Let's Stop Talking About Family Values in America

April Peveteaux

no paternal leave in u.s.In a completely non-shocking report (non-shocking to any mom in America, anyway), the United States is decades behind other nations in maternity and paternity leave for new moms and dads. You see, we don't have ANY national paid paternal leave after a baby is born, or adopted, into the family. Nor when a family member becomes ill and needs our help.

It's absolutely shameful, and the United States stands only with Swaziland and Papua New Guinea in this distinction the Human Rights Watch discloses in its report, "Failing Our Families." Because when you have to choose between a paycheck and staying home with a newborn or sick family member, a paycheck will almost always win out in the end.

From postpartum depression to low breastfeeding and high divorce rates, all of these conditions can be blamed, in part, on the lack of support for families in this country that often runs political campaigns on the inaccurately named "family values" platform. It's time for the hypocrisy to end.

You cannot stand up and say you are a family values candidate, when you believe that every new parent must be either wealthy or forced to make impossible choices. You cannot pretend to be pro-family, and pro-life, while refusing to allow that a baby needs both parents around in the early days and beyond.

The irony of these seemingly pro-business and anti-family stances is that the cost to allow paid leave is not significant. Yet business lobbyists continue to block any national policy on paid time off for both mothers and fathers, saying it is too much of a burden. But that's a lie.

There are two states -- California and New Jersey -- that offer six weeks paid leave for employees to care for a new baby or ill family member. Both states programs are flourishing with the money garnered through a small payroll tax. Six weeks isn't much. It's much less than what other countries do, and it's not enough time for a mom to be able to breastfeed for the recommended amount of time without the assistance of a pump and a workplace that allows such things. But it's a start.

Instead, we have a 12-week unpaid leave option, which isn't even an option for people who need every dime in their paycheck. Additionally, companies with fewer than 50 employees don't have to offer it, and as this study points out -- most won't offer it unless they are forced.

To truly call yourself a family values candidate, you must begin by taking care of actual families. It's time to end this war on families, or start calling it what it truly is. We need paid leave so we can take care of our most vulnerable family members, without having to declare bankruptcy. Those aren't choices, and the Human Rights Watch knows it. At least someone is calling this lack of support out for what it is: Failing our families.

Did you get paid parental leave at your job?


Image via seattleeye/Flickr

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