Monday, October 12, 2009

Let's Start at the Beginning

When I think about the importance of family, one of the first things that comes to mind is maternity leave. In China, women under 30 are given 3 months paid leave, women 30 and over, 4 months. Women in Mexico get 12 weeks, and Cameroon, 14. Both paid. And most of Europe is even better. England is more than 6 months. Polish women get 4-5 months and French women 16 weeks for the first baby, and more for subsequent children. Paid. The United States? Nothing. If your company is covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, then you are entitled to 12 weeks. Unpaid.

I know that people argue, especially for smaller companies, that it will cost too much money to pay women to stay home with their children, even at a flat rate. But if other countires can afford to do it, why can't we? Each county has different laws, different taxation rates, different health care systems and governments, yet most of them manage to give mothers at least three months of paid leave, so I'm sure that we can find a way to make it work.

The US is one of only 5 countries in the world that don't offer paid maternity leave. I know a lot of women in the US, women that work at small companies, women that work at blue-collar jobs, women that had difficult pregnancies and had to take a lot of leave before the baby was born, that had to go back to work the day after their 6 week checkup. Some even before their 6 week checkup. Even if women are covered by the FMLA, most are required to use all of their sick and vacation time first. Yes, it helps with getting paid for as many weeks as they had time, but it also means that they have to return to work with a small child at home, and no time off available. This is not a good situation for the mothers or the babies. If there are other children or a spouse at home, it is not good for them either. And the family suffers.

Unrealistic and often unobtainable expectations putting in full day at work and getting home to a baby that ooohhs and coos for a few minutes then promptly sleeps through the night. The reality is often harsher, and more difficult. Everyone is sleep deprived. The baby knows that mom has not been there all day and needs her attention, love and affection. And everyone still has to eat, and bathe, and occasionaly wear clean clothes. We have mothers that are stretched too thin too fast. As most people know, if mom is ok, everyone is ok. Let's take care of our moms.

Here are a few websites to check my facts about maternity leave:

Unfortunately, the fight to change the maternity leave laws is often waged on the state level. To learn more about the efforts to change the laws:

And if you are trying to figure out how to pay the bills and stay home with your baby, here are a few ideas from other moms that made it work.

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