Maternity Leave: Still Not Enough

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I have been wanting to write about the lack of proper maternity leave in this country for a while now, and, interestingly, it was a series of tweets from new mom Katy Perry that forced me to finally sit down and do it.

Katy Advocates for Paid Family Leave

I was lucky when it came to my two maternity leaves. During both of my pregnancies, I worked for companies with solid plans in place. And, I felt I was given plenty of time. In fact, the first company I worked for allowed moms to be on maternity leave for six months. It was not completely paid, but still, new moms were assured that their jobs were protected for that time. At that company, I took the six months. I loved those six months but was very much ready to go back to work. In fact, I returned on a Friday. My husband asked why I didn’t just wait until Monday and start on a new week. I answered him loudly, saying, “Because … I am done!” It was time for momma to go back to work.

A woman on maternity leave does work on a laptop while holding her infant.Not everyone is as lucky.

According to a 2019 report by Unicef, Estonia leads the field for new mothers with more than 80 weeks of leave at full pay. That’s a year and a half! At the bottom of the list is the United States. It was the only country offering absolutely no national paid family leave.

Now, some U.S. companies are changing their policies and expanding leave for mothers and fathers.

But, it’s still not enough.

While some people without kids may argue, “Well, I don’t have kids, so I don’t get extra vacation days,” I will gladly and definitively argue back. Maternity leave is NOT a vacation.

Katy Reveals That Motherhood is a Full-Time Job

If you think that not sleeping, changing diapers, breastfeeding, pumping, getting constantly spit up on, doing laundry, washing bottles, cleaning the house, soothing a screaming baby, and healing from childbirth is a vacation—then you must also think a solid vacation spot is Amity Island on Fourth of July weekend.

Maternity Leave, Parental Leave, and COVID-19

Some companies are offering employees parental leave with all the new parenting challenges the pandemic has brought. The problem is … parents aren’t taking this time. They’re afraid to and worry about backlash from employers and co-workers.

All I can say to this is, please, take the leave time if you’re offered it. Research has shown providing leave ends up actually being more productive for the employee and the employer not less. In one study, women who took leave and returned to their jobs worked 15 to 20 percent more hours during the second year of their child’s life than those who did not take leave.

Maternity leave is important. It’s simply unacceptable that the U.S.—the richest country in the world—has nothing but lint in its pocket for parents and families.

Have you advocated for maternity leave? Were you not able to take maternity leave? Did you drive awareness for the need of maternity leave by taking it yourself?

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