. It just goes to show how judgemental we can really be.

Tee on

Finnaryn, I’m sorry that you feel like people are critizing you for having children. It’s a shame that you to go back to work so quickly. Personally, I couldn’t imagine working when I have children, but you’re right. Some people don’t have a choice.

eternalcanadian on

I do agree with Jill about getting back into the swing of things shortly after the kid arrives where she said it”..got me outside, stopped me from focusing on the sheer lack of sleep and the daunting situation of having two kids. It forced me to delegate…”

She’s lucky she is in a situation where she is able to act and take her kids to work with her and she is also lucky she has help. Not everyone gets to choose. Some would like to be with their kids for at least a year, but in order to get maternity leave taxes have to increase or the paycheque has to decrease. So that’s the way the government in the USA works. People in the USA are always shocked how high taxes are in Canada, but then again we have 12 months parental leave and we pay for it with our taxes.

koala on

Nice to know that Jill liked the break. Wonder what the baby thought? Just seems to me that if you can afford it you probably should stay with them while they are so small. Not that its the most fun thing in the world…but I don’t think many people rate caring for a newborn as the most intensely pleasureable expreience of their lives, perhaps rewarding, but you do it for them not for you.

ingrid on

I was able to have a 2.5-year maternity leave (like many mums from my home country Austria – most take 2 years) and I’m thankful for every day of it… I can’t imagine to go to work after 2 or 3 months… I guess I’d feel like I’m missing too much! I think it’s sad that so many countries only allow a couple of weeks. see, of course I can’t understand her recommendation.

Jocelyn on

Why have children if raising them is too much? I am confused. I find this post to be a little troubling. To advocate or”recommend” and short maternity leave is sad. Believe me, I understand how lonely and hard it is to be home with babies. However, those first few years of life are so critical. If the opportunity and finances are there to be able to be there for a child, how tragic not to take that opportunity. AS a teacher and a mother, I am most definitely troubled by this post. :o(

Lauren on

While I think most mothers would prefer to stay home for at least a little while (poll results suggest this is the case), not everyone is able to. I think it’s nice that Jill highlighted some of the perks of going back to work early so that those who have no choice can feel that there are at least SOME benefits.

kai on

What about the women who WANT both a family and a career? Shame on them! How dare they.

Jeanne on

Everyone is different, including every mom. No one thing is going to work for everyone and I don’t understand why some people insist on believing the way they do it is the only right way to do it. Jill is lucky because she has the kind of job where she can take her baby with her to work, and she also wanted to work. It’s the 21st century folks. Women are perfectly capable of raising children and having jobs if they want them. There’s no shame in it at all, and working mothers of newborns should not be made to feel guilty about their choices.

Melissa on

I’ve been lurking on this site for a long time, but this is the first post I’ve compelled to comment on, mainly because of everyone else’s comments!

No offense to anyone in particular, but I think the posts criticizing Jill are ridiculous. First of all, as many have already mentioned, most of us in the United States only get 12 weeks maternity leave, so going back to work at 11 weeks is not necessarily a “short” maternity leave to lots of folks. It may be short compared to what is allowed in Canada, and it may be short when you consider that actors usually have the financial and professional flexibility to take more time off than most people, but it’s not that uncommon. Those of us who go back to work after 12 weeks love our children just as much as those of you who have the option to stay home for a year, or five years, or full time. To suggest that someone who goes back to work at 11 weeks doesn’t understand or appreciate the benefits of staying home with their child is insulting. I had to return to work at 12 weeks and although I would have preferred to stay home with my daughter longer, I do not think she is somehow damaged or feels unloved because of it.

I also think what Jill says about getting out and perhaps back into a more normal routine totally makes sense. My daughter was extremely colicky, and due to my husband’s work schedule I was home alone with her a lot during those first few months and often felt overwhelmed. I could very easily have stayed home every day in my pajamas, crying along with my daughter, (and some days I did!), but I also found that I felt so much better when I got out of the house for a while, even if it was just to run to Target or the grocery store. By 12 weeks when I went back to work, it felt good to get up every day and take a shower, get dressed, have a normal routine to my day…but it doesn’t mean I don’t love my daughter or every minute of time that I spend with her.

