It’s hard for me to write a coherent post about the lack of paid maternity (or parental leave) in the U.S. As far as I’m concerned, we’re very short-sighted about the whole thing compared to Europe and most industrialized countries. While we pay lip service to the importance of family, our policies (or lack of) work against families, especially those with working parents. Until this changes, individuals have to make the best of it and more often than not, women quit the workforce out of frustration and lack of support. (Of course I think a part of this has to do with the fact that many people simply feel that women should stay home).
I believe that the U.S. had at least 6 months of paid maternity leave (1 year would be ideal and also with paid paternity leave). I think at least 6 months is needed in order to coincide with 6-months of breastfeeding, which is the minimum recommended by pediatricians. I can honestly say that a huge part of the reason I quit breastfeeding is that I could not muster the energy to pump at work while juggling meetings and deadlines. And even if you don’t pity me and fellow white collar professionals, I know that it’s impossible for those in the service industries to pump and work. Pumping takes time and flexibility, which is often lacking in job situations. Just six months would allow working moms to provide infants with the best nutrition (I’m not “against” formula but do believe that it’s best to give breast milk).
Working Mother magazine is trying to address this with an effort to get Congress to enact a law on parental leave by 2015 that will benefit women and their families. You can read details here. (Truthfully I would do more but anything is better than nothing.)
What’s your story? Would a longer and/or paid maternity leave had made it easier to return to work? I’m certain a longer leave would have made it easier for me. After 6 months, I was finally getting sleep and rest again. After 6 months to a year, it’s a bit easier to leave an infant with caretakers.
Spread the word, and let’s act collectively to help ALL women and families…