I was a little surprised to read in the September/October issue of Pink magazine that the US is one of six countries WORLDWIDE without paid maternity leave. We share that honor with Australia, Lesotho, LIberia, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland. There are a slew of poor third world countries not on this list that at least recognize that women can be left behind without this type of benefit. Interesting.
All we have, guaranteed, in the US is the right to get your job back and not have it given away while you are away bonding with your baby!! According to the US Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- for the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee;
- for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care;
- to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
- to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.
I was fortunate after my first child, when I was working for an international law firm, to be able to afford to tack on 2 months to my 3 months paid leave. That boy had it good. Because of that extensive amount of leave, I was able to:
1. Breastfeed exclusively the boy for 4 months. I mean he never left my side and I his. I didn’t mind because breastfeeding was/is important for me.
2. Enjoy taking him on walks to the park and mall walk in rainy days. While in the mall, I had the privilege to splurge if I want to because paid leave meant I didn’t have to scrimp and save my pennies to meet household basics.
3. Collect the first free class certificates that all the area baby gym classes offers and I took him on a world tour. We went to every Gymboree, My Gym and Little Gym class in the tri-state area…FREE!! I met a bunch of wonderful moms along the way and eventually settled at a nearby gym, but only after we had gotten about at least a dozen free classes! I highly recommend doing this “hustle” LOL
4. Really connect with my child, engage him and bond without the frantic worry about the bills and needing to go back.
That was indeed an honor and I see a unique privilege. With my second, I had changed jobs and was working for the US Federal Government who gave no paid leave, but I had accumulated a few weeks of my own which I used. So within 2 months of my second son’s life, I had to up and return to work. At least I was comforted in knowing he was being cared for by my own mother. I did not have to go through the heartache and angst that those moms who have to drop their kids at daycare or with a care giver. Because when all is said and done, you find it really hard to let go to someone who is not your blood. With GG, she’s got a work from home entrepreneurial mom and we’ve gone through two nannies, but are pretty settled. I am more flexible, but it is a shame that America does not step up and offer a little bit more.
photo credit: ACTU Right to Work Campaign