Maternity Leave in America: You’re Doing it Wrong

My husband and I are expecting a baby boy in April. We’ve been going insane for information, nom-nomming everything the web has to offer for expecting parents. Do not do this. It’s mostly horror stories and assholes out there in the world wide web for pregnant ladies. It feels a little bit like the real-life version of the horribly good Tales from the Crypt episode “Carrion Death” — but the desert is made up of your own feelings of inadequacy and the vulture is the cumulative mass of judgy moms who are projecting theirs all over you.

It’s great. I totally recommend it. The episode … not the whole … isolating internet wasteland thing.

Something sparked my interest enough to research parental leave policies around the globe. Boy, was ‘Merica’s face red! Sheesh. As one of only a handful of countries that don’t require a single day of paid maternity leave by employers, I would say ‘Merica has reason to be embarrassed.

maternity leave

Take a look at a few countries we are WAY behind when it comes to parental rights:

  • China — 98 day minimum maternal leave with 100% pay
  • Afghanistan — 90 day minimum maternal leave with 100% pay
  • Saudi Arabia — 70 day minimum maternal leave with 50% or 100% pay (depending on the number of children you have)
  • Finland — 105 days minimum maternal leave with 158 additional days to share between mother and father (or in shifts) with 80% pay.
  • Russia — 140 days minimum maternal leave with 100% pay

Let’s keep that in mind … we’ll come back to that.

Meanwhile, in other news, we went from having a nationally incarcerated population of 500,000 in 1980 to 2,500,000 in 2006. 

We’re concerned and preoccupied enough with the privatization of prison and the so-called “war on drugs” that we’re not considering the impact of parental proximity in your first days on earth?

But hey, if I become that 1 American in 31 that ends up behind bars, I can always take Baby Boy Maldonado with me, right?

It’s starting to feel like we’re bringing a child into the Rome of the new world … in a country with a lot of arrogance about our policies being the only way to do anything and not a lot of proven prosperity to back it up. We boldly say “social engineering doesn’t work” and that freedom of choice and lower taxes are the only way to equal opportunity.

With 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners, are we really comfortable saying social engineering doesn’t work and that a disproportionate number of our citizens just make terrible choices with all this freedom? Do we really think our citizens are just morally inferior to those of other countries? This isn’t Australia … just kidding.

I’m lucky to work for an employer that promotes parental leave and work-life balance. But the government is supposed to protect and defend the rights of all of its citizens … not just from external threats, but internal threats of greed and short-sightedness that leave people’s lives as collateral damage.

We’re the only first world country without a single day of mandated maternity leave. Here, we have a great example of what the free market will do without regulation, as well. When only 11% of U.S. workers have access to paid family leave, it’s clear that the free market is doing what the free market does best — looking out for itself.

And are the companies offering paid parental leave those that routinely enable their workers to operate in dire financial circumstances — or are they mostly companies that offer fair pay and benefits all the time? What about all of the women who can’t afford to take unpaid leave? Those children don’t deserve to be breastfed? They don’t deserve contact with their mothers and/or fathers in their first months on earth like all of the other privileged babies? Eh, you’re right. It’s probably their own fault for expecting big government to look out for them … silly babies.

This isn’t about crime and choices. It’s about greed, the privatization of prison and the “Great Prison Filling” of the last 30 years with racially and economically-driven motivators like the “war on drugs” and other small time offenses, leading to a cycle of unemployment, welfare, the inability to provide for one’s family, back to more petty crime, to more prison time, to more unemployment, more welfare … and eventually to higher taxes to support a continuously crippled segment of the population that we put there with the “American dream” … in prison, out of the home when their children are born, on welfare, out of school …

I know I am not the first pregnant lady who is suddenly outraged at the lack of paid parental leave in America. And I know it’s easy to forget how wrong it is if you’re far removed from the situation on either side. And I know parental leave isn’t what fills the prisons. But I am saying that I am one of the lucky 11% with access to paid parental leave and I am already starting to see how the classes are divided at birth like the fucking Hunger Games.

Babies are home alone and the prisons are full. We’re doing it wrong.

8 Responses to “Maternity Leave in America: You’re Doing it Wrong”

  1. Jen says:

    Now you can see where the author of the Hunger Games got her ideas!

  2. @deanshaw says:

    As a woman, do you really want to compare US workplace issues against China, Afghanistan, Russia, and Saudi Arabia?

  3. Lena says:

    Here effing here!

  4. Nikki J. says:

    It sure is a load of crap…and don’t even get me started on the shit show that’s called FMLA. What I love is how employers are like “oh what, we do offer maternity leave…we have FMLA”. Uh, no ya don’t. You don’t offer anything, that’s a federal mandate and a shitty mandate at that. Employers do nothing but use FMLA as a crutch and take as much advantage of it while they are at it. Most employers have a policy that you have to burn ALL of your sick/vacation/personal time while you are on FMLA. So basically what that means is a new mom (or even a recovering cancer patient etc.) will come back after being unpaid for 12 weeks to not an hour worth of leave time to their name. So any sick babies, sick self or follow-up doctor appointments will require them to take more unpaid leave that now is no longer protected like it was on FMLA. So, in the end you can still be let go cause sometimes life happens.

    Phew, ok end rant.

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