Paid Maternity Leave Still Not Available

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By Jessica Bovee

We love our mothers because of all they do for us, but what are our mothers getting back? It’s not accommodations. It’s another call to come back to work.

American women are not given paid leave after child birth. They are expected to return back to work as soon as they can. You may be thinking that there is a system for women to take time off of work, and you’re right. There is a law called the Family and Medical Leave Act that allows for 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave. However, the companies must have more than 50 employees, and you have to have worked there for 12 months, along with other requirements.

The system isn’t working. Women are being deterred from having more children because of the financial and emotional burdens they cause. And saying that this is only a women’s issue is not understanding the problem. Men want paid-leave as well, and in 2014, Jennifer Ludden from Northwest Public Radio wrote about The New York Mets, and how Daniel Murphy took advantage of the paternity leave available and missed two games. Many have ridiculed such actions, but more parents want to be able to stay home with their new born child.

Yes, women do bear the children, but this does not make it a female specific issue. This is a national issue, and the employee retention and satisfaction would surely grow if there were benefits like paid leave. Incentive for employees that include paid-leave could promote better workers, making for better business. However, these opportunities are not usually available, which is making it not financially feasible for parents.

Last year, John Oliver, in an episode called Paid Family Leave from “Last Week Tonight,” said that the United States, along with Papa New Guinea, are the only countries that do not have some form of paid leave for women. This makes America the only industrialized nation without these accommodations.

How have we let this happen? Why are the mothers of America being pushed back to work? It could be that we don’t want to face the problem. These mothers are not given voices and are asked to choose between trying to take care of the child and their job. America’s system is flawed, and looking at other countries for guidance is necessary.

According to Megan Holohan from “Today” Health and Wellness, Norway offers 35 weeks of full-paid leave, Cuba offers 18. Japan also allows fathers 52 weeks to be home with over 50% of their salary still coming in. While women are considered the go-to for child-care, men are just as important to the family dynamic and deserves to be there for the experience.

Jessica Shortall, in a talk for TEDx called the “US needs paid leave — for the sake of its future,” talks about the problems mothers face, as well as the consequences we may not see. She says that 23% of women will be back to work within 2 weeks of giving birth. Some of these mother struggle to even walk, many bleed or worse, and all of them are the primary food sources for their children.

Women are working, and Shortall says that women are the sole or primary providers in 40% of families. Some of these women are not only having to provide for their newborn, but many have to provide for their entire family. These women are also more likely to develop postpartum mood disorders such as depression or anxiety with shorter leaves, and she claims that suicide is the second most common cause of death in the first year after child birth.

There is no denying the need for paid-leave for new parents in America. Ellen Bravo from Forbes said that Netflix announced they would give unlimited parental leave for up to 12 months, last year. Some companies, such as Netlfix, are trying to incorporate a better system for their employees. It’s good for productivity and overall employee satisfaction, and we hope for more companies to follow.

According to John Oliver, three American states—California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey—have passed legislation that has allowed for some paid leave for mothers. He also discussed how California has incorporated a partially-paid maternity leave through a payroll tax that actually worked. Only Rhode Island and New Jersey followed after, and it’s hard to say why more are not adopting these ideas.

Women are pushing their bodies to limits that are not necessary, they are already giving birth to a child, and pushing them back into the office is practically immoral. The rest of the world is treating this as a serious problem, as it should be, and the United States needs to take after others countries, as well as some of their hometown states.

Paid maternity leave is essential to the physical and emotional health of mothers, and I propose we put more focus on the families. These children are the future, and they need guidance, love, and proper nutrition. Our national view should be refined, and the urgency for change needs to be brought to the surface. We also need to give time off for the fathers and partners of the mothers, but let’s take this first step for moms since America seems to have moved a little slower than the rest.

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