“Mama don’t leave me…”

By Carina Braune

Why America should require parental leave by law

Imagine just having had a baby, one of the greatest experiences in the world, yet not being able to fully enjoy that, because at a time where costs are high and income is low, needing to go back to work is a concerning stress factor. Coming from a country with a substantial parental leave plan, Germany, it was truly shocking to hear that in the United States, companies have no legal obligation to provide new mothers with the option of maternity leave.

Although America is arguably one of the most developed countries in the world, no company has a legal obligation to provide new mothers with the option of maternity leave. Yet, countries such as Finland and Bulgaria allow new mothers to acquire up to three years off work to recover and bond with their child. The United States should require parental leave by law because of its enormous benefits for the family and society as a whole, and because reproduction is essential for our biological and economic survival.

To its credit, the US does, however, have the Family and Medical Leave Act which gives new-parents up to 12 weeks of parental leave. Nonetheless, this is not paid leave and only applies to roughly 60% of the workforce (Business Insider), making a system, meant to aid new parents, more stressful!

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Parental leave has shown to have significant benefits on the newborn’s health. “Infant mortality rates decrease with increased paid maternity leave policies.” Adding onto that, when parents bond with their newborns, it boosts the child’s overall health (Forbes). This decreases the number of sick days parents will have to take in the future, proving the idea that parental leave benefits parents and newborns. Paired with the findings that such a system helps companies avoid costly turnover (Business Insider), it is clear parental leave benefits all parties involved – the newborns, mothers, fathers, and companies.

Adding onto the undeniable benefits of parental leave, birth rates are currently at a low in the US. Why doesn’t the American government make childbirth easier for parents, when a large amount of evidence proves it is immensely beneficial? On the surface, it may seem like requiring paid parental leave will be more of a disadvantage than an advantage due to the initial costs; but when looking at the benefits stated earlier, it is apparent that requiring parental leave profits everyone in the long run.

In order to progress, the US should follow the lead of other countries, implementing laws which reduce, rather than increase, the burden of bearing children. This could include a minimum of eight weeks of required paid leave for mothers because, “many women feel mostly recovered by 6-8 weeks” (familydoctor.org). However, new mothers should also have the option to stay home longer. As Forbes stated, “for optimal health of mother and baby, paid maternity leave should be a minimum of 6 months”. With the mental, psychological and physical strain childbirth takes on the female body, longer maternity leave, such as six months, would be most beneficial. It would not only allow for a full recovery but also give the new mom enough time to bond with her baby. The new laws should also include paternity leave of a  minimum of three weeks to allow new fathers to spend time with their newborn and support their wife after delivery.

Raising a child is no easy feat, as it is essential to societal development. All countries should be completely committed to aiding parents by providing parental leave. The US should be aiding new families as this would help increase their currently low birth rates, consequently aiding the economy. So why do we cut back on support when it comes to the most critical part of our society, shaping our future? It is unacceptable for the US to not have implimented this system.