By Lisa Jesudas
“I could not imagine missing little Jenny’s first giggle.”
“Or when darling Alex trotted into my arms with her first steps.”
“I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t hear baby Henry say “mama” for the first time.”
No mother wants to miss their child’s firsts. Unfortunately, mothers in the United States must.
According to Business Insider, mothers in Finland are nationally entitled to 23 weeks of paid maternity leave. Mothers in Sweden are entitled to 18 weeks in addition to 480 days of leave where they, and their partners, are able to receive 80% of their normal pay.
Mothers in the United States are nationally entitled to zero days of paid maternity leave.
Over 150 countries assure mothers with paid maternity leave. The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee this. Working mothers in America must rely on their employers to provide sufficient, paid, maternity policies. Sadly, this system results in only 16% of American employees receiving any duration of paid maternity leave.
The lack of a regulation that provides mothers with any days of paid maternity absence is due to the traditional “value” of the American Dream. The value that hard work will earn you your fair share of success in order to broaden the opportunity of social mobility for families and their children. However, at present, 93% of Americans agree that mothers should be entitled to ample days of paid leave when a newborn arrives. They want change. Instead of only upholding to the “American Dream”, we should adapt to the current values of the people.
Offering Americans with this necessity will benefit not only mothers and their newborns, but their employers as well. New mothers who are offered fair terms of leave have a higher chance of returning to work. This is economically favorable compared to employers hiring replacements due to women resigning. On top of that, mothers can begin working at home or have flexible office hours in the later stages of their respite.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends mothers have a minimum of six months of paid maternity leave. This time should be dedicated to exclusively breastfeeding their newborns. Moreover, this time should allow new mothers a period of healing. My mother has spoken about the countless physical and psychological strains she experienced after giving birth and I believe we should be doing our best to make this process as undemanding as possible. Alas, 25% of women in the United States return to work only two weeks after giving birth. Most of these mothers do not even receive confirmation from their doctors for physical activity. Due to financial stress, mothers are continuing to work farther along their pregnancies and returning to work too soon. We cannot continue to put the lives of new mothers and newborns at risk.
I grew up in Malaysia, raised by two working parents. My mother was given 60 days of paid maternity leave. She was constantly frantic. “I have to go home, shower Lisa, then feed her, then pick her brother from school. Will I be on time for my meeting in half an hour? Will I even have enough time to prepare my slides for my meeting in half an hour?”
I cannot imagine how hectic it must have been. Thankfully, she had help. My father, grandparents, and a helper gave her support. What about the mothers who don’t have this support? How can we expect them to juggle the labors of employment on top of becoming a parent when they are offered with zero days of paid maternity leave?
Mothers sacrifice so much to protect and care for us. Now, it is time for us to show our care for them. That’s the least we can do.
- Deahl, Jessica. “Countries Around the World Beat the U.S. on Paid Parental Leave.” National Public Radio, edited by Ron Elving Ron Elving, 6 Oct. 2016, http://www.npr.org/2016/10/06/495839588/countries-around-the-world-beat-the-u-s-on-paid-parental-leave. Accessed 2 Apr. 2019.
- Falls, Barry. Midriff of a pregnant woman. New York Times, parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/21/stable-enough-for-a-pregnancy/. Accessed 16 Apr. 2019.
- Ferrente, Mary Beth. “In the Fight for Paid Parental Leave, 6 Months Should Be the Minimum.” Forbes, edited by Steve Forbes, 10 Jan. 2019, http://www.forbes.com/sites/marybethferrante/2019/01/10/in-the-fight-for-paid-parental-leave-6-months-should-be-the-minimum/#7c87357b2073. Accessed 2 Apr. 2019.
- Gillett, Rachel. “Most People in America Want Paid Parental Leave — Here’s the Real Reason the US Is the Only Developed Nation That Doesn’t Have It.” Business Insider, edited by Nicholas Carlson, Insider, 1 Oct. 2017, http://www.businessinsider.com/why-america-doesnt-have-paid-leave-2017-9/?IR=T. Accessed 2 Apr. 2019.
- Ingraham, Christopher. “The World’s Richest Countries Guarantee Mothers More than a Year of Paid Maternity Leave. The U.S. Guarantees Them Nothing.” The Washington Post, edited by Martin Baron, 5 Feb. 2018, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/02/05/the-worlds-richest-countries-guarantee-mothers-more-than-a-year-of-paid-maternity-leave-the-u-s-guarantees-them-nothing/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.714e2be35293. Accessed 2 Apr. 2019.
- Miller, Claire Cain, and Jim Tankersley. “A California Dream for Paid Leave Has an Old Problem: How to Pay for It.” The New York Times, 6 Jan. 2019, http://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/06/upshot/a-california-dream-for-paid-leave-has-an-old-problem-how-to-pay-for-it.html. Accessed 2 Apr. 2019.
- Weller, Chris. “These 10 Countries Have the Best Parental Leave Policies in the World.” Business Insider, edited by Nicholas Carlson, Insider, 22 Aug. 2016, http://www.businessinsider.my/countries-with-best-parental-leave-2016-8/?r=US&IR=T. Accessed 2 Apr. 2019.
- World Health Organization. “Breastfeeding.” World Health Organization, http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/exclusive_breastfeeding/en/. Accessed 2 Apr. 2019.