Some mothers are separated from their babies soon after birth because they have to return to work. Exhausted from labor and unable to tend to their child, they are forced to return to their job in order to provide for their household. It sounds like a story from one of our neighboring third world countries where personal strife is a part of daily life. But this story is actually about American moms in the United States. We have access to clean water, free education, and the right to vote, but we don’t have the right to stay home with our newborn children.
A lot of protesters will say that FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act provide mothers with ample opportunity and time with their newborn babies. But that’s not really true. FMLA only applies to companies with 50+ employees. I work for a company with less than 50 employees. They gave me leave ‘as a courtesy’. I had 8 weeks off. It was paid, but do to some recent rumors I believe that it was more of a clerical error than a humanitarian decision by the CEO of the company. They did not adhere to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, however. I was promised a raise at the beginning of the year, but when the owner of the company discovered that I was pregnant, he revoked it until I returned from leave. I have been back for six weeks now and I have reminded my direct superior twice, but I have still not received my raise back.
After talking with a lot of my friends with children I discovered that I am not in a minority. Many women are forced to take their vacation and sick leave just to have a few weeks with their baby. Some that do not qualify for protection under FMLA may suffer the loss of a job if they cannot return to work immediately. Even businesses that provide paid time off during maternity leave often do not offer it for longer than a few weeks. Many women in the use that wish to have children must purchase short term disability insurance prior to becoming pregnant to cover for any loss of income during their time off.
Paid parental leave in almost all other countries in the world is substantially more than what we have here in the good US of A. The Huffington Post has a great infographic here of the different amounts of leave around the world: Paid Parental Leave: The U.S. vs The World. These aren’t statistics for companies that choose to give leave, they are the law. So at a minimum, this is what mothers in other countries can expect when they have a baby.
So what is wrong with our country that we can’t provide our mothers with ample time with their new baby to nurture and care for them without worrying about providing for them or losing their job? This is an issue for everyone, not just parents. Because those children are the future of our country. By allowing parents to foster and nurture their children from birth provides the family bonding time that could have implications in the health and well being of their child as they grow. Encouraging mothers to breastfeed and fathers to become part of the care taking process from day 1 creates a foundation for the child that can be built upon as it grows into a healthy and conscientious citizen.
If you agree that our country should pass laws for paid paternity leave you can sign a petition at MoveOn.org here Petition.