A friend of mine, Jamie, is getting ready have her first child. The little bundle of joy should be here within a week or two, but Jamie is still facing issues getting maternity leave. According to the Huffington Post, the Unites States is the only country in the modern world that does not give new mothers paid leave.
There are some laws in place, such as The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, that give new mothers some protections. Before this law came into being though, a woman could be fired for being pregnant. The act also gave women who went on leave job security, plus other benefits that were previously unheard of. Unfortunately though, it doesn’t include paid maternity leave.
Most countries will give at least three months of paid maternity leave, and many have paternity leave available too. This gives huge advantages to new parents in those countries. The biggest advantage being that parents still have an income to help offset the costs of having a child. Costs are also the biggest issue Americans face when they are about to have a child.
Jamie and her fiance Andrew both work for companies that keep them right below the full time mark. This means that neither of them qualify for paid leave. Jamie was scheduled for three months, but is now fighting to keep that time off. She has faced time reductions up to only two weeks, or three months off with the possibility of being called in to cover shifts. Andrew can only take up to a week off and only if he uses his vacation.
Many new parents in our country face these discriminatory practices, which make it harder to get by. Many new parents suffer financially from hospital costs or from purchasing necessity items. Jamie and Andrew are facing these problems right now. At the moment, they receive government assistance to help pay for their doctor bills and food costs, while their paychecks pay the rest of their bills. Even with assistance, they are planning on having to pay for the majority of their labor costs.
As a society we need to step up and provide more assistance for new parents. This can be done in a number of ways, such as providing paid leave for both mothers and fathers, and creating more assistance programs. One idea that could be beneficial for all new mothers is a version of Finland’s box for new mothers. This is a cardboard box that contains cloth diapers, a couple gender neutral outfits, a winter hat, a winter coat and bed mattress that fits in the box. A mother receives this with every child she has, but can opt out of the box for a set amount of dollars.
New parents in our society need the opportunity to spend time with their child and be financially stable. Paid maternity and paternity leave is the first set to creating equal opportunities for all members of society.