So, you’re having a baby and want to take time off work to enjoy those first few weeks at home. How does maternity leave in your country stack up? Rachel discovers that in the U.S. things are pretty dismal…
Let’s talk about maternity leave. Recently, the Human Rights Watch released an extensive study that compared leave benefits of 190 countries. The United States was one of only three countries that offer no legal guarantee of paid maternity leave. So essentially we’re sitting in the same boat with Swaziland and Papua New Guinea – that stinks. I even had to wiki-refresh myself with Swaziland.
I live in the Netherlands now, so my grass is a little greener in regards to parental leave. We get 16 weeks paid maternity and we even have paternity leave! Aren’t you jealous? Why on earth is the U.S. so sluggish to offer this?
Here are some hot reasons maternity leave rocks:
- Healthy Babies: “A 2010 study found that the US could prevent the deaths of nearly 900 infants and save $13 billion dollars per year if 90 percent of mothers breastfed exclusively for their babies’ first six months of life. Unfortunately, only 43 percent of babies in the US are still breastfed at six months.”
- Less Boob Exposure in the Copy Room: a giant reason women stop breastfeeding is because so many places of work don’t offer cozy places to pump. Straddling a cold toilet for over an hour a day is less than romantic.
- Mommy Health: we need time to heal up folks. Enough said.
- Women Bring Home the Bacon Too: if you are among the fortunate 20% of new mothers that are eligible for the FMLA (which allows you 12 weeks UNPAID leave), it might be tough to go three whole months without any money – diapers are expensive!
- Baby Cuddles: a lot of moms either quit their jobs or resent them for keeping them away from those baby cuddles. Maternity leave = happy moms = productive workers = better economy and society.
- Better for Business: California is one of the few states to offer paid maternity leave. A 2011 business report found that there was either a “positive” or “no noticeable” effect on profitability and performance, employee moral, turnover and productivity.
- Manly Parents: Paternal leave rocks too, but if maternity leave is paid, it takes enormous pressure off our men – which results in more quality daddy time – which takes pressure off moms – which results in… you can see where this is going.
So, Modern Mamas, how does your lack of maternity leave affect you? What would it mean to you if you could be like the Portuguese – with up to 150 days paid maternity leave. Have you quit your job to be at home with your babies? Would you have reconsidered that if you would have had four months paid leave? These answers shape our workforce, our society and our future.