And finally, Jill clearly had her son with her while she was working, so it’s not as if she left him with the nanny for 16 hours a day. I have no doubt she spent as much time with him as possible when she brought him to work. The kid is not going to need therapy because he was cared for by his mom everyday on a movie set instead of at home in their living room.

Anyway, just my .02. I was honestly shocked to see so many people putting her down and basically suggesting she is somehow a poor mother for going back to work at 11 weeks.

Courtney on

OK women who work still spend time with their children…geez…its not one or the other…sad that moms can be so judgemental of other moms.

I enjoy my work, I love my children. My husband has enough income to where I don’t have to work, yet I chose to. Yes, I went back to working when they were 13 days old. I hate being trapped in my house. I travel with my job and enjoy being my own boss. THat doesnt mean I DON’T enjoy my children, they are the most important thing to me. I don’t feel like my working means that I miss everything.

Gosh, we were raised to believe that we can have it all…then when someone does we bash them for not being at home for years with a baby tied to their hip!

GiannaG on

I’ve never understood why some women believe that your life is supposed to end when you have a baby and you’re supposed to WANT stay home and be enslaved to your child. Sometimes people enjoy adult interaction, and not just with their husband or the friend who calls or drops by. Some people actually like their jobs. It doesn’t mean they don’t love their children. I hate that when a woman does things to help herself and make herself happy, like go back to work or have a night out, she’s considered selfish. Some people think you have a baby and you’re not supposed to think of yourself at all. Ever. Your EVERY waking thought and action is supposed to be about this child. What a miserable existence. I think a happy mom is a better mom. If being at home is what makes you happy, it’s your choice. If going back to work is what makes you happy this is also your choice. We’re in a time where we’re allowed to choose, and I’m sure that Jill being allowed to do what makes her happy makes for a happier child.

kris on

Nancy, thanks for explaining. I was thinking “11 weeks is pretty normal for maternity leave”. Some go back even sooner due to work demands or not having that much paid leave. I actually thought it was a typo when I first read the story. I think it’s great in Canada that people have a year. I didn’t go back to work after having my children. But, I have friends who did and I know many of them would have liked a little more time with their babies at home before returning to work.

kris on

Just skimming the comments now.

Lorus – That is awesome re: Dad and Mom can split leave in Canada.

First, let’s put in perspective this whole “how can these Hollywood Mom’s go back to work when their kids are so little”. The majority of them bring their babies/children to work with them. So, while Jill highly recommends a short maternity leave , she is also saying that while her baby is on set with her. It really is the best of both worlds and therefore not really the same decision process most of us have available to us. My personal feeling is that if you have made the best decision for your OWN family that is what it important. No one else has to agree with your choice for YOUR family.

Anna on

Personally I also don’t understand people that have children and than only see them 1/2 hour in the morning and 1 hour before bed time. Of course it’s everyone’s personal choice but it just seems strange to me.

I think children need more contact with their parents than that.

Sara on

I frequent this website daily, but have never posted a response until now.

Maternity leave as a specific category of leave doesn’t even exist in the US. Typically, mothers or fathers take unpaid leave under the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act), which didn’t come into play until 1993. FMLA covers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Many companies/employers are not covered under the FMLA, so not all mothers or fathers are able to take this leave.

In Canada, paid maternity leave is covered as follows: 55% up to $413/week for 50 weeks (15 weeks maternity + 35 weeks parental leave shared with father.) Unpaid maternity leave is 2 weeks, with the exception of Quebec.

I’m a Canadian citizen who lived and worked in Washington, DC for 5 years. I deliberately waited until I returned to Canada before starting a family, and it’s due in large part to our generous parental leave programs.

The only thing I have to say about Jill Hennessy going back to work when her son was 11 weeks old is this – it’s her choice. What works for Jill may not work for you or for me. If it works for her, and makes her happy, then it’s likely what’s best for her family overall.

