One in Four Moms Return to Work Within 2 Weeks of Giving Birth

mom baby hands maternity leaveSure, it's great that places like Netflix are offering one year of maternity leave, but the reality is still grim for most of America. New analysis of data from the Department of Labor shows that one in four mothers return to work within two weeks of giving birth.


For a feature in In These Times, researchers at Abt Associates surveyed 93 women who took maternity leave in 2012. Of those, 12 percent took a week or less, while 11 percent took between one and two weeks off.

Not surprisingly, higher education meant longer maternity leaves: 80 percent of moms who were college graduates took at least six weeks. Still, the U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave for new mothers -- and moms in low-wage jobs were often the ones forced to return to work the soonest to make ends meet.

Their analysis isn't just about numbers, but stories -- heartbreaking ones: One mother in the study admitted to crying in the parking lot while pumping milk and on break from a 12-hour factory shift. Another waitress working 60-hour weeks would come home exhausted and sleep with one hand on her infant because that's the only connection she could get.

More from The Stir: 13 Maternity Leave Horror Stories From Working Moms

Talk about heartbreaking: I took three months off work when my daughter was born, and thought that was too short! Two weeks is not right: Research shows that moms with short maternity leave can suffer depression and their children can suffer developmentally, and that shorter leaves are even tied to higher infant mortality rates.

As Sharon Lerner, the writer for this feature in In These Times points out, it's all but impossible to defend our country's lack of paid leave.

"There is no politically sound retort: Families need paid time off to take care of their new babies," she says. "Men, women, and children will gain from this basic human dignity."

In my mind, paid maternity leave should not just be a job perk for the rich. It is a human right. It's about time our nation treated it that way.


Image via Vlasov Volodymyr/shutterstock

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