American Women Deserve Paid Maternity Leave

maternity leave

Help me understand how America is a nation of purported “family values” yet mothers do not get paid maternity leave. This abomination is not a partisan issue. If there is one thing unites women (and men) across party lines, it’s motherhood. We all love our children fiercely and value that time at the beginning to bond with and nurture our babies as we grope our way through those sleepless nights and zombie days. The United States is among the world’s richest nations - rich in terms of financial wealth, military muscle, world power, intellectual capital, and opportunity. It’s shameful we don’t value motherhood as much as we value wealth.

Women in America today can take up to 12 weeks leave through the Family Medical Leave Act. My husband, in fact, used the benefits of this act to take off a month when our first son was born. It was a joy for him to have that bonding time. Other women have to use sick days and disability to cover “maternity leave.” Let me be clear here, motherhood is neither a sickness nor a disability. We must not treat it as such, making the whole concept of maternity leave seem punitive.

The modern woman’s Sophie’s Choice is paycheck or baby. There are so many unsavory dynamics that go into becoming a mother in America. When I was pregnant with my first son I was laid off from my job (under sketchy circumstances), bullied by the managers in my new job about being pregnant (though I disclosed I was pregnant in my interviews), and dragged through legal ordeals about health insurance when I left the bullying company. In my second pregnancy, I was dropped from my husband’s health insurance in his new job because pregnancy was considered a pre-existing condition. I was engaged in battle before my babies were even born!

Why do we make it so difficult for people to start a family?

Remarkably, we have legions of people who fight to give more rights to unborn fetuses than to living mothers. It’s not a matter of either/or here; it is a matter of providing support to families and children and mothers. Many issues that ail society and stress out families and marriages are due to lack of support. The issues are complex and gargantuan, but in simple terms, American values, standards, and budgetary priorities do not care about women and families, for which society pays the price. Exactly what standards are we using when we puff out our chests and proclaim to be the greatest nation on earth?

To reiterate, the United States is the ONLY industrialized nation in the world to provide no paid maternity leave. This must change, regardless who sits in the Oval Office.

Image via Think Progress

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TLVitale TLVitale

I won't pretend to understand the overarching ways that paid maternity leave would benefit our country. I'm sure there's a domino effect that would lead to more awesome things. I will say, as someone who's on her third pregnancy and planned on taking leave for her first(I quit after the first instead bc we lost the baby at 36 weeks and i hated the job anyway and for baby 2 and currently I work from home part time) and will take some time off for this baby too, I've never felt my company owed me a paycheck to be at home, not working for weeks on end when it was my choice to get pregnant each and every time. They didn't make me get pregnant, why should they have to support me financially during a time when they are down one employee. Or worse, pay me while they're also paying a temp to actually do my job. I wouldn't turn down a paycheck, I'm not crazy, but it never felt like something someone owed me.

right... rightside

It’s shameful we don’t value motherhood as much as we value wealth.

It's funny how you used that statement in an attempt to strengthen your arguement, and it's exactly the issue that makes the oppositions point.  If you truly valued motherhood over making money, you wouldn't need maternity leave from your job.  If you truly valued motherhood over making money,  you would adjust your lifestyle so there could be a full-time at home parent.   If you really valued motherhood over making money, you wouldn't be seeking for a federal grant in order to bond with your newborn.

Stacey. Stacey.

I agree so much with this. I only got a month off when my child was born because I was the only one working, my SO got laid off in Feb. and the baby was born in March.

Stacey. Stacey.

@TLVitale -I understand what you're saying, and agree that being a mother doesnt mean the world owes you. AT the same time, it must be nice to be able to quit a job because you "hated it any way". Unless you have been in the position of not being able to afford feeding your family and bonding with your newborn I dont think you can relate to this article.Would you also say that people who cant afford to eat arent "owed" food stamps because they should have went to college and got a good job? There are certain things like higher education and healthcare that shouldnt be a privilege extended only to people aho can afford it. I think maternity leave falls into this catergory, every new mom needs support the first few months no matter how much money they have in the bank.

Julie Petrenko

As a small business owner (and mom of 3), I have to say that having to pay for maternity leave for someone would put me out of business, because I would also have to pay to a temp worker to do her job while she was done.  With only 5 employees, we could not finanicially stay afloat if we have to do that and then 4 other people would be with out a job. 

Flori... Floridamom96

NO THEY DON'T! No one is entitled to be paid for NOT working.

mustb... mustbeGRACE

It makes me think that the author of this doesn't understand business 101.

She also doesn't understand  how small business drives our economy.

Businesses that CAN do it ALREADY are...................

ChiChi83 ChiChi83

No one owes anyone anything...but I've worked hard at my job and I have every right to take the time that I have PTO, my LTIB...I shouldn't get a "percentage" of it and then have to rely on the state to pick up the rest...

Flori... Floridamom96

Excellent response, Rightside. Beautifully said! Why is a new mother entitled to benefit from the work of others? Why aren't you putting aside a portion of your paycheck to cover the time when you'll be home with your baby? After all it's your body, you decided what to do with it. It's your responsibility.

Procr... Procrastamom

I don't see what the problem is. I get 52 weeks of paid leave at 60 percent of my salary and I'm guaranteed my job back afterwards. Oops, sorry. I was talking about the evolved and awesome country I get to live in!

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