As for taxes being higher in Canada than in the US – not so much. Do some research. If you want to talk higher taxes in relation to the US, look at France, Sweden, Denmark…not Canada. 🙂

kris on

“I’ve never understood why some women believe that your life is supposed to end when you have a baby and you’re supposed to WANT stay home and be enslaved to your child. ” – Is this how stay at home Mom’s are viewed? I have tons of friends who stay home and I don’t think they view their life as having ended.

zara on

Melissa no-one has suggested that mothers that take a short maternity leave love their children less. I think (I hope) that what previous posters were getting at is that short maternity leave may not be in the best interests of the infants (and older siblings who are attempting to adjust to the new arrival). While i don’t know if this is true in every case it does not seem to me to be an outrageous thing to suggest.

To be honest, the only truly shocking thing that has been posted is the fact that 12 weeks maternity leave is standard in the US. Does the average american mother seriously drop her children off at daycare before they can even roll over? tell me it isn’t so.

ambieAnnie on

ugh, the term “Stay at home, MOM!” is so annoying..it’s like someone is shouting (in a mocking tone) Mom, STAY at home…I’m not even a mom and I think home-maker is more appropriate, though I’m sure the majority of you will disagree because it’s very “50s” sounding.

legemc on

I’m actually a little surprised that 11 weeks is considered a “short maternity leave”. Most people I know only take 4 – 8 weeks because they can only afford to take whatever paid leave is offered by their employers (if any). Unpaid leave isn’t really an option (especially for single moms).

ecl on

No one seems to be calling out fathers on all of this. Why don’t they stay at home? Attitudes like this contribute to the misguided notion that only mothers can parent well. Every criticism of parenting is directed at mothers only – these mommy wars keep mothers fighting with each other instead of focusing on the political changes that should be made so that mothers aren’t forced to make such difficult decisions. Instead we need paid maternity leave and affordable child care. Try focusing on that instead of fighting each other.

Jeanne on

“Personally I also don’t understand people that have children and than only see them 1/2 hour in the morning and 1 hour before bed time. Of course it’s everyone’s personal choice but it just seems strange to me.

I think children need more contact with their parents than that.”

That’s all well and good, but as many people here have said, some people cannot afford to not work. And why is it that no one seems to care that fathers often can’t be home all day because they work? I suppose fathers are less important then.

babyboopie on

I took 7 months maternity pay to be with my baby- because I was a journalist trying to make it ‘big’ in Paris, (living in this apartment I was lucky enough to find five years ago) the agency didn’t really seem to want me so they extended my leave haha! But I wasn’t complaining because I loved being with Pierre! However, I needed to return to work when he was 7 months because we needed the money so it was hard leaving him but was also good to be back to ‘normality’ if that makes sense.

molly on

Zara, it is true. The U.S. according to Wikipedia is among 5 western world countries that do not offer the maternity leave at all. Most mothers who take time off use some kind of short disability leave (Im sorry I dont know exactly what type of leave it is, but its not maternity leave – maybe someone can shed the light on it) Apparently they are only eligible for up to 12 weeks a year of this kind of leave. Beyond that they would have to take unpaid leave but the job wouldnt be secure.


As for Jill, i also believe that she works in the U.S. so she would have to follow the U.S. standards, not canadian ones. Unless this movie is made in Canada, I may be wrong.

Teh movie stars probably woulndt take the maternity leave as a regularly employeed person would. They work when they get an offer so what Jill means is that she got an offer she couldnt refuse so she went back to work. But i am still little pissed she actually recommends a shorter maternity leave, thats totally ridiculous.

MomE on

Eveyone has to do what is right for their own family. I don’t believe at all that someone who goes back to work sooner loves their baby less. Honestly, I think the vast majority of parents would rather spend more time with the babies, but who can afford it?

That said, the US is seriously lacking in family leave protections. For a nation of its standing, it should be better. It is only to the entire nation’s benefit to have better parental protections. We need to see that the children of this nation are the future of this nation. And the future starts the day they are born!

I took six months off with my daughter because my company allows that. It was unpaid except for the first 6 weeks at 66% of my regular salary. So essentially only about one month was paid for. I took out a personal loan for the rest of the time. I would do it again in a heartbeat! When I look back at where my daughter was at 11 or 12 weeks, I get sick to my stomach thinking about sending her to daycare at that age. I also see how unhappy the other children are there that go back earlier. I have truly seen a difference in the development of the children that go at say 12 weeks versus the 6 months. The ones that go earlier just look like fish in a fish bowl lieing around all day sucking pacifiers and screaming when they drop out of their mouth, confused looks on their faces. By the time my daughter got to daycare she was moving around, more interactive, better able to express her needs. I think this made a HUGE difference in her development and temperment. I can’t say for sure what the cause is, but my daughter is also much more well behaved – listens well, has good manners, respects other children – compared to the other kids that started earlier. In my opinion (and it is just that, an opinion), her being home with me to have my guidance one on one for a longer time during her first few months is what made her better behaved. She’s also constantly surprising her teachers with her educational development. Again, it’s hard to say what the cause is, but I really do believe that my being home with her for so long made a drastic difference.

Now, all that said, I’m starting to pay the price for taking out the loan to stay home with her. I have one paycheck to pay the rent and one to pay for her daycare and other needs. That’s it. Nothing else. Her father refuses to support us, and I am in debt up to my ears from the loan (5 months is a lot of money). I go to bed every night wondering if it will be the last night I’ll be able to sleep in my own bed. We are so close to homelessness. Sometimes I’ll go days between meals, and only eat when my coworkers take me out to lunch. It’s a really sad situation, and one I would not be in if this country had better leave laws for parents. So I did, and do, cringe at Jill’s “recommendation”, which just threatens family rights even more….

Bri on

That is great that it works for her. I would highly recommed the opposite. To each their own. There isn’t a single day that I haven’t felt extremely thankful for that fact that my husband makes enough to provide me and my daughter with a great life and that I can be there for her and watch every moment of her growing years. For me personally, it would kill me to drop her off at a daycare. It would absolutely break my heart having to pick her up and then put her to bed only a few hours later. I think each mom finds out what fits them best and somehow it all works out.

koala on

Well I get really angry when people say things like we should all support each others decisions and we were brought up to know we can have it all. This is RUBBISH. Sure different options work for different mothers but only ONE option is OPTIMAL for children (ie having a continuous primnary caregiver for at least the first 6-12 months (Mum or Dad oe family member ). The more we bleat on about “having it all” etc you undermine the central argument for state funded maternity/paternity leave. I believe strongly (based on extensive academic research) that dropping 6 week old babies off at daycare (which is most certainly done)is a form of child abuse. Sorry. End of story. 12 weeks is only marginally better. I would like to see at least 6 months maternity/paternity leave.

LisaR on

Well koala I believe that once the lawmakers do the same extensive academic research you yourself say you’ve done, they will undoubtedly come to the same conclusions as you and we should see the laws you desire on the books soon. I certainly hope it happens, because the men and women who want this option most certainly deserve it. But since you’ve spoken about what YOU would like to see, what I would like to see is people not getting bent out of shape because other women have opinions that differ from theirs, have different desires from theirs, and choose different paths from theirs. Women like this are worried that somehow, because other women are doing it differently, and TALKING about doing it differently, that it will prevent them from getting what THEY want. Us ‘bleating’ about having it all isn’t undermining a thing. The law does not work this way. Lobby harder for the laws you want to see passed instead of rubbishing the aspirations of other women who dare to want what’s best for themselves. The lawmakers aren’t going to say ‘well look, some of the ladies on CBB are talking about short maternity leave. Let’s got with THAT instead’. Go write your congressman/woman a nice long letter. Show him/her the results of your extensive academic research. Help yourself and the others who want what you want. Just don’t sit back and pass the buck off to those who ‘want it all.’ You’re bleating up the wrong tree.

SH on

ambieAnnie, I’m a stay-at-home MOM of 4 kids and I much prefer that term rather than “home maker” or “house wife” …I take care of my kids and I’m at home, and they’re the reason I’m here. Right now, this is my work. Home maker and house wife don’t bother me because they’re 50’s sounding – they DO bother me because (while I do take care of the house and I AM someones wife) it’s not an accurate definition of what I feel is the REASON I’m at home. Those terms seem like all I do is take care of a house, like a maid. Or I’m someones wife who sits around all day. I work hard being a stay at home MOM and taking care of my kids, oldest just turned 5, youngest is 12 weeks.

Liliana on

Koala, although it may not be your view on the subject, it’s only common courtesy to respect others opinions. I agree completely with LisaR and have never understood why so many people get up in arms over another individual’s choices. When it comes to the way you parent your child, by all means, do so however you see fit, but you have no right to make judgements on how others decide to do the same.

In a perfect world, maternity/paternity leave would be extended but, for many, that’s not the case. Saying that leaving a child of six weeks in daycare is child abuse is absurd. The majority of individuals who do this have no choice. I’m a single mother and when my oldest was born, I returned to work part time when he was four weeks old. I had no other option because I am his sole provider. When my second was born, I was better off financially and held a good job so I was able to take a 12 week leave.

I’m sorry but working mothers have a hard enough time transitioning back into their jobs after having a baby without being called child abusers.

Sara on

Respectfully, I think a few of you may be missing the bigger issue.

The US places little value on parenthood, and values its children even less. Blaming parents (“child abuse” ? really?) for returning to work when they are given few options totally misses the mark.

Whether daycare is what’s best for a six, eleven, twelve week old infant is not the point. The overwhelming majority of households require two incomes and most parents don’t have the luxury of choice. Better parental leave programs would go a long way in helping to ameliorate this situation – which, as I stated in my initial post, is why I waited to return to Canada from the US before starting a family.

MomE on

Koala, your words are quite harsh, but I see our underlying issue. Calling it child abuse is just wrong. Parents don’t have a choice. But if we had better laws, we would have a choice. If we had better laws, our children would be better off and, therefore, our society would be better off. However, it is just not that way now. And the ones who suffer are the children. What suffers is the future of this country. I believe that is what you are saying, but I do think it is unfair for you to call parents abusers for doing what they have to do.

MomE on

Sara, in my opinion, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Beautifully stated.

What has me so upset about Jill’s comment is that she is “recommending” that parents return to work when children are so little. It’s undermining the whole issue. And that’s certainly not respecting other views. If she had just said, “it worked for me” and left it at that. But she also has to understand that her work and care situation is quite different from the options the vast majority of parents have.

kris on

Sara – Nicely stated.

Yvonne on

Go Jill !

With my first fhild I stayed home for six months and did the whole “mommy thing.” Even breast fed him until he was two years old. With my second child, I knew what I did not want or need … a long maternity leave. I returned to the office in seven weeks and pumped my breast, etc. I breast fed her until she was four years old.

Every person is an individual and needs to do what is best for them. The important thing is to stay sane, enjoy your baby and keep your life moving in the direction you choose not society.

We need to learn to stop being so critical of the life choices of others and just “live our lives.” Life is too short and unpredictable to sweat the small stuff folks…..

Hats off to ya Jill!

Peace out

Finnaryn on

koala, I am sorry but your statement takes things way to far. Daycare is child abuse? Are you kidding me? And frankly I am surprised that it was allowed to be posted since I feel it goes against the posting policy.

“Feel free to agree or disagree with each other as long as you do it respectfully.” Saying that putting your child in day care is child abuse is far from being respectful.

My youngest two children both started daycare at 6 weeks because I needed to return to work. I trusted the teachers completely and even now, after being a stay at home mom for two years, I still keep in touch with them. They are family to us. And while I did have to return to work earlier than I would have liked, I was able to arrange my day so that I was able to go to their daycare (they were two blocks away), every three hours to nurse